Chobanian Premieres Ani

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Baldwin Wallace University Professor Emeritus Loris Ohannes Chobanian will conduct Parma Symphony in the World Premiere of his composition Ani — City of 1001 Churches For String Orchestra, Piano and Timpani on March 12, at 3 p.m., Valley Forge High School Auditorium, 9999 Independence Blvd, Parma Heights.

Also on the program will be Chobanian’s four Aesop’s Fables – “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” “The Dog Who Saw His Shadow,” “The Fox and the Grapes” and “A Man, His Son and His Donkey.”

As Randolph Laycock conducts the orchestra, the composer will present the narration. The rest of the program conducted by Laycock will include Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1. With Tomasz Robak, as piano soloist and Tchaikovsky’s Symphonic Poem Franceska da Rimini.

The program notes of the ANI premiere state: “The ruins of Ani are in Turkey on the border of present day Armenia near the Akhurian River. Ani recognized as – City of 1001 Churches was founded more than 1600 years ago. During the 10th and 11th Centuries Ani became the capital of the Bagraduni Armenian Kingdom. With a population of more than 100,000 and churches with incomparable architecture the city competed with Constantinople, Baghdad and Cairo. Renowned for its splendor and magnificence, Ani is widely recognized as an Armenian cultural, religious and national heritage symbol. Today what is left of Ani are walls of torn down churches standing ghost like in a hilly plateau – among them the ruins of the Monastery of the Hripsime Virgins, Church of the Virgin’s Castle, the Ani Cathedral, ruins of the Holy Redeemer and bricks and stones and mortar. For many years the city had witnessed the conquering armies of different nations. Time and time again the city was pillaged and the population massacred. The structure of the composition Ani — City of 1001 Churches for String Orchestra, Piano and Timpani is set in ABA form. The thematic materials of the A section represent the Armenian national spirit and identity. The B section uses rich melodic motives from the Armenian Church Liturgy. The themes are developed and at times influence each other. A relatively short and quiet Coda ends the composition. The composition is dedicated to the composer’s granddaughter Ani Hripsime Swisher and was completed on July 4, 2015.”

It is significant to mention that the 19th-century French composer Saint-Saens appreciated and reacted to the Armenian Church Liturgy as among the best he had heard.

During the year 2016, composer Chobanian has had quite a few performances and premieres of his compositions in China, Austria, France, Italy and the Unites States. On Saturday, December 10, 2016, he conducted the Skidmore College Orchestra for the premiere of his Variations on an Israeli Theme for Two Guitars and Orchestra. The guitar soloists Bryan Reichert and Christopher Ellicott, former students of Chobanian, were truly brilliant. Previously they had performed the Variations as a Guitar Duo on many occasions and the performance was exceptional. The orchestra seemed to enjoy the music, as did the audience which reacted enthusiastically. It was at the invitation of Skidmore College’s Professor Anthony Holland that Chobanian was welcomed to present the premiere of his composition at Skidmore College. Professor Holland, in addition to being a fine artist and scholar, is well known for his research on finding cures for cancer by efforts to destroy malignant cells.

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Another Chobanian composition, Yerevan Variations for Solo Guitar, was commissioned by guitarist Marija Temo. The composition is scheduled to be premiered at the Guitar foundation of America Conference in California State University, Fullerton, CA – June 19-24, 2017 featuring Temo who as a unique artist has the distinction of excelling in both Classical as well as Flamenco guitar performance.

The history of Yerevan, the Capital of Armenia, dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC at the western extreme of the Mount Ararat plateau. The introductory theme of Yerevan Variations is based on a melody by Komitas that is heard at the opening of the broadcast on Radio Yerevan. Komitas (1869-1935) priest and composer is considered the founder of the Armenian National Musical School. Early in his career he traveled through Armenian villages and recorded thousands of Armenian folk melodies.

Yerevan Variations were conceived in an abstract manner, away from the instrument, and then adjusted to reconcile and highlight the guitar’s possibilities. The composition explores a wide variety of the guitar’s potential including the guitar’s extreme ranges. Sudden changes of character become an established feature that include sudden changes of tonal centers. Ornamented passages are reminiscent of Komitas’ musical language and the introductory material reappear creating a feeling of recapitulation.

Other Chobanian compositions to be premiered are Recuerdos (Recollections) for Guitar and String Quartet and Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra. A new Guitar Trio composition is in the making.