Friday, 11 November 2016

Komitas - Patarag (1989 recording, Male Chamber Choir of the Yerevan Opera Theatre)

Thought we'd go into the weekend on an Armenian note, just like last week - this time with the masterwork by one of the greatest composers ever to come from there, and one who still needs to be better known.  I started listening to Komitas (1869-1935) following the release of the stunning ECM album Luys I Luso by Tigran Hamasyan last year, and went looking for the pure roots of its sound.

Soghomon Soghomonian was ordained Komitas Vardapet(priest) in 1895, taking his new name in tribute to a seventh-century poet, and was responsible for collecting hundreds of Armenian and Kurdish folk songs as well as a modest body of composition both secular and sacred.  The latter had its finest expression in this mass, Patarag (Liturgy) for male choir; the exact completion date is unknown, but it was first published in France in the 1930s, around the time when its composer, traumatised by the Armenian genocide, was spending his final days in a Paris sanatorium.
Komitas in 1902
Even after that, it wouldn't be until the late 80s when Patarag was recorded in full by two different Armenian choirs (oddly enough though, with the same conductor and choirmaster).  One recording was released under the name Divine Liturgy by the US label New Albion; the other came out on the Soviet Melodiya label as a double-LP and as this CD (split into four tracks, as per the four sides of vinyl) that I'm posting here.  This one for me has a bit of an edge: it feels rawer and more austere than the New Albion.  It's also slightly longer, most noticeably starting with a solo introduction which is missing on the New Albion recording; not sure if there's any other substantive differences.  Anyway, enjoy. In the words of Claude Debussy: “Brilliant father Komitas! I bow before your musical genius!” 



  1. Thank you for sharing this incredible artist and musicologist's beautiful work

  2. Endorsed by Debussy you say? OK I'll have to check this out. Thanks for the headsup.

  3. Oh yes I like this. Very spirited singing and great melodies, would not want to hear it prettified. I recognise this music now from the movie Pomegranates.

  4. Thank you for this beautiful mmusic