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Posted 23 January 2001 - 05:33 PM

One of the most renowned Armenian Churchmen and musician of modern times was Gomidas Vartabed, also known as Komitas. He was born Soghomon Soghomonian in Kutaha, Asia Minor in the year, 1869. His life had an interesting turn of events, when at the age of eleven, he was orphaned, and at a young age he was sent to a Seminary in Etchmiadzin to study. Because of his singing prowess, he decided to teach music at the Seminary after he completed his studies. In 1896, Soghomon was ordained a monk or “apegha” of the Armenian Church. A few years later he was ordained a “Vartabed”, and as is the practice in the Armenian Church assumed his new name “Komitas”(or Gomidas).
Komitas learned a great deal of music from the monks and continued to study music with the famous composer Kara-Mourza, which eventually led Komitas into both secular and religious music. Komitas continued to study music, and in 1896, he was awarded a doctorate degree in musicology. He later returned to Etchmiadzin as a choir director, and Instructor of music at the Seminary.

Komitas wrote over three thousand songs in Armenian, Arabic, Kurdish, and Persian, and also contributed significantly to the modern Armenian Badarak. His main contribution was to rediscover Armenian folk music. He spent years traveling throughout the provinces and visiting many villages listening to native songs and dances, and making notes of them for further analysis. His work in arranging and collating the folk music he had collected over the years eventually became excellent songs for chorus music, and made the public aware of the existence of true Armenian music. In addition to the folk music, Komitas arranged the entire music of the Divine Liturgy (Badarak) of the Armenian Church, for male voices.

The internationally known priest was the first non-European to be a member of the International Music Society. Komitas performed concerts in Paris, Geneva, Berne, Constantinople, Venice, and Alexandria. It is interesting to note that in the spring of 1915, during the imprisonment of leaders of the Armenian community, Komitas too was taken into custody. Through the efforts of Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador from the United States of America, and the Turkish poet Mehmet Emin Yurdakul, who admired Komitas’ work, Komitas was released.

After the April 24, 1915 massacres of the Armenian people by the Turks, he succumbed to mental and physical anguish and never fully recovered. Komitas lived as if a walking corpse for the next twenty years. The revered holy man died in Paris on October 22, 1935 in a mental hospital. One year after his death his ashes were transferred to Yerevan and interred in the Yerevan Panthenon. In the 1950’s his manuscripts were transported from Paris to Yerevan where they were being studied and published

“Komitas Vartabed is considered one of the immortals of the Armenian Church and is remembered in the minds and hearts of Armenians”.


[This message has been edited by MJ (edited January 23, 2001).]

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Posted 24 January 2001 - 06:52 AM

KOMITAS - Armenian Music For Piano
Komitas was born in Kutahia, Ottoman Turkey. Orphaned at an early age, he was sent to Etchmiadzin, the spiritual center of the Armenian Apostolic Church, to study at the Gevorkian Seminary where he later mastered the art of Armenian liturgical singing and trained the seminary choir. At the conclusion of his religious education, he was ordained vardapet (celibate priest) and was given the name Komitas.
Komitas was awarded a modest scholarship in 1896 to further his musical studies in Berlin. On the advice of Joseph Joachim, the renowned violinist, he enrolled in the private conservatory of Richard Schmidt and studied aesthetics at the Friedrich-Wilhelm University.

During his three-year stay in Berlin, Komitas was active in the city's musical circles. He played an important role in the creation in 1899 of the International Musical Society (IMS), the forerunner of the present day International Musicological Society. At four different conferences, Komitas delivered lectures on Armenian and Kurdish music.

After his return to Etchmiadzin in 1900, Komitas was engaged in field work, documenting the dance tunes and folk songs of the Caucasus and the Ararat Plateau and investigating the Armenian khaz (neumatic) notation system of the eleventh century. He also lectured extensively in Europe and wrote in local and international journals.

Komitas left Etchmiadzin for Constantinople (Istanbul), a city open to Europe and the Middle East, with an affluent Armenian community. In the relatively liberal environment of this cosmopolitan urban center, Komitas led a remarkably active musical life: In 1910, he founded the 300-member Gussan mixed choir which he conducted in concerts in the city, receiving critical acclaim. He also gave solo recitals. Komitas' gaze was toward Europe. He recorded a series of 78 rpm phonograph records in Paris in 1913 where, a year later, at the fourth meeting of the IMS he presented three different lectures which examined the modal, rythmic, and metric structures of Armenian music. A complementary concert followed the final lecture and he was elected chairman of IMS' newly created Middle Eastern section.

