The idea of recording MUSIC FROM ARMENIA FOR CELLO AND PIANO began in 2012, following a recital in Heather Tuach’s home province of Newfoundland where she and Patil Harboyan performed Arutiunian’s Impromptu for the first time. It proved to be a huge hit with the audience. Spurred on by this, the duo started investigating the Armenian cello and piano repertoire to see what might be compiled onto a CD that would be accessible and appealing to a wide range of listeners. The result is this recording of tuneful folk-inspired works by Gomidas, Stepanian, Babajanian and Arutiunian.

To gain an understanding of Armenian classical music, special attention must be given to Gomidas Vartabed, the acknowledged founder of Armenian classical music and Armenian ethnomusicology. All of the composers on this recording pay homage to their Armenian musical heritage but it is thanks to Gomidas that this musical heritage survived for them to draw upon. Like Bartók in Hungary, Gomidas collected and preserved the folk songs of his native country. He also observed and documented various Armenian dialects, dances, rituals, musical instruments, agricultural practices, religious and social events and traditions. He was deeply interested in the anthropological, sociological and historical aspects of comparative musicology of his country.

Gomidas’s work not only helped to preserve Armenian cultural heritage but enhanced it through the development of a foundation for an Armenian national musical voice. His arrangements of simple, generally monophonic vocal music into bewitchingly sophisticated polyphony formed the core of the national repertoire and instilled a sense of pride in the Armenian people. Gomidas is also celebrated for his contribution to the musical liturgy of the Armenian Church, in particular his masterpiece, the Badarak (Divine Liturgy) for male chorus.

Armenia was under Soviet rule from 1920 to 1991. Many Soviet-era Armenian composers (including Babajanian, Stepanian and Arutiunian) studied and worked in Russia and were steeped in the music of Russian composers such as Khachaturian (of Armenian parentage), Shostakovich and Prokofiev. However, thanks to Gomidas’s work, Armenian composers could maintain a separate national voice by drawing inspiration from their folk material and from a nationalistic pride in their own country.

Gomidas (b. Kütahya 1869, d. Paris 1935) was born Soghomon Soghomonyan to Armenian parents in Turkey. An orphan by age eleven, he was sent to the Church Seminary in Echmiadzin where he trained for priesthood. Soghomon became a priest (Vartabed) in 1893 and took the name Gomidas after a renowned 7th century Armenian musician and poet. The patronage of a wealthy Russian Armenian enabled Gomidas to travel to Berlin. There, from 1896 to 1899, he studied music at the Friedrich-Wilhelm Royal University (now Humboldt University of Berlin). He became one of the founding members of the International Music Society, which was established in Berlin in 1898 (renamed as the International Musicological Society in 1927). His early performances of Armenian music, together with his academic papers, created a sensation in Europe and a new awareness of the rich musical heritage of Armenia.  Returning to Echmiadzin in 1899, he taught at the seminary and set out to build up a collection of folk music. To that end, he travelled extensively throughout the country, documenting Armenian folk songs and dances.  In 1910, he moved to Constantinople in the hope of finding an environment that would support and encourage his work. Unfortunately, most of his ideas, including the founding of an Armenian National Conservatory, were met with indifference from the local authorities and ultimately came to nothing.  He did however succeed in founding an Armenian choir, the ‘Kousan’, with 300 members.

On April 24th 1915, Gomidas was among the group of hundreds of Armenian intellectuals arrested as part of the Ottoman Empire’s plan to eliminate the Armenian population from Turkey and its territory during World War I. This systematic government policy resulted in the death of over 1.5 million Armenians and their expulsion from their traditional homeland and from centres throughout the Ottoman Empire.  The purge is widely acknowledged as the first genocide of the twentieth century. Fortunately, with the intervention of the United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, Gomidas was released from an internment camp in Çankırı, Anatolia and returned to Constantinople. However, Gomidas was haunted and deeply affected by witnessing the brutal treatment and extermination of his people and the brightest minds of his nation. He began to suffer from traumatic neuroses and was hospitalized in Constantinople in 1916. Gomidas never recovered. He was sent to a sanatorium in Paris in 1919, where he spent the last years of his life.

Tragically, after his arrest in 1915 most of his possessions and works were either sold or destroyed. Of the 3000 folk songs in his collection, only a small portion survived.  Despite the tragedy of Gomidas’s life, which mirrors the suffering of his people at the turn of the twentieth century, his indisputable legacy is the preservation of a threatened culture that otherwise may have been permanently lost.

