Gurdjieff Ensemble ‘Komitas’ (ECM) 4/5

gurdjieff-ensembleOne of this year’s major world roots music discoveries has been the sacred music of Armenia via the considerable efforts of Tigran Hamsayan and this second offering of that country’s music from ECM is another pearl of a release that transports the listener into an entirely new world where Eastern and Western instrumental musical traditions meet and with hypnotic results. The music here celebrates the compositions of one Komitas Vardapet, an Armenian composer of some distinction who lived between 1869 and 1935. Contained within is a mixture of both sacred and secular music, the former associated with the Eastern Orthodox church. This is a journey into the folk music roots of Armenia with unfamiliar instrumentation such as the duduk, pogh and the santur are par for the course. Performed by the Gurdjieff Ensemble under the expert direction of young Lebanese conductor Levon Eskenian, who has studied in depth the music of his adopted land, the music combines elements of modal music fused with Western classical and it is this combination that creates a unique sound that both calms and cleanses the mind. This is exemplified by the deeply spiritual, ‘Hov Arek’. Meditative music abounds with ‘Manushaki’ and ‘Shushiki’ especially reflective pieces. A major highlight is the haunting high-pitched flute-like sound of the pogh on ‘Lorva Gutanerg’, which conveys the daily routine of a plough song from the Lori region of Armenia and there are subtle Indian and Spanish influences discernible here. In general there is a simplicity about the inspiration for these compositions that marks them out from other music forms. The Gurdjieff Ensemble made a brief tour to Brazil in November of 2015. However, a more extensive tour is in preparation for 2016 and, hopefully, this will include the UK. ECM are to be congratulated on promoting this style of music that no other label would even contemplate releasing.

Tim Stenhouse