Komitas was welcomed in Constantinople with unprecedented popular acclaim. His train was met at the station by crowds of well-wishers. Plans were under way for a series of concerts. Komitas was invited to teach harmony and Western music history at the new conservatory which was to open soon. His continuing research into the musical traditions of the Middle East took him into the remote corners of the region. Wherever he went, he organized choirs with local talent. But in April 1915, at the height of the systematic destruction of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Komitas and other Armenian intellectuals and artists were arrested and deported to the interior of the country. While he was spared the fate of his friends, upon his return Komitas found his life's work--manuscripts, research findings on the Khaz system, and his library -- in total disarray. A full accounting of his research on the khaz system has so far illuded scholars.

The circumstances of Komitas's eventual mental breakdown in 1919 are not fully documented. He was first institutionalized in Constantinople and later moved to Paris where he spent the rest of his life fluctuating between moments of great lucidity and longer stretches of total mental chaos.

After 1919, Komitas produced no music. He fell into a protracted period of silence which lasted for fourteen years. He died in Paris in l935 at a hospital in the Jewish Quarter. His remains were taken to Yerevan, the capital of Soviet Armenia, the following year. In honor of his contributions to Armenian music, the then newly established Conservatory in Yerevan was named the Komitas State Conservatory.

Komitas' musical output is voluminous and diverse, encompassing liturgical chants, art and folk songs, choral settings all of which mirror, as no other composer's work has done, the Armenian ethos. This is why the songs of Komitas have a powerful, resonant presence in Armenian consciousness.

The human voice in song is the path which Komitas' compositional thinking takes. In the Divine Liturgy, the voices of the male chorus are woven into a layered, polyphonic composition. Similarly, in many of his art songs, the piano is treated as a singing instrument, in contrast to its traditional accompaniment role.

The solo piano makes its appearance in Komitas' mature work in 1902 in the form of Six Dances for Piano which he composed over a four-year period. The cycle was performed in Paris by the composer in 1906 and published in Leipzig by Breitkopf and Härtel in 1916. Six volumes of Komitas' works, edited by the late Komitas scholar Robert Atayan, were published in Yerevan between 1960 and 1982.

The titles of the dance cycle indicate the ethno-choreographic characteristics of various regions in Armenia. Here Komitas aims for a kind of abstraction where dance is transformed into choreography and song becomes a contemporary, polyphonic performance.

Although Komitas turns to a European musical instrument for his medium, the Dances does not follow European compositional conventions in form, harmony, and metro-rythmic structures. There is an intentional reduction of pianistic bravura and virtuosity. The identity of the piano is shaped by the vocal and folk instrumental idiom of Armenian music. The two-voice setting of Yerangi, with the percussive second voice accompanying the melodic line, displays an elegant female dance. Each of the two sections of Ounabi is made up four sets of six measures. The intensive modal constrasts of Marali complement Ounabi. An equally complex rythmic structure is also evident in the two male dances of Yet Ou Arach and Shoror.

In the Dances, Komitas departs from the Classical and Romantic piano & forte understanding of performance. His aim is to appropriate the piano not only to the human voice but also to traditional Armenian folk instruments. This is why he directs the performer to play in "the trumpet, drum, and tambourine style." What the piano loses in grandiosity is more than amply made-up in transparency, perspective, and texture. In this, the Dances has something in common with the piano works of Debussy, Bartók and Kodály. In fact, there is evidence that on one of his visits to Paris, Komitas met with Debussy who later spoke enthusiastically about the Armenian's work. Perhaps one of the reasons for Komitas' extraordinary scholarly and artistic success in Europe during the first decade of our century was due to the experimental, compositional possibilities which his work suggested.

These possibilities are further explored in the piano works of modern Armenian composers, such as Saradjian, Andriasian, Khachaturian, and Baghtasarian. In Saradjian, Andriasian and Baghtasarian, all of whom were faculty members at the Komitas Conservatory, the European and Russian pianistic traditions are pronounced. Saradjian's Habrban, Yerkingn Ampel Eh and Shogher Djan and Andriasian's Garoun A, Gakavik, and Dzirani Dzar retain the structure of Komitas' folk songs, while Baghtasarian's Humoresque and Khatchaturian's Poema and Folk Style are more personalized and stylized treatments.

- Ohannes Salibian http://www.megrecord...nfo/meg004.html

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Posted 24 January 2001 - 07:09 AM


was founded in Moscow in 1924 by four talented Armenian students of Moscow Conservatory, the oldest performing quartet in the world! The oldest and most famous Armenian music group carries the name of Komitas (Sogomon Sogomonian, 1869-1935), a monk whose genius brought a renaissance to Armenian music at the turn of the century.

During its uninterrupted creative life of over 70 years the quartet became well known throughout the world, took part in numerous international festivals, gave concerts in more than 60 countries demonstrating the highest standards of performance.
Performed with S.Richter, N.Dorliak, E.Gilels, D.Shostakovich, M.Rostropovich, Merjanov, Igumnov, Walter Zeufert, Mario Brunello and other prominent musicians. The composer Aram Khachaturian described the quartet as being the jewel of the musical culture of Armenia. Many Armenian composers dedicate their works to the quartet. The quartet made a lot of recordings in the USSR and other countries: in Russia, United Kingdom and USA in the period of 1974 - 1983 there were produced more than 15 LPs with the quartet. The latest are CDs produced in USA (1993) and France (1994). The quartet was the USSR State Prize and Armenian SSR State Prize winner. The present members of the quartet are the third generation of players. In 1976 the quartet moved from Moscow to Yerevan. Being famous soloists all the four members play on Guarnerius instruments (Andrea and Pietro) from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Komitas Quartet: Edward Tatevossian - 1st Violin
Souren Hakhnazarian - 2nd Violin
Alexander Kossemian - Alto
Felix Simonian - Cello
EDOUARD TATEVOSSIAN is the first violinist. Joined the quartet in 1970 as the second violinist and from 1976 is its leader. Studied in the class of Leonid Kogan at Moscow Conservatory for the period of 1965 - 1970, prize-winner of Transcaucasian Competition (1965), Wieniawski International Competition (1967, Poland), Margaret Long and Jacque Tibo International Competition (1969, France), performed as soloist with many orchestras. Professor of Yerevan State Conservatory.

SOUREN HAKHNAZARIAN is the second violinist. Joined the Quartet in 1984. In 1972 -1974 got post-graduate education in the class of Leonid Kogan at the Moscow Conservatory, the first prize-winner of the Transcaucasian Competition (1969). Founder of Hakhnazarian Trio, well-known soloist, professor of Yerevan State Conservatory.

ALEXANDER KOSSEMIAN joined the Quartet in 1990 as the altist. For many years was the concertmaster of Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, played at the "Gandzer" Ancient Music Ensemble, performs a lot as soloist. Professor of Yerevan State Conservatory.

FELIX SIMONIAN joined the Quartet as the cellist in 1976. Graduated from the Yerevan State Conservatory studied for five years at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in St. Petersburg in the class of professor Anatoli Nikitin. First prize-winner of Transcaucasian Competition (1965), diplomant of International Music Competition in Belgium (1969). For the period of 1966 - 1976 member of the Armenian Philharmonic Quartet. Composer and interpretator , one of the most active performers of cello music. Professor of Yerevan State Conservatory.


In former Soviet Union, United Kingdom and USA there were produced totally more than 15 LPs of the quartet. The latest 8 of them are:

3 LPs Melodia No.33MIO-3655-62, USSR 1974: Komitas-Miniatures, Mirzoyan-Quartet, Haydn- Quartet-op.74, Beethoven-Quartet No.6-op.18, Grieg-Quartet-op.27, Shostakovich-Quartet No.1-op.49
LP Melodia No.C-10-13701-01, USSR 1980: Komitas, Mirzoyan
LP Melodia No.C-10-13701-02, USSR 1980: E. Hovhanessian, A.Spendiarov,A. Khoudoyan, Komitas
LP Golden Age No.1024, WA-USA,1983: Edouard Mirzoyan - Quartet "Theme and Variations"
LP Golden Age No.1026, WA-USA,1983: Komitas-Miniatures, Edgar Hovhanessian-Quartet No.3
The quartet's latest recordings are 2 CDs:
Komiras String Quartet, PR-CD-11-49 Parseghian Records, USA 1993: KOMITAS - Ten Miniatures, EDGAR HOVHANESSIAN - Quartet No.3
Le Quatuor Komitas, TUP 40049 Tune Up, France 1994: KOMITAS - 11 Miniatures, HAYDN - Quatuor No.1 op.54 en Sol Majeur; SHOSTAKOVICH - Quatuor No.7 op.108 en Fa # Mineur

[This message has been edited by MJ (edited January 24, 2001).]

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Posted 24 January 2001 - 09:44 AM

Everyone should own this CD--it's incredible beyond words. Actual recordings of Gomidas himself.


BTW, Harold Hagopian who runs the Traditional Crossroads label is the son of the famous Udi, Richard Hagopian.

[This message has been edited by Pilafhead (edited January 24, 2001).]

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Posted 27 January 2001 - 02:51 PM

I know both recordings. Both are incredible. You would be amzed by the voice of Komitas. He sings alone, but the impression is that a chorus is performing. I think it has been recorded in 1912.

Armenak Shamouradyan is the best known performer of Komitas' songs.

#6 MJ



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Posted 27 March 2001 - 10:52 AM

Gomidas Institute
PO Box 208
Princeton, NJ 08542
Orders: (800) 865-6405
Tel: (609) 883-9222
Fax: (609) 883-9277
Email: books@gomidas.org
Web: http://www.gomidas.org/

Rita Kuyumjian, in Montreal, Discusses
Her Groundbreaking Study on Komitas

Princeton, N. J. --Speaking on 18 March in front of over 300 people in
Montreal, Dr. Rita Soulahian-Kuyumjian introduced her groundbreaking
study, "Archeology of Madness: Komitas, Portrait of an Armenian Icon."

Dr. Kuyumjian, who is a professor of psychiatry at McGill University,
gave a beautifully written paper on the famed Armenian cleric who
defined the modern Armenian musical tradition. Her talk touched on
three key aspects of Komitas's life: his relationship with the
Armenian Church, his relationship with Margaret Babaian, and his final
years at a mental institution in Paris. The presentation, enhanced by
numerous slides, captivated Dr. Kuyumjian's audience from beginning to

Komitas survived the Armenian Genocide and developed a severe form of
posttraumatic stress disorder. This diagnosis was not made at the
time, but Dr. Kuyumjian's research into Komitas's medical records
indicates that the symptoms were clearly there. The original
research, in the words of Vahakn Dadrian, "brings to relief the
psychiatric dimension of the toll of the Armenian Genocide."

"Archeology of Madness" took 13 years to complete. It was a labor
that Dr. Kuyumjian shared with her husband and son. Her research took
her to libraries and archives in Yerevan, Istanbul, Paris, and
Montreal. Some materials were readily accessible, while others, such
as the archives at the Hopital de la Paix in Istanbul, had been
discarded many years ago.

Dr. Kuyumjian shared some of the precious moments she experienced when
working on this book with the audience. She was still visibly moved
as she recalled examining Komitas's medical records for the first time
at the Ville-Evrard psychiatric hospital outside Paris.

The presentation was closed with a passage from the book, the last
paragraph, where she summarized Komitas's significance as an Armenian
cultural icon today: "Komitas performed no miracles in his lifetime,
but his music had a profound healing effect on the psychological
wounds of the Armenian people. Indeed, its restorative powers are
still felt by Armenians to this day. His personal, highly creative
method of mourning played an integral role in healing an entire
nation. What he gave to the Armenian people is similar to what Bartok
gave to the Hungarians--the voice of a nation's spirit. Through
Komitas and his work, Armenians were able, both consciously and
unconsciously, to liberate themselves from the pain and injustice
inflicted on them by history."

The evening had been opened by Mr. Viken Attarian of the AGBU,
Montreal. Janna Garabedian performed some of Komitas's works on the
piano before Dr. Kuyumjian's presentation. There was also a brief
word from Ara Sarafian of the Gomidas Institute, which published
"Archeology of Madness."

Dr. Kuyumjian signed copies of the book for members of the audience,
which included His Excellency Ara Papian, the ambassador of Armenia to

Dr. Kuyumjian will make a similar presentation in Glendale,
California, on Sunday, 22 April, at 2:30 P.M., at the Glendale Public
Library, 222 East Harvard Street. Her book, "Archeology of Madness:
Komitas, Portrait of an Armenian Icon" is available and can be ordered
from the contact information provided above.


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Posted 29 March 2001 - 10:35 AM

(note to self: I positively have to stop working weekends...I miss everything interesting because of it, like the talk on Komitas)

An interesting case study. I myself have always thought Komitas would have had some definite issues given his life events..

Mikey, got your message, thank you

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 10:32 AM


A monument to the great Armenian composer and musician Komitas was opened in Canada

On September 4, the monument to the great Comitas was opened in Canadian Montreal, according to the Armenian National Committee of Canada.
′′ Comitas, persecuted in 1915 during the Armenian Genocide, survived, but survived a terrible emotional strike. As a result, thousands of our folk songs survived the massacre ", the message says.
The author of the monument - sculptor Mkrtich Tarakjian.
Komitas (Sogomon Sogomonyan) is an Armenian priest, musician, composer.
In April 1915, he was arrested and sent along with 180 other famous Armenians to the city of Jankiri. US Ambassador Henry Morgentau addressed Talaat ***** on purpose, and Komitas was sent back to the capital, but the nightmare he survived left deep wounds in his heart. Comitas died in a psychiatric clinic in France in 1935 The next year his ashes were transported to Yerevan and buried in the Pantheon named after him.

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