Of the ten short Gomidas folk songs on this recording, eight are arrangements (of the Sergei Aslamazian versions for string quartet) by cellist Geronty Talalyan for cello and piano. “Karoun A” is an arrangement of Robert Andreasian’s piano version and “Groung” is an arrangement for violin and piano by Aslamazian. Geronty Talalyan (b. Gyumri 1926, d. Yerevan 2000) studied at the Tchaikovsky School of Music and later at the Moscow State Conservatory, where he was a student of Semyon Kozoloupov. As a cellist, he performed with many Armenian musicians such as Babajanian, Sitkovetsky, Gambaryan and Vardanyan. Talalyan was the conductor of the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory Chamber Orchestra between 1982 and 1986. His performances inspired many distinguished Armenian composers such as Arutiunian, Hovhannisyan and Ajemian to dedicate cello music to him.

Haro Stepanian (b. Elizabethpole 1897, d. Yerevan 1966) studied music at the Gnessin School in Moscow. He later graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory in 1930. In the summer of 1927, Stepanian joined forces with Koushnarian and gathered popular Armenian melodies from across the country, especially the Shirag region, creating a collection of around 350 melodies. This experience exposed Stepanian to the natural beauty of his country and instilled in him a sense of belonging and love for Armenia. Consequently, Stepanian’s music is about his homeland, its beautiful and rugged nature and the way of life of the Armenian people. Stepanian was professor at the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory between 1930 and 1934 and chairman of the Armenian Composers’ Union from 1937 to 1948. His compositional works include five operas, three symphonies, four string quartets, cello and violin sonatas with piano, various piano pieces and vocal romances based on the text of Armenian poets, such as Nahabed Kouchag, Taniel Varoujan, Hovhannes Shiraz and Avedis Isahagian.

In the Cello Sonata, Op. 35 (1943), Stepanian’s love of his country is evident, as is the influence of his Russian musical training. The work seems to alternate continually between folk-dominant sections and traditional Russian Romantic writing.  It contains folk elements – melodies based on exotic scales, dissonances, ornaments, off-beat accents and ostinato rhythms – all of which are characteristic of Armenian folk music, and add to the exotic sound-world of this Sonata. For example, the opening of the Allegro risoluto first movement is based on an Eastern sounding scale and contains off-beat accents in the cello melody and bell-like piano accompaniment. In the Andante Cantabile second movement, the opening solo cello theme brings to mind a church canto, and the sustained melodic cello line with ornamentation adds to its vocal quality throughout. This movement also pays homage to Shostakovich, in particular the Largo from his Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 40 (1934). Like the Largo, the Andante cantabile begins with the cello alone presenting the main theme, the first two notes of which are a rising fifth. Both also build to a rhapsodic climax with a steady insistent rhythm in the piano, before calming down and ending quietly. In the third movement, Allegro giocoso, the piano and cello take turns with a dancing folk melody that continually alternates between 3/4 and 4/4 time. When the piano has the melody, the cello accompanies with pizzicato imitation of a strumming folk instrument.

Arno Babajanian  (b. Yerevan 1921, d. Moscow 1983) is considered to be one of the most important Soviet Armenian composers of his time. Although not prolific (he spent more of his time teaching and performing as a virtuoso concert pianist), his classical and popular music is well known in Armenia and his musical style is instantly appealing and recognizable. His style was influenced by Armenian folk music, classical music and Soviet and American popular music; he wrote frequently for film and TV and was influenced especially by Rachmaninov and Khachaturian. Rachmaninov’s influence is evident in the beautiful Vocalise, which was composed in the late 1970s. Like Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, Op.34 No.12, Babajanian’s work is a short piece for voice and piano, sung with only one vowel. With a tuneful heart-rending melody, lush romantic harmonies, soaring vocal lines and dramatic dynamic range, it is an instant crowd pleaser. It has been arranged and transcribed for different vocal ranges and instrumental combinations.

Alexander Arutiunian (b. Yerevan 1920, d. Yerevan 2012) was one of the best known and highly esteemed composers in the Soviet Union. He studied piano at Yerevan’s Komitas State Conservatory and composition at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1948, the Cantata Motherland, his graduation piece, won the Stalin Prize ahead of Shostakovich. In 1954, Arutiunian was appointed artistic director of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, a post he held until he reached age 70. In 1965, he joined the faculty of the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory where he taught composition. Arutiunian’s catalogue of music includes various orchestral and chamber works, an opera and concertos for almost every wind instrument; the Trumpet Concerto is one of his most famous pieces. His style is approachable and, like Khachaturian’s, often exotically colourful, exhibiting folk traits and catchy melodies. This is certainly true of the Impromptu for Cello and Piano, composed in 1948. After a brief piano introduction, as if prompted by spirit-of-the-moment inspiration, the cello sets off in show-off manner with a folk tune.  A lamenting and lyrical middle section contrasts dramatically with the lively music framing it.





