Various Artists

Arménie 1: Chants Liturgiques du Moyen Age et Musique Instrumentale

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A masterful collection of Armenian religious music, Arménie 1: Chants Liturgiques du Moyen Age et Musique Instrumentale is an album of hymns and instrumentals from the Middle Ages and shows off the breadth of music from a limited time frame in a limited area. It begins with a long section of male choir music, headed by a trio of cantilenas from the early end of the Middle Ages. Easter hymns show the development from the monodic style of the first form, and a Catholic piece from the 7th century sounds almost Gregorian. Solo singers move the album through the 11th and 12th centuries, leading into a section of instrumental music. The album makes an attempt at representing all of the major instruments of Armenia, and does a decent job, despite the loss of some instruments over time. The instrumental section begins with a percussion solo, marking the switch to some music vastly more rousing than the chants and hymns of the first half. With the addition of zournas, kemantches, and tars, it becomes easy to mistake the music for something Turkish (especially with the additional noise factor), but the occasional duduk performance (including a very early one from Djivan Gasparyan, who's developed into a star since) leashes the whole back to Armenia. Overall a very nice album, rivaled only by the much larger set of Armenian music on Celestial Harmonies.

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