Alexander Spendiarov (Spendiarian)
Complete piano work and chamber works with piano.
World Premiere recordings
 

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ALEXANDER SPENDIAROV (SPENDIARIAN) (1871–1928) COMPLETE PIANO WORKS AND CHAMBER WORKS WITH PIANO ‘Spendiarov has always been close and dear to me as a highly talented original composer and as a musician with an impeccable, widely versatile technique. In Spendiarov’s music, you can feel the freshness of inspiration, fragrance of colour, sincerity and grace of thought and the perfection of decoration.’ – Alexander Glazunov Russian and Armenian musical elements are successfully combined in the music of Alexander Spendiarov. An apprentice of Rimsky-Korsakov and a close friend of Glazunov, Spendiarov was a master orchestrator and an inventive instrumentalist whose music is saturated with the folk music of the region and boundless lyricism. His works undoubtedly reflect the creative assimilations and traditions of the Russian classical music school, and above all, that of Rimsky-Korsakov. He expanded the ideological and thematic range of Armenian music, and enriched its means of expression by raising the level of musical professionalism in Armenia. Alexander Afanasyevich Spendiarov (also known as Spendiarian) was born on 1 November 1871 in the town of Kakhovka (now a city in the Kherson region of Ukraine). He spent his childhood in Simferopol, and inherited his musical abilities from his mother who played the piano. Spendiarov’s many talents were evident in early childhood, but a predominant interest in music began to emerge. At the age of seven he began to compose, and at the age of nine he began to study piano and violin. ‘Of the musical influences during my infancy and adolescence’, Spendiarov recalled, ‘the strongest was my mother’s piano playing, whom I loved to listen to and which undoubtedly awakened my early love for music.’ In 1890, Spendiarov entered Moscow University, studying at the Department of Law while at the same time studying the violin and playing in the student orchestra. He took lessons in theory and composition from the orchestra’s conductor, and after graduating from university in 1896 went to St Petersburg where, for four years, he studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov. During his studies, Spendiarov wrote a number of vocal and instrumental pieces which immediately gained popularity. Among them are the romances To the Rose and Eastern Lullaby, and the Concert Overture (1900). During this period, Spendiarov met Glazunov, Liadov and Tigranian, with whom he formed long lasting friendships. From 1900, Spendiarov lived mainly in Crimea (Yalta, Feodosia and Sudak) and started communicating with some of the most prominent representatives of Russian artistic culture including Maxim Gorky, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Bunin, Feodor Chaliapin and Rachmaninov. In 1902, while in Yalta, Maxim Gorky introduced Spendiarov to his poem The Fisherman and the Fairy and suggested that the text be set to music. This ballad for bass with orchestra, first performed by Chaliapin that summer, became one of the composer’s best-loved works. In 1910, Spendiarov composed Edelweiss based on texts from Gorky’s play Summerfolk, thereby expressing his political views as a revolutionary. After the events of Bloody Sunday on 9 January 1905, which prompted Rimsky-Korsakov to declare his outrage at the senseless killing of unarmed protesters – subsequently leading to his dismissal from the St Petersburg Conservatory – it remains characteristic that in 1905 Spendiarov wrote an open letter that appeared in newspapers protesting the discharge of Rimsky-Korsakov from his role. The folk music of the peoples of Crimea, especially the Armenians and the Crimean Tatars, permeates Spendiarov’s music. The authentic melodies of the Crimean Tatars were used in one of the composer’s best-known works – the two series of Crimean Sketches for orchestra (1903, 1905). On the initiative of César Cui, Spendiarov’s debut as a conductor took place in Yalta in the summer of 1903 – it was a performance of the first series of Crimean Sketches. Spendiarov subsequently conducted widely throughout Russia and the Caucasus. At the start of the First World War, Spendiarov composed the heroic song There, there, on the field of honour, based on the novel Wounds of Armenia by Khachatur Abovian. The cover of the published score was designed by the great Armenian painter Martiros Sarian, and began a long-standing friendship between these two distinctive representatives of Armenian culture. Together, they donated the proceeds from the publication to the Committee for Aid to the Victims of the War in Turkey. To commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide, Spendiarov composed the heroic-patriotic aria for baritone and orchestra Towards Armenia, with a text by Hovhannes Hovhannisyan. This significant work paved the way for the creation of the opera Almast based on Hovhaness Tumanian’s poem The Capture of Tmkabert, which tells the story of the Armenian people’s struggle for liberation against Persian conquerors in the 18th century. Martiros Sarian introduced Spendiarov to the poem and a libretto was written by the Russian poet and journalist Sophia Parnok. In preparation for this composition, Spendiarov began to accumulate Armenian and Persian folk and ashugh tunes, and acquired various examples of oriental music. In Sudak, Crimea, during 1923, Spendiarov worked at the department of public education, directing amateur choirs and orchestras, and transcribing Russian and Ukrainian