(1869 - 1935)
Komitas (a.k.a. Soghomon Soghomonyan) was born on September 26 (on October 8 in the Old Calendar) 1869, in Kütahya (known also as Koutina) town, Ottoman Empire. Komitas’s ancestors migrated to Kütahya from Goghtn Province of Historical Armenia at the turn of the 17th century. His father, Gevorg Soghomonyan, and his mother, Taguhi Hovhannisyan, had delightful voices gifted by nature. The songs composed by them were loved in the musical life of Kütahya. Komitas’s mother passed away in 1870, and his father passed away in 1880. The paternal grandmother took care of the orphaned child and, after her death, the aunt looked after him. In 1876 – 1880, Komitas entered the 4 year Elementary School of Kütahya and then he continued his education at the college of Broosa, a city not far from Kütahya. In 1881, Gevorg Vartapet Derdzakyan, who was the local prelate of Kütahya, took his way to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the spiritual centre of Armenia, to be ordained bishop. Following the pontifical encyclical of Gevorg the IV, the Catholicos of All Armenians, Gevorg Vardapet had to bring an orphan boy with delightful voice to Etchmiadzin to get enrolled at the Gevorgian Seminary. 11 year old Soghomon was selected out of the other 20 orphans. August 3, 1896, Berlin August 3, 1896, Berlin In 1895 – 1896, Komitas studied the principles of harmony with the Armenian composer Makar Yekmalyan in Tiflis (nowadays Tbilisi, Georgia). In 1896, Komitas left for Berlin to continue his education. The tuition fee was awarded by Alexander Mantashyan, the oil explorer and philanthropist. In 1899, Komitas graduated from the Department of Philosophy of Frederick William University (nowadays Humboldt University) and Richard Schmidt’s private conservatory. Komitas got the erudition of the renowned musicologists of his time, among them Oskar Fleischer, Henrich Bellermann and Max Friedlander. In 1899, Komitas became the founder member of the new established International Music Society. He presented papers on his research, made reports, gave talks and lectures on Armenian music at the conferences of the International Music Society. July 18, 1902, Sanahin July 18, 1902, Sanahin In 1907 in Paris the first collection of works by Komitas was published, which included solo and choral arrangements of Armenian folk songs. In Autumn, 1910 Komitas moved to Constantinople expecting more favorable conditions for his activities. He founded a choir named Gousan after Armenian medieval singers, which was consisted of as many as 300 singers. He toured much with this choir. At the same time, Komitas continued his research and pedagogical activities, published articles and presented papers at international events. In 1912, Komitas’s ‹‹Հայ գեղջուկ երգեր›› (Armenian Peasant Music) was published in Leipzig, which comprised his vocal and choral arrangements of Armenian folk songs. In 1914, Komitas participated in the Fifth Conference of the International Music Society in Paris with three papers on Armenian folk music, Armenian sacred chant, and Armenian notation. Patarag (The Divine Liturgy) composed for the male choir was the creative achievement of this period. 1912, Constantinople 1912, Constantinople March 17, 1890, Etchmiadzin March 17, 1890, Etchmiadzin The exceptional musical abilities of Soghomon were revealed during the study years at the Gevorgian Seminary (1881-1893). He studied theoretical and practical disciplines of Armenian sacred music under the supervision of Sahak Vartapet Amatuni. Gradually, he initiated collecting and arranging Armenian folk songs and made his first attempts to compose music. In 1890, Komitas was ordained Deacon. After finishing the spiritual studies he was appointed as a music teacher at the Seminary. In 1894, he was ordained Archimandrite and got the name Komitas in honor of Komitas I Aghtsetsi, the Armenian Catholicos of the 7th century, a musician and author of sharakans (Armenian hymns of church music). In 1895, he was ordained the spiritual scientific degree of Vardapet. December 10, 1901, Yerevan December 10, 1901, Yerevan Returning Etchmiadzin, Komitas became engaged in music-social activities. He collected and transcribed Armenian folk and church songs and melodies and studied them, presenting the results of his explorations in the form of articles and lectures. He toured many times with the choir of the Etchmiadzin Seminary with concerts in Etschmiadzin, Yerevan, Tiflis (now Tbilisi) and Baku. He was devotedly and systematically working on deciphering the khaz notation of Armenian medieval music culture. Komitas presented his research on Armenian music in the form of lectures and lecture-recitals in a number of European and Eastern cities: Paris, Berlin, Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, Venice, Alexandria, Cairo etc. He was highly appreciated by the audience and by the prominent people of his time period, among them being Lois Laloy, Romain Rolland, Claude Debussy, Peter Wagner etc. 1906, Paris 1906, Paris The Armenian Genocide planned and perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 tragically interrupted the creative life of the musician. He was arrested and exiled together with the Armenian intellectuals from Constantinople. In a few days, Komitas was released back from the exile according to the intervention of the US Ambassador in the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau. However, Komitas lost his mental balance because of the suffered crimes and terminated his creative activities. In 1916 – 1919, Komitas was treated in the psychiatric hospital in the Shishli quarter of Constantinople. The last sixteen years of his life Komitas spent in the psychiatric clinics of Ville-Évrard and Villejuif in Paris. Komitas Vartapet passed away on October 22, 1935 in Paris. The next year his ashes were transferred to Yerevan and buried in the Pantheon of the Armenian cultural protagonists, which is now named after Komitas.