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Nikoghayos Tigranian

(1856 - 1951)


Nikoghayos Tadevosi Tigranian (arm. Նիկողայոս Թադևոսի Տիգրանյան, rus. Никогайос Фаддеевич Тигранян, 31 August 1856, Gyumri – 17 February 1951, Yerevan) The outstanding Armenian composer Nikoghayos Tadevosi Tigranian devoted his talent to the development of Armenian national music, laid the foundation of the new Armenian professional music and composer school. Among the first Armenian composers he began to collect folk dance melodies and songs. Folk melodies, translated by Tigranian, are highlighted with a bright, unusually expressive and generous melos, the beauty of melodic patterns, colorful themes and amazing rhythm. Being a contemporary of T. Chukhadzhyan, H. Kara-Murza, M. Ekmalyan and Komitas, Tigranian together with them laid the foundation of Armenian classical music. The artistic image of Tigranian is multifaceted - an outstanding composer, ethnographer, pianist, an expert on the musical art of the peoples of the East, a public figure, a teacher, author of many scientific articles on music. Among the first Armenian composers he began collecting folk dance melodies and songs. He was the first to record complex forms of mughams by means of European music and translated these treasures of folk art for piano, voice, violin, chamber-instrumental ensembles, symphonic orchestra and orchestra of folk instruments. In the rich creative heritage of the composer, the translation of dances for piano is especially valuable. Numerous and diverse they initiated the development of Armenian piano music. Nikoghayos Tigranian's activities were not limited to Armenian music, he repeatedly turned to the music of neighboring peoples – Tatars, Georgians and Persians. "The great musician-orientalist" – that is how Tigranian was called by the classic of Armenian music Alexander Spendiarov. The city of Alexandropol (now Gyumri), where on August 31, 1856 Nikoghayos Tigranian was born and where he lived most of his life, is famous for its rich folklore, the living traditions of folk singing and the peculiar ashug culture. The father of the composer - Tadevos Nazareti Tigranian was a military man, and his mother - Yeranuhi Goroyants was a widely educated woman. Both parents of the composer were interested not only in Eastern, but also in European music which at the time was gradually penetrating the Caucasus. Tadevos Tigranian's family was numerous - 10 children (9 sons and one daughter). Nikoghayos Tigranian’s musical abilities began to show at an early age. At the age of six he was sent to the Alexandropol Armenian-Catholic School. But a serious illness (at the age of nine he fell ill with smallpox) deprived him of sight for life. Parents, deeply worried about his son’s fate, decided to give him an education at all costs. At that time Alexandropol had no schools for blind children and the parents decided to put their son in a school for blind children somewhere else. In 1873, the world medical congress was held in Vienna. Tigranian’s parents, still not losing hope to return his son's vision, took him to the capital of Austria. After a thorough examination, physicians stated the impossibility of returning the boy's vision and advised to place him to the Vienna Institute of the Blind. As a foreigner Tigranian was not admitted at first. After much trouble, the director of the Institute Professor Pavlasek agreed to take him to his family, giving him the opportunity to complete a course of study. At the Vienna Institute of the Blind, Tigranian passed an extensive secondary education curriculum course using advanced tools for the blind. Schenner, a Professor of the Vienna Conservatory, taught Tigranian music theory, harmony and the fundamentals of composition, while improving piano playing skills. During his course at the Institute, the future composer persistently and seriously studied Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt and Mendelssohn. As an extracurricular subject, he passed the course of playing the violin, and also studied the technique of setting up and restoring musical instruments. In 1880, after receiving his musical education from the Vienna Conservatory program, Tigranian returned to Alexandropol and with colossal energy and enthusiasm began to collect, study and process the best examples of oriental music that he had the opportunity to hear from sazandars, singers and ashugs. By means of European music Tigranian subtly and skillfully translated folk tunes carefully preserving their intonation features and rich metro-rhythmic system, aiming to make them the property of music professionals in Armenia, Russia and Western Europe. Between 1880 and 1890, Tigranian engaged in the translation of mughams. In this respect, the composer was very lucky: his aunt (mother's sister) was married to a famous tar player, an excellent connoisseur and performer of oriental melodies Agamal Melik-Agamalian. All his mughams were recorded and translated by Tigranian: (Bayati Kurd, Bayati Shiraz, Novruz Arabi, Shahnaz, Gejas, Eidari, etc). At the same time, Tigranian created a compilation of arrangements of Armenian folk dances for piano. In 1893, Tigranian went to St. Petersburg, where he was trained and improved by Nikolai Solovyov, a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In St. Petersburg, the composer studied the works of Glinka, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov. In the period of 1895-1898, Tigranian successfully played concerts as a pianist in the cities of Russia, Georgia and Armenia. At the concerts he performed his versions of Armenian folk dances and mughams. In 1922, in Gyumri, Tigranian opened a school for blind children and was appointed its principal. The great friendship between Komitas and Tigranian is evidenced by Tigranian's memories of Komitas, letters written to him by Komitas. Their first acquaintance took place in 1899. When returning from Berlin to Echmiadzin, Komitas came to Gyumri to visit Tigranian and stayed at his home for several days. Spending all their days in meaningful talks about the nature of oriental music, they also discussed the issues of style and form of Armenian folk songs and dances and mughams. Since the first meeting, composers have become great friends. "When Komitas came to us," Tigranian recalled, "our house became solemn." Komitas, in turn, at every meeting with Nikoghayos Tigranian had a habit of repeating: - "I came to use the musical treasury of Nikoghayos Tigranian". Tigranian was impressed by the work of Komitas. "I do not know anyone like Komitas," he said, "who would feel and understand the spirit and character of our folk music so deeply." Folk dances for piano Translation