Music Review: Requiem

by Tigran MansurianECM Records
reviewed by John Malkin
Requiem - cover

Tigran Mansurian’s Requiem, dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide that occurred in Turkey from 1915 to 1917, operates on multiple levels: musical, cultural, and liturgical. Mansurian told S&H, “I have tried to add one more dimension to the universality of our pain by making it more accessible to the bearers of that culture, because suffering and horror inflicted on men by men is, unfortunately, universal.”

Tigran Mansurian was born in Beirut in 1939 to Armenian parents and in 1947 went home to Armenia. In 2004 his album Monodia was nominated for a Grammy. Requiem was co-commissioned by the Munich Chamber Orchestra and the RIAS Choir Berlin, and recorded in January 2016 at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche Dhalem, Berlin. “Some composers have carried the music through the path of logical, systematic unfolding to reach this expressiveness,” Mansurian explains. “Others have turned to symbols of [an] unusual nature that could be exhibited as paradox. It is possible that the latter is what I prefer and what I have put to use in the Requiem.”

The caption for the album’s cover image speaks volumes: “Deportees on their way through the desert heading to Aleppo, Syria.” A place of refuge in 1917, the Aleppo of 2017 has been ruined by war.

The haunting and beautiful choral arrangements of Mansurian’s Requiem expand and contract with deep sensitivity and expression. “When I chose to sing Latin in an ‘Armenian musical language’ my principle was, first and foremost, to be faithful to my ‘mother tongue,’ the one I know best,” Mansurian told S&H. “It is a known thing that when praying we turn to our mother tongue.” 

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