SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

“Armenian Spirit” – Georgi Minassyan, Haeg Sarikouyoumdjian, Gaguik Mouradian, Armen Badalyan, Hesperion XXI/ Jordi Savall – AliaVox

A unique musical discovery, of the magical sounds of Armenian instrumental music.

Published on November 22, 2012

“Armenian Spirit” – Georgi Minassyan, Haeg Sarikouyoumdjian, Gaguik Mouradian, Armen Badalyan, Hesperion XXI/ Jordi Savall – AliaVox AVSA9892 multichannel SACD, 78 mins. [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****: 

Aside from the woodwind instrument called the duduk, Armenian music in the West has been more about spirit than repertoire. The deep tragedy of their history which must be profoundly moving to the great Catalan musician from a culture which has faced similar struggles. But, as always, Savall and his musicians find in their magical musical discoveries the unbroken soul of a people, the rhythms of their music and the vivid, seductive sounds of their instruments.

The duduk is in itself a fascinating story, one of the most poignant of Armenia’s unique instrumental voices‚ already discovered by Hollywood for a few decades or more‚ a flute in sheep’s clothing whose timbre and subtlety of breath suggests the perfumed nuances that Debussy would later bring to it. The music includes much that is contemplative and restful, and the sound throughout is of audiophile quality, even more sumptuous and yet also more spatially clear on SACD.

In the extraordinary book that accompanies the CD, Savall contributes a moving tribute to his late wife Montserrat Figueras, explaining that she felt “a deep affinity and enormous fascination for these Armenian instruments, especially the duduk and the kamancha, as well as a great admiration for the extraordinary musical qualities of our musician friends from Armenia. After her death, I found great consolation in listening to these wonderful Laments for two duduks and kamancha, and that is why I asked our Armenian friends to take part in the farewell ceremonies that we held for our beloved Montserrat.”

The recording, which was made in the 11th century Romanesque Church of St. Vincent in Cardona, 90 miles northwest of Barcelona, is so softly intense that at times you can hear yourself breathing. Of course, the instrumental timbres cause never-ending delight, as do the unforced silky ease with which the lovely duduks, often in pairs, intertwine in silver and gold.

As always with AliaVox’s limited editions, the recording is packaged sumptuously with absorbing reading material including history and lots of gorgeous color pictures.

—Laurence Vittes

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