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Album: Armenian Requiem
Artist: Ian Krouse
Conductor: Neal Stulberg
Release Date: March 8, 2019
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"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
“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, OPERA LOUNGE, May, 2019
“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.
"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