Tigran Mansurian is the dean of living Armenian composers. The ECM label has issued an acclaimed series of albums surveying his work, which previously had been little known among Western audiences, despite Mansurian's long career. This performance of Mansurian's Requiem, completed in 2011, makes a fine place to start with the series. The mass commemorates the victims of the Armenian genocide in Turkey during World War I. Mansurian has stated that his struggles in writing the work related to "the existence of certain differences in the readings of religious texts between the Armenian Church and, say, the Roman Catholic Church." His engagement with those differences broadened into a wider musical struggle to merge the values of traditional Armenian melody with the traditions of Bach and Beethoven. The result is an unusually deep fusion of Eastern and Western traditions. The excellent annotations by Paul Griffiths and Mansurian himself reflect upon this at greater length, but one technique the composer favors is spare textures, juxtaposing Armenian melody with full Western choral textures deployed to express specific ideas in the mass text. Sample the "Hosanna" at the end of the "Sanctus" as it passes into the more Armenian "Agnus Dei" for an idea of the relationships Mansurian explores, and also of the fine, rather mystical work of the RIAS Kammerchor and Kammerorchester under Alexander Liebreich. Would Armenian singers and musicians have found more in the work? Maybe, but the nature of the fusion is such that they really have no claim on it. ECM's engineering work from the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Dahlem, Berlin, is extraordinary.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Requiem for soprano, baritone, mixed chorus and string orchestra|