Since the Armenian Genocide, we Armenians have come a long way in reinstating the historical truth: historiography, diplomacy, lobbying. Being well aware of the power of culture, we have also been talking in the language of culture about the state crime committed against us. Of course, there have been oversights in this as well; we have not always taken into consideration the important fact of being accessible and understandable to the world. While on the contrary, a long-term far-reaching cultural policy would have led us, albeit slowly, to achieve fundamentally increasing diplomatic accomplishments, because, in general, documenting is more contested than fine arts.
Today, on the threshold of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we have the problem of formulating worldwide public opinion. This applies even to the countries whose governments have recognized the Armenian Genocide. From Uruguayans to the French and Germans, they all still need to hear us, and, importantly, in a language that is accessible to all. Isn’t it an indication that God is in favor of this that we were blessed, at the right moment, with a work of art worth many diplomatic initiatives?
I am referring to Tigran Mansurian’s Requiem dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. This forty-five minute large scale musical composition took 10 years of the Maestro’s life; if we count the entire initial phase of research work, the process of thoroughly studying the huge number of Requiems already written in the world, as well as the attempted, but put-aside versions by himself that paved the way for the work that was premiered in November 2011, in Germany. The idea of writing a Requiem had long been lingering in Mansurian’s mind when he was commissioned to write one by the Chamber Orchestra of Munich and the“RIAS” Chamber Choir of Berlin.
I have visited Mansurian many times during the years he was working on the Requiem and I was witness to his creative concerns and research. It is natural, as creating such a composition was not a simple or easy task. He had to enter the world of the numerous Requiems written on the basis of the Canonic text – in Latin- of the Catholic Church as well as to thoroughly study the Requiems that were not based on the Canonic text. Everybody knows the musical monuments of Mozart, Verdi and Brahms in this domain. The task was to enter that world and create the first Armenian Requiem based on the Latin Canonic text, which should simultaneously include both the centuries-old experience of Armenian sacred music and the psychology of the Christian Armenian faithful. If we are to agree that any ceremony contains some theatre elements, we should acknowledge that a Requiem also contains them. These elements are the necessary condition to the expressions of fear and entreat, of lamentation and awe found in a Requiem, the equivalent musical embodiment of which should have found its certification in the deeper folds of our centuries-old traditions and rituals.
It suffices to say that the citizen of a country with strong statehood, with the security derived from it, when praying to God, is psychologically different from a person who lacks the feeling of safety conditioned by the strength of his country. In other words, Mansurian had to fulfill the commission of the Germans and at the same time realize his own dream of creating a genuine Armenian Requiem. The fact that it was to be dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide was very important. Members of Mansurian’s family were among the million of victims killed; and the expressions of his own grief would, inadvertently, be inscribed on the musical canvas that exhibits the pan-national sorrow. Thus, the problem of “what to do” was actually solved for Mansurian. The only problem that remained was to determine who were the people singing this Requiem. And he did find “heroes” who were visible and perceptible in their specificity. As Maestro mentions, they are black-browed characters with round eyes portrayed in Armenian miniatures who live in their peaceful naivety and sometimes in deeply mysterious silence. As if the ancestor of those characters was not deceived by the snake. The sin cannot coexist with this extent of humility. Who else but these characters could be trusted with the singing where Latin comes to intertwine with the Armenian melody to say Agnus Dei - God’s Lamb? And this is where that which is neither actually Catholic nor actually Armenian, and not even a synthesis of the two, but an entirely new value originated; its interpretation of course, is the work of musicologists. But one thing is unequivocal: Mansurian’s Requiem’s text is in Latin, it was commissioned by the Germans (according to the contract, only the Chamber Orchestra of Munich and the “RIAS” Chamber Choir of Berlin have the right to perform it for one and a half years), nevertheless this “Requiem” became part of both the world music heritage and the Armenian music treasury. Now a few words about how Mansurian’s Requiem was premiered in Berlin. After the final rehearsal young German students had an hour and a half long talk with Mansurian about the Maestro’s Requiem, about it being dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Genocide that took place 97 years ago, and about the past and future of Armenia. On the concert day, before the performance of the Requiem, music students from Berlin gave a half an hour presentation on the history and miniature art of Armenia to prepare the audience to listen to the musical work. And only after that the Requiem was performed which was followed by endless applause. On the next day, Mansurian’s Requiem and, following it, his interview were broadcasted on Deutschlandradio Kultur. And this is precisely what I was talking about in the beginning-- precisely about this way of being accessible and understandable to the world; something we are much in need of.
Three years are left to the 100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide. If we make the effort, it will be possible for our Requiem to resound in various churches of the world. In the same way that in Germany Mansurian’s and Mozart’s Requiems were rendered during the same concert, thus performing an unknown work together with the work of a genius, Mansurian’s work could be performed in Italy together with the Requiem of Verdi and in France together with the Requiem of Fauré. And if we can fundamentally resolve this -not only cultural- problem, the world will understand even without words what the characters of our Christian miniatures are keeping silent about, or who is, in Mansurian’s Requiem, evocated in known Latin words but in a seemingly entirely different language.
As I said, while working on the Requiem, Mansurian and I had many talks about the creation of this unprecedented – in the Armenian culture- work of music. Together we met with our Catholicos to talk about intertwining the spiritual and the cultural.
I also met Tigran after he returned from Germany. Once more I was astonished by his boundless humility. He was talking about his work as if he had no participation in its creation. For a moment I took him for one of the characters in our miniature art. During our meeting he surprised me by voicing his intent to write a Messa (a musical program of Divine Liturgy of the Holy Mass to be mainly performed in concert halls, not to be part of the actual Church ritual) that would, this time, be dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Genocide. It is a new responsibility for Mansuryan: to present a new Armenian Messa, after Komitas andYekmalyan, not only to us but also to the world. The 73-year-old Maestro was talking with the enthusiasm of a child about our sacred culture, the Armenian melody that deserves to be presented to the world, and his own I was listening to him and thinking that it was high time for our country to consider seriously and practically its greatest treasure – culture, to plan its culture endeavors in all of this. strategy for the benefit of its citizens, its intellectuals and its cause.
Viewed 3278 times Baffling Wealth: How Did Marzpet Khachatryan Boost Revenues from 3 Million to 7 Billion?
Viewed 2335 times MP Bagratyan to Government: "Go to Google Map and see how much land is devoted to grape growing"
Viewed 2194 times ARF MP to Ministers: "The people would beat you up in the streets"
Viewed 1105 times Bruno Didn't Know the Armenian-Turkish Border Was Closed: A Traveller's Tale
Viewed 1091 times Mystery Dig: Who's Removing the Pipes in Lori?
Viewed 993 times Agricultural Expert: Armenia's Hail Cannons Ineffective and Outdated