folk songs. He also resumed his activities as a conductor in Crimea, Moscow and Leningrad. In a concert held in the Great Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic on 5 December 1923, the second series of Crimean Sketches, the Lullaby, the first suite from the opera Almast (a selection of symphonic excerpts that would later be included in the opera) and the symphonic picture Three Palms were performed for the first time, which garnered a favourable response from music critics. Work on Almast was finally completed in 1928 after the composer’s move to Yerevan at the invitation of the government of Soviet Armenia in 1924. Moving to Yerevan had a significant impact on Spendiarov’s creative activities. He taught at the Conservatory, and participated in the organisation of the first symphony orchestra in Armenia, while continuing his activities as a conductor. With continued enthusiasm, the composer transcribed and studied Armenian folk music. Spendiarov was a renowned pedagogue who taught many Soviet composers and was one of first to appreciate and support Khachaturian. In his later years, Spendiarov created a number of his best works, including the Yerevan Études (1925). He was full of creative plans during these final years: the concept of the Sevan symphony and the symphony-cantata Armenia. But in April 1928, Spendiarov contracted pneumonia, and subsequently died on 7 May. His ashes are buried in the garden in front of the Yerevan Opera House that is named after him. Piano Works Yerevan Études was originally written for symphony orchestra, and was inspired by Spendiarov’s first impressions of Armenia in 1925. He would go for walks around Yerevan, listening to Armenian tunes, catching them either under the windows of folk musicians, or at gatherings. He would invite these musicians to play for him asking for each separate part to be played several times while he would carefully note down the melodies. The Waltzes in B flat major (1892) and E flat major (1893) belong to the early period of Spendiarov’s work and were written in Moscow during Spendiarov’s studies with Klenovsky. The Scherzo in D major was written in the summer of 1894 in Kakhovka. The Menuette in B flat, Op. 3, No. 1 was composed in 1895 in Simferopol; the Lullaby, Op. 3, No. 2 was written in 1897, and together with the Menuette, was published by Bessel in an orchestral version as Op. 3. Barcarolle in G minor was written in Simferopol on 26 December 1895, and Spendiarov later arranged it for cello and piano (CD 2  11 ). Introduction and Khaytarma was written in 1895 and first published in 1929 in Moscow. The Menuette on D minor was written in St Petersburg in 1897, and was also arranged for string quartet in the key of E minor. The march Brave Warriors, Op. 26 from 1915, is based on the themes of old Cossack military songs and was originally written for a large symphony orchestra. Other arrangements of this piece exist including the version for piano recorded here, and a version for male voice choir. Folk Song, Dance and Khaytarma was written in September 1917. Works for Violin and Piano The Waltz in E minor belongs to Spendiarov’s early period of creative work. The Romance was written in Sevastopol in 1892 and is dedicated to the outstanding violinist and professor of the Leningrad Conservatory, Ioannes Nalbandian (1872– 1942). The Canzonetta in D minor, is also dedicated to Nalbandian and he often performed it in concert. Melody was composed in 1894. Lullaby was written in 1893 in Simferopol, and Khaytarma is the fourth of the Crimean Sketches, Series 1, Op. 9, arranged for violin and piano (1903). Works for Cello and Piano The Romance in G minor was written in 1893 in Moscow, as was the Romance in F major which Spendiarov dedicated to the cellist and conductor Anton Palitse. The Barcarolle in G major was written in 1894 and dedicated to the renowned cellist Rudolf Ehrlich; Spendiarov also arranged a version for cello and orchestra. Arranged from the piano version (CD 1  11 ), the Barcarolle in G minor was completed in Moscow on 20 February 1896. Piano Transcriptions In an era when music from the East often received refraction in the music of Western composers who were not familiar with its culture and traditions, Spendiarov saw the East from within, in all its dynamism and brilliance, and embodied it. Spendiarov, who, for the most part, lived elsewhere, saw the Armenian national culture in a broader context. The theme ‘nightingale and roses’, which is often encountered in Spendiarov’s romances, is also a tribute to the tradition of ashughs: troubadours of the East, with whose work the composer managed to maintain an inseparable connection. Despite the fact that Spendiarov’s choice of sung texts was hardly distinguished (only a few of them can be considered to be exceptional examples of poetry), their musical embodiment far surpasses the figurative sphere of poetic lyrics. The main goal of these transcriptions is to enrich Armenian piano repertoire with a select number of symphonic and chamber-vocal works. These include orchestral pieces (from the Crimean Sketches and the opera Almast), as well as six romances to texts by different authors, including folk texts. The main task of Villy Sargsyan (born 1930) who made the transcriptions, is to remain faithful to the original, to its intonation and rhythms when conveying the sung text by means of the piano. As far as possible, the composer’s unique timbres and textures are preserved, with the colourful orchestration transcribed using a variety of register, and pedal effects.

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