of folk dances for piano occupies the most important place in the artistic heritage of Tigranian. It played an exceptionally important role in the formation of the national style of Armenian piano music. Tigranian raised this area of national music to a qualitatively new level. His works were essentially the first samples of Armenian piano literature, in which the national certainty of the musical-figural system and language were expressed with undoubted clarity and artistic conviction. The piano dances of Tigranian first appeared in the late 1880s, during a period of intensive work on the collection, recording and translation of national folklore and are directly related to folk musical art. They are based entirely on the Armenian city folklore, on its intonation, in particular, on the folk-ashug melodies that exist in his hometown of Alexandropol (Gyumri). Tigranian translated 25 dances for the piano. In the process, Tigranian usually does not go beyond the boundaries of the folk melody, does not make any significant changes to it. In each of them, with few but clear strokes, the composer strives to emphasize folk, harmony and tone basis, beauty and unique originality of the melodic, especially the rhythmic structure. "In the dances," the composer wrote, "various states of the dancers are transmitted by rhythm, beginning with fanciness and energy and ending with smoothness." It should be especially emphasized that Tigranian was the first in Armenian music to attempt to transfer specific features of oriental instrumental and vocal-instrumental ensembles (timbre, rhythmic, intonational, polyphonic texture) to the piano. The composer managed to reveal the features of the choreographic drawing of folk dance by musical means, to reveal his figurative and emotional content. Thus, each piece turned into an independent picture of the people's life. In Tigranian's translation of solo men’s and women’s, group round and paired dances, dance songs, different moods and a variety of characters are manifested - fervent, fiery-temperamental, calm-sedate, graceful-gentle and humorous. The most part of the translation are round dances, widespread in everyday life and loved by people. Among them: Dyuz Par, Het u Arach, Tars Par, Gyumri Round Dance, Ver-Ver, Three Round Dances, Erzrumi, etc. A smooth, calm and restrained Dyuz Par dance is a complete manifestation of the composer’s creative method. The dance is a theme with five variations with the melody of Chem Krna Khakha song in the heart of it. In addition to round dances Tigranian also processed dance songs, such as Faten Kitam and Vard Koshiks. Their main content is love lyrics. In dance songs, the dance element is distinctly manifested, giving their melodies a distinctive character. It is known that Armenians sing and dance simultaneously, that's why melodies of dance songs are always melodic, flexible and rich rhythmically. Faten Kitam - is a passionate dialogue of a young man and a girl. The girl who dropped a ring in the water, asks the young man to get it. He agrees only if the girl loves him. The Three Round Dances cycle includes the unification of three dances: Kandrbazz, Vard Koshiks and Shavali. This very interesting feature in Tigranian’s translation of dances, used by him for a further enrichment of the form and content of the dances, was still coming from Kara-Murza, and was developed even more in the vocal works of Komitas. Women’s dances (Rangs and others), translated by Tigranian, are especially impressive. They are full of charm and poetic expressiveness. There is a very lyrical Fimjan dance with an original song and melodic thematic material. Of men’s dances, the composer translated an Armenian Zurni Trngi dance, and a Daghestan Dagstani. Zurni Trngi depicts the folk life. The feeling of young enthusiasm in the dance overflows, filling the music with a spontaneous feeling of life and joy. The rhythm dominates throughout the dance. The background of the melody is the quintessential organ point with repetitive melodic figures of the same kind, sustained throughout the dance and reproducing the sound of folk instruments (mostly zurnas). Folk dances, translated by Tigranian for piano, are distinguished by the colorfulness of the melodic pattern and the brightness of the images. They are charming, interesting and original. The texture is simple and modest. The main task of the composer was to preserve the specificity of folk instrumental art, to transfer methods and techniques typical to folk instruments to piano. He often reproduced in dance the colors and the sound of different folk instruments (such as, dap, daira, zurna and duduk). Mughams for piano Along with the translation of songs and dances, Tigranian paid great attention to the translation of mughams. Tigranian was the first composer who turned to their recording and artistic translation. Therefore, he saved from loss rich and valuable treasures of folk-professional music. Mughams are multilateral improvisational vocal-instrumental or only instrumental poems of the East. Mughams and their performance are forms of professional creativity. Professional musicians for many years created and distributed the forms of mugham, drawing material from folk music. Tigranian recorded instrumental mughams widely used in Armenia, that is, mughams without singing, performed on string and wind folk instruments. Recording mughams of the brilliant tarist-virtuoso Agamal Melik-Agamalian, Tigranian left their melodies intact, adding nothing to them. Some mughams in the translation of Tigranian draw pictures of nature (Novruz Arabi), others resemble a solemn procession (Eidari). The first mugham published by Tigranian was Bayati Kurd. Bayati is an Arabic word, which means poetry. In music it is connected with the concept of elegy. It consists of three sections: the slow introduction of Choban, the main section of Bayati and the final section of Gaf. A mugham called Shahnaz is of particular interest. It is an exclusively imaginative, vivid and original piece. Shahnaz was translated by the composer both for piano and for violin and piano. Novruz Arabi (Morning of Arabia) is a sample of bright and clear lyrics in the mughams processed by Tigranian. It depicts a poetic picture of the awakening of nature. Tigranian’s mughams interested such outstanding composers as Spendiarov, Ippolitov-Ivanov, Glier, Melikyan and Khachaturian. Tigranian contributed noble work in the preservation of mugham as a unique material and thanks to this mughams received an interesting reflection in the work of Armenian composers. He contributed to the enrichment of their melodic language, instrumental and harmonic palette.

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