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State Choir Of Armenia In Rorem Premiere

September 13, 1987|JOHN HENKEN

When the State Choir of Armenia sings at the Scottish Rite Auditorium Thursday evening, a number of firsts will be recorded. The performance will open the choir's first U.S. tour with a program that includes the premiere of Ned Rorem's "Armenian Love Songs," which were commissioned specifically for this tour--the first commission from an American by a Soviet performance organization.

Actually, the commission seems somewhat indirect. Pianist and long-time Rorem colleague Sahan Arzruni appears to have been the main inspiration and broker for the commission, with funding supplied by Louise Simone Manukian, vice president of the Armenian General Benevolent Union in New York.

The assignment came "out of the blue, more or less," the composer reported in a recent phone conversation. He had no hesitation about accepting the deal, which was finalized within a week. "The proposition was interesting, the challenge was interesting, and the money was interesting," Rorem said.

The challenge lay in composing music for texts in Armenian, a language Rorem does not speak. He read translations of Nahabet Kuchak's 16th-Century poems and listened to a tape of Arzruni reading them in Armenian.

The result is five short, unaccompanied choral love songs. Rorem described their style as "more or less folk song," though they are not based on any Armenian music.

The 90