“The art of Armenian guests shines as brightly as the sun of their homeland” – Cinya Magazine, 21 January 1950
The Komitas Quartet is one of the most significant groups in the contemporary performance world. Only a few chamber ensembles have managed to exist so long and, moreover, to preserve their artistic originality. The Komitas Quartet, which will soon be celebrating 80 years of activities, is one of those rare ensembles.
The Quartet was established late in 1924 under the initiative of four Armenian students at the Moscow Conservatory: Avet Gabrielian (1st violin), Levon Ohanjanian (2nd violin), Mikhail Terian (viola), and Sergey Aslamazian (cello), with the manager E. Guzikov. From the very first months of its establishment, the so-called “quartet of advanced students of the Moscow Conservatory” was the center of attention for both the audience and music specialists.
“This young quartet will take a leading position very soon.” These words of M. Ippolitov-Ivanov, a distinguished Russian composer, soon came true. The quartet advanced day by day, gradually gaining recognition amongst their audiences. In 1932, the government of Armenia awarded the name Komitas to the quartet.
The Komitas Quartet made incredible progress in a short amount of time. It was the winner of the competition held by the Composers' Union of the USSR (1936) and shared the First Prize with the Bolshoi Theater Quartet at the All-Union Quartet Competition.
From the early period of its activity, the Komitas Quartet actively promoted quartet music by various composers. The repertoire of the Komitas Quartet is very rich and includes some great examples of Western and Russian classical music by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Grieg, Ravel, Debussy, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and others. The Komitas Quartet also gave the first performances of many works for string quartet.
Through its close connection to the musical world of native Armenians, the Komitas Quartet inspired the birth of this “new” field for Armenian music; its activity promoted the development of Armenian quartet music.
In addition to compositions by Aro Stepanian, Edgar Oganessian, Alexander Arutunian, Edward Mirzoyan, and others, arrangements of Komitas' songs are an inseparable part of the repertoire of the Komitas Quartet. The composer of these wonderful quartet arrangements is Sergey Aslamazian, the co-founder and cellist of the Komitas Quartet. By the way, he also arranged Handel's Passacaglia, Paganini's 24 caprices and Grieg's Solvejg's Song. Thanks to Aslamazian's arrangements of Komitas' songs, foreign listeners had the opportunity to become acquainted with Armenian music and to find out that “Armenians also have their own music”. The Komitas Quartet has frequently performed with world-famous musicians, including Gilels, Richter, Shostakovich, Merzhanov, Perlman, and others.
Throughout the 80 years of its existence, the Komitas Quartet has toured in various countries of the world, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Japan, Canada, the USA, etc., all with considerable success.
“…Each of the performers is a virtuoso. Vienna has not heard such an ensemble for ages; the audience has very clearly realized that no local string quartet could approach the level and glory of Komitas Quartet.” These words belong to one of the listeners of a Vienna concert. After hearing the Komitas Quartet's performance in the USA, one music critic wrote, “Four musicians of one of the Soviet republics seem to have charmed the audience… The Armenians really play well!”
The performance of each of the Komitas Quartet's members was always distinguished by an original style; nonetheless, the four musicians are inseparably connected to each other and supplement each other to build an integral quartet. In performance, the individual principles become collective ones and vice versa.
Though the Komitas Quartet naturally consisted of different musicians throughout the years of its history, their performances were always marked by a high caliber of professionalism and sense of tact. The Komitas Quartet is never keen on flash effects; it plays skillfully, but with inner warmth.
“The Komitas Quartet is one of the most important achievements in the Armenian performing arts and Armenians are rightfully proud of it. Its concerts are always GREAT MUSIC – from the first sounds to the last…” (Edward Mirzoyan)
Photo: The latest Komitas Quartet (2008) Photo by Sarkis Admayan