Pianist Patil Harboyan enjoys a versatile musical career as a performer, chamber musician and teacher.

Patil has performed in solo recitals and chamber music concerts throughout North America. Performances at Bourgie Hall and Tanna Schulich Hall (Montréal), Memorial University (Newfoundland), Rollins Hall at Dartmouth College (New Hampshire), Staller Center for the Arts (New York) and Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (Alabama) are recent highlights. She regularly performs with Heather Tuach, cellist of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet. Other collaborations include those with soprano Kimy McLaren and the Fibonacci Trio. She is a founding member of the Ararat Trio, which debuted at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 2007.

Patil is the recipient of two Canada Council for the Arts grants and a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. She was awarded first prizes at the Margo Babikian Piano Competition, the Armenian Allied Arts Association and also won recognition at the Southwestern Youth Music Festival in California. She has received scholarships from the Fondation de soutien aux arts de Laval numerous times

Patil’s musical education has offered her the opportunity to train with many distinguished musicians. She attended the R.D. Colburn School of Performing Arts (Los Angeles), where she was the recipient of the Philiban Scholarship. She then continued her musical training in Montréal, working with Eugene Plawutsky and Richard Raymond at McGill University and with Jean Saulnier and Marc Durand at University of Montréal. While in Montréal, she claimed first place at the Trois-Rivières Symphony Competition as well as the Radio-Canada Prize. Her recital at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur was recorded and broadcast by Radio-Canada the same year. She subsequently appeared as a soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Trois-Rivières Symphony Orchestra.

In 2010, Patil earned a Doctorate in Musical Arts from Stony Brook University in New York, where she studied with Gilbert Kalish on a full scholarship. Patil has further refined her playing through masterclasses with internationally acclaimed pedagogues and musicians, such as Friedrich Wilhelm Schnurr, Victor Bunin, André Laplante, Marco Tezza, Jean-Claude Pennetier, Boris Berman, John Perry and Anton Kuerti. Pursuing her passion of chamber music, she has also been coached by members of the Emerson Quartet, Colin Carr, Ani Kavafian, Antonio Lysy and Pamela Frank.

Patil currently lives with her husband and newborn daughter in Montréal, where she teaches at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University.




Canadian cellist Heather Tuach is a member of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet. Highlights with the FSQ include concerts at Kings Place, Wigmore Hall and Conway Hall (London), performances at the Ryedale Festival (North Yorkshire), cruises on the Aegean Sea, live broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 ‘In Tune,’ and residencies at the University of St Andrews (Scotland), Cambridge University (England) and Bucknell University (Pennsylvania). Since Heather joined the FSQ, it has toured throughout Britain as well as Canada, USA, Italy, France, Germany, Slovenia, Denmark and South Africa. The FSQ has made several recordings of contemporary music including the complete quartets of John Ramsay and a classical-jazz fusion album of music by Uwe Steinmetz called Absolutely! (both for Divine Art /Metier Records).

Away from the FSQ and her collaboration with Patil Harboyan, Heather pursues a range of interests. She plays in the Roskell Piano Trio. She has appeared as a soloist at the York Late Music Festival and Ryedale Festival (England), the Festival de l’Abbaye du Pin (France) and on Martin Randall Travel’s ‘Bach Journey’ (Germany). Heather was the soloist in Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2 with the Academy of St. Olave’s Orchestra (York) and Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra. In her home province of Newfoundland, she has given recitals at the Tuckamore Music Festival and Memorial University of Newfoundland (St. John’s) and performed in numerous concerts in her hometown of Corner Brook, where she is the artistic director of the Wintertide Music Festival.

Heather first studied cello at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She then attended McGill University (Montréal), where she was awarded a Master of Music. Following this, she went on to study for a year at the International Menuhin Music Academy (Switzerland). Finally, she attended Stony Brook University (New York), where she was awarded a Doctorate in Musical Arts in 2009.

Her cello professors have included Colin Carr, Moray Welsh and Antonio Lysy and chamber music coaches have included Marcel Saint-Cyr and the members of the Emerson Quartet. Heather’s cello was made by the Yorkshire luthier Roger Hansell in 1993. 

Listen to sample music from the CD

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