Armenian Requiem, 2015
"The Armenian Requiem is a culminating work for me, one of my most ambitious ever, but it will surely not be my last. As I write this, I am in the early stages of composing a choral symphony on texts by the Armenian Saint, Gregory of Narek, whose transcendant words served as one of the most far-reaching movements of the Armenian Requiem. I had always intended to write a ‘requiem’, but I had always assumed that it would be in Latin. The idea of composing the first ever polyphonic setting of the ancient Armenian liturgy was an idea that came spontaneously and easily over evening tea with my collaborator, and compiler of the text, Vatsche Barsoumian, and was the third work in the Armenian languange commissioned by the Lark Music Academy of Glendale, California. When I first set eyes upon the impressive (and daunting) text in fifteen movements (!) I knew immediately that it was a masterpiece in its own write, and that I would need to muster a lifetime of experience to do it justice. This is precisely what I endeavored to do during the sixth months that I had to compose the piece if it was to be ready in time to mark and honor the 100th year commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. I was able to complete my task and the work was premiered on April 23, 2015 at Royce Hall, UCLA. I was most pleased with the results, and am honored that Naxos has chosen to share our work with the world. If in some very small way our work uplifts and improves life on this planet, Vatsche and I will be most gratified." ~ Ian Krouse
Watch Ian Krouse discussing Armenian Requiem in an interview one year after premiere.
- Album Reviews -
"Ob Ian Krouse dereinst auch in Armenien auf einem Schlachtengemälde verewigt oder in anderer Form geehrt wird? Wie Franz Werfel, dem 2006 in Wien posthum die armenische Staatsbürgerschaft verliehen wurde, weil er, wie ein armenischer Priester in den USA von der Kanzel predigte, der Nation eine Seele gegeben hatte. Mit seinem Roman über die 40 Tage des Musa Dagh, der den Überlebenskampf der Armenier während der Verfolgung durch das Osmanische Reich in den Jahren 1915-17 feiert, lieferte Werfel das literarische Nationaldenkmal Armeniens. Jedes Jahr kommt eine Viertelmillion Menschen auf den Hügel über Eriwan zum Genozid-Museum und der ewigen Flamme inmitten mächtiger Stelen, um an das Massaker zu erinnern und der Opfer zu gedenken. Anlässlich der 100. Wiederkehr des Völkermords gelangte als Auftragswerk der armenischen Gemeinde in der Diaspora in Los Angeles das Armenian Requiem des 1956 geborenen, vornehmlich durch seine Kompositionen für Gitarren-Quartett bekannt gewordenen Ian Krouse zur Uraufführung. Im Beiheft schildert der Dirigent und Musikologe Vatsche Barsoumian die Erstehung des zweiteiligen, 95minütigen Werkes, das auf keine entsprechende Tradition in der geistlichen armenischen Musik aufbauen kann und sich an die Struktur von Brittens War Requiem anlehnt. Er verweist auf die von ihm besorgte Auswahl und Bedeutung der insgesamt 15 Texte, darunter am Anfang und am Ende, im Prelude und Postlude, die Stimme der Opfer in Form zweier Gedichte der 1915 ums Leben gekommenen Atom Jartschanjan, bekannt unter seinem Pseudonym Siamanto, und Daniel Varoujan; außerdem Texte aus dem zehnten und elften Jahrhundert, die in den sechs Interludes mit Texten aus dem 19. und 20. Jahrhundert durchsetzt sind. Das Werk ist Rückbesinnung auf armenische Muster, eine Verbeugung vor Komitas Vardapet, dem Begründer der modernen klassischen Musik Armenien um 1900, und bewusste Hinwendung zur westlichen Formen von der Renaissance bis Brahms und Britten, wie sie ein Außenstehender wohl kaum erkennen und gebührend würdigen kann.
Der Eindruck des spektakulären Werks (2 CDs Naxos 8.559846-47), das dem armenischen Nationalinstrument Duduk eine besondere Aufgabe zuteilt (Ruben Harutyunyan), ist gewaltig. Vier Solostimmen, zwei off-stage-Trompeten (Jean Lindemann, Bobby Rodriguez), Orgel (Christoph Bull), Streichquartett, Kinderchor (Tziatzan Children’s Choir) sowie Chor und Orchester – die Lark Masters Singers (unter Leitung von Barsoumian) und das UCLA Philharmonia, das Orchester der University of California in Los Angeles – sind aufgeboten, um Anspruch und Bedeutung des Armenian Requiem zu unterstreichen. Neal Stulberg bringt dieses Bekenntnis zu plastischer Wirkung. Krouse hat eine Form gewählt, die den Wünschen an ein erstes Requiem in armenischer Sprache gerecht wird, kein dezidiert avantgardistisches Werk, aber dennoch eine ernsthafte zeitgenössische Musik, wirkungsvoll, großformatig, packend im Solo für die Mezzosopranistin, in dem sich Garineh Avakian aufreibt, im dem kurzen Gebet für den Tenor (Yeghishe Manucharyan) oder der zeremoniellen Würde des Baritons, mit der Vladimir Chernov gleich zu Beginn zu vernehmen ist."
“Will Ian Krouse one day be immortalized on a battle painting or honored in any other form in Armenia? Like Franz Werfel, who was posthumously awarded Armenian citizenship in Vienna in 2006, because - as an Armenian priest in the United States preached from the pulpit - he had given the nation a soul. With his novel about the forty days of Musa Dagh, which celebrates the Armenians' struggle for survival during the persecution of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-17, Werfel delivered the literary national monument of Armenia. Each year, a quarter million people come up on the hill over Yerevan to the genocide museum and the eternal flame amidst mighty steles to remind of the massacre and commemorate the victims. On the 100th anniversary of the genocide, the Armenian Requiem - which was commissioned by the Armenian community in the Diaspora in Los Angeles – was premiered. The work was written by 1956 born composer Ian Krouse who came to be known for his compositions for guitar quartet. In the booklet, the conductor and musicologist Vatsche Barsoumian describes the creation of the 95-minute-work, which is divided into two-parts and which cannot be built on any corresponding tradition in spiritual Armenian music, but is rather based on the structure of Britten's War Requiem. He asserts this in reference to the selection and meaning of the 15 texts - including at the beginning and the end, in the Prelude and Postlude - the voices of the victims in the form of two poems penned in 1915 by martyrs of the Genocide, Atom Yanjanjan, known under his pseudonym Siamanto, and Daniel Varoujan; and also texts from the tenth and eleventh century, interspersed as six interludes with texts from the 19th and 20th centuries. The work is a return to Armenian patterns, a bow to Komitas Vardapet, the founder of modern classical music Armenia around 1900, and a deliberate turn to the Western forms from the Renaissance to Brahms and Britten, which an outsider can hardly recognize or adequately dignify.
The impression of this spectacular work (2 CDs Naxos 8.559846-47), which assigns a special task to the Armenian national instrument duduk ( Ruben Harutyunyan), is enormous. Four solo voices, two off-stage trumpets (Jens Lindemann, and Bobby Rodriguez), organ (Christoph Bull), string quartet, children's choir (Tziatzan Children's Choir) and choir and orchestra - the Lark Masters Singers (conducted by Barsoumian) and the UCLA Philharmonia - the Orchestra of the University of California in Los Angeles - are mobilized to underline the expectations and significance of the Armenian Requiem. Neal Stulberg brings this commitment vividly into action. Krouse has chosen a musical form that does justice to the expectations of a first Requiem in the Armenian language, not a firmly avant-garde work, but still serious contemporary music, effective, massive; including a thrilling solo for mezzo-soprano - in which Garineh Avakian gives her all - a short prayer for tenor (Yeghishe Manucharyan), or the ceremonial dignity of baritone Vladimir Chernov which can already be heard at the very beginning of the piece."
Rolf Fath, KLAGEN ÜBER DEN GENOZID / MOURNING THE GENOCIDE, OPERA LOUNGE, May, 2019
"Although the Armenian genocide of 1915 remains a deeply contentious political subject, I am certain there will be a unanimously positive reaction to Ian Krouse’s Armenian Requiem, composed in 2015 to mark the anniversary of the event. If you know the composer only for his works for guitar, then this alternative side to his output will certainly make an impact. While the Armenian Requiem has its roots firmly embedded in the liturgical chants used in an Armenian Mass, it’s written in a form that, uniquely for the music of the country, is not based wholly on the model of the Latin Mass. Taking the precedent of Britten’s War Requiem, Krouse embeds poems as interludes, resulting in a poignant meditation on loss couched in a marriage of Western and Armenian forms.
“As a composer in the Naxos American Classics Series, Ian Krouse (b. 1956) comes center stage with his epic and dramatic Armenian Requiem (Naxos 8.559846-47 2-CDS). It is a work to meditate with solemn resolve on the centenary of the genocide of Armenians in 1915. It is music that comes out of the Requiem-specific Armenian liturgical chants, and does so with a spectacular assemblage of fine vocal soloists along with Ruben Harutyunyan on duduk, Jens Lindeman and Bobby Rodriguez on trumpets, Christoph Bull on organ, the VEM Starting Quartet, Tziatzan Children’s Choir, the Lark Master Singers and the UCLA Philharmonia, all under the capable direction of Neal Stulberg."
Klaus Heymann, NAXOS RECORDS, March, 2019
"Born in the United States in 1956, Ian Krouse, now the Professor of Music at the University of California, is a composer with a growing portfolio of various scores. Particularly drawn to the singing voice, his most ambitious work to date comes with the Armenian Requiem completed in 2015, that emotive year being the centenary of the genocide during the First World War, events taking place in Western Europe masking this mass ‘cleansing’ of Christian Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. That long-forgotten designation of a part of Europe is now in the control of Turkey who refuse to accept it ever happened. Krouse, for his part, takes it as fact, and intertwines modern writing with the established Catholic Mass, the work, in two parts, divided into 15 sections. To that end it takes its format from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the musical style being that of the mainstream West European composers of the early Twentieth century. The writing, however, is very individual, and if your taste reaches out to the time of Britten and early Shostakovich, you will be pleased to make acquaintance with Krouse. It calls for very large forces, as the above heading will make clear, including a major part for a quartet of soloists in the mode of conventional Requiems. Krouse also follows tradition in using the shock factor of massive climatic moments to drive home the horror of his message. Certainly it calls for outstanding performers, the Californian University Orchestra, based in Los Angeles, nothing short of the high ranking American professional orchestra. Equally incisive is the large chorus using the much acclaimed Lark Master Singers, and they too have a very demanding role to fulfil. Of the soloists I have to point to the admirable tenor, Yeghishe Manucharyan, in his exacting role, and Shoushik Barsoumian’s soprano effortlessly soaring on high in the Fourth Interlude. For the conductor, Neal Stulberg, it must have been a very challenging assignment, which he commandingly despatches. I do not want to exaggerate the place that this work could hold in the future, but it has deeply impressed me, the recording team, who have captured the very wide dynamic, deserving of an award."
David Denton, DENTON'S REVIEW CORNER, March, 2019
This is a stunning work. I don’t know what I expected, but I did not expect to be “blown away” by the force of Krouse’s music, which was written to commemorate the centennial of the atrocious Armenian Genocide. He takes a collection of poems, songs, chants, and liturgical texts and weaves them into a work of devastating power and imagination. In Vatsche Barsoumian’s excellent notes, he tells us that Krouse structured the work after Britten’s War Requiem, with its combination of the Latin Requiem Mass and poems by Wilfred Owen. “An issue that needed to be addressed early on in the compositional process was the general nature of Armenian musical expression, which is typically succinct and occupies minimal space”, Barsoumian tells us. “The backbone of the Armenian Requiem is built on seven pillars, drawing from the traditional liturgical chants...Then, following the examples of Britten, this structure of seven is complemented with interludes built on texts by Armenian poets from the 10th Century through the 20th Century, culled and assembled to illustrate our collective responses to the Armenian Genocide.”
The work begins with the baritone defiantly lamenting against a background of choral interjections that grow and grow until the chorus takes over completely, building a crushing sound wall of pain and outrage. The soloists join in voice by voice, commenting, comforting, fighting. The first interlude brings us a haunting lullaby that comforts and yet is shadowed by death—sung beautifully here by Garineh Avakian. Her voice is rich, steady, allembracing. Things don’t remain calm for long; the chorus re-enters with the powerful ‘Creator of All Beings’ text, their supplications made all the more effective by Krouse’s melodic, yet clashing harmonies.
The second part brings us more of Yegishe Manucharyan’s colorful tenor, one capable of the difficult melismas and high tessitura Krouse composed (Manucharyan sang in the production of Rossini’s Armida with Renee Fleming at the Met nearly a decade ago—why hasn’t he been asked back?). Soprano Shoushik Barsoumian has a shining soprano that she uses with great expression. Vladimir Chernov is well known from his Met days and all the Verdi recordings he made with James Levine. It’s good to hear him again, the voice a bit darker than it used to be, the vibrato a little wider but expertly controlled. All four soloists do sterling work, listening and responding to each other. Krouse has given them music that allows them to do so.
The Lark Master Singers is superb, a large choir the blends well and fully participates in the drama. This is dramatic music too: a chorus that just sings the notes would be dead-onarrival in this music. The Tziatzan Children’s Choir is just as skilled, providing a lovely counterpoint to the adult forces. Barsoumian is the choral director for these forces and is an expert at drawing colors and emotions from his choral groups.
The UCLA Philharmonic Orchestra and the entire performance is led by Neal Stulberg in a work that still has me reeling after listening to it three times. I hope that other choral groups will take this up, but I suspect it’s not a work that will be done often. I’ve already described the power and humanity of the music, but this is a fairly long work (95 minutes) and requires large forces: four excellent soloists, an organ, a Duduk, a string quartet, and two capable choruses. I don’t think the language will be a problem. Choruses deal with German, French, Italian, and Latin; they can learn Armenian too. This work is definitely worth the effort. The sound is excellent: full and spacious with great stereo definition. Texts and translations are available on the Naxos website: I downloaded them with no trouble (you will need them!) Highly recommended to all choral buffs and people who need proof that there still are composers who can summon the heights and depths of humanity in their music.
Reynolds, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, September/October 2019 View PDF of this article >>
"Such an ambitious gathering fills an hour-and-a-half of our time with a sprawling expression that goes back to classic sacred music oratorios surely, but too has a mindfulness of parallel Modernity in the landmark passions of Penderecki and Part, and other advanced New Music expression, here tempered by an Armenian modality lurking in the shadows of the expressed, there without calling undue attention to itself.
"And then too there is Britten’s War Requiem, which the Naxos cover info avows as an influence, an important one. To quote, Krouse was inspired by that work to fashion “a poignant meditation on loss couched in a marriage of Western and Armenian forms” to offer “both conciliation and hope.” I concur that this is the case as I listen to the music with concentrated and increasingly sympathetic attention.
"The music is not precisely cutting edge nor is it a backwards movement, yet if you set that concern aside you hear a veritable spring garden of musical delights, seriously minded, soberly comported yet hopeful, not without beauty and drama. It is a monumental endeavor that pays dividends by close listening. You might want to make this a part of your contemporary collection, especially you who want to enrich your experience of Sacred Music. I do recommend this.”
Grego Applegate Edwards, GAPPLEGATE CLASSICAL-MODERN REVIEW, April 26, 2019
“Masked by the dreadful events that were taking place in Europe in 1915, the cleansing of Christians of Armenian saw the genocide of thousands of innocent people, an event marked on the centenary year by a Requiem commissioned from the American composer Ian Krouse. As with Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, it interweaves poems of our time with the established [Armenian liturgy]. It calls for four soloists together with an enormous choir and orchestra used to convey the horror of the message. Modern in concept, it receives a highly committed performance from Los Angeles based musicians, the sound quality on the two new Naxos discs certainly deserving a special award.”
David Denton, YORKSHIRE POST, CULTURE & THE GUIDE, May 17, 2019
In an era when there are Holocaust Deniers, it’s important that we have people like composer Ian Krouse around, to remind us about the prototypical tragedy of the 20 Century, namely the 1915 Armenian Genocide. In fact the word “genocide” itself was created because of this very slaughter of 1-2 million Armenians. This two part, 90+ minute piece
features passionate vocals in liturgical chants, with poems featured as interludes between orchestra, string quartet, trumpet, organ and even the Armenian reed instrument, the duduk. Vladimir Chernov’s deep baritone is cantoral, while Garineh pleads during “I Want to Die Singing” and “Naze’s Lullaby” respectively, while a rich choir is haunting for “Creator of All Things.” A children’s choir brings gentle yearnings on “In Supernal Jerusalem” and harp with Shoushik Barsoumian’s voice on a crying “Book of Lamentations.” The music agonizes and broods, but with the faith of the nation, the ultimate result is a hope in God, as the Armenians so sadly learned, hoping in man is a futile bet. An important piece musically and historically.
George W. Harris, JAZZ WEEKLY, July 15, 2019
Judgement of this titanic performance and world premiere recording is obviously secondary to the existence of the work itself, the first large-scale sacred work to memorialise the Armenian massacres of 1916. Krouse has – perhaps following Benjamin Britten in the War Requiem – not strictly followed the liturgical form of the traditional Armenian Mass, but has interspersed poetry, mostly by writers little known in the west, and devices like the offstage trumpets of ‘Interlude II: Moon of the Armenian Tombs’. This clearly was a key moment in the cultural life of the large Armenian diaspora in Los Angeles, and to rate it according to ordinary aesthetic standards is to fall somewhere between cultural appropriation and just missing the point. It’s an extraordinary piece, which manages, for all its scale and powerful orchestration, to seem quiet and inward to the point of intimacy. An astonishing achievement.
Brian Morton, AGORA CLASICA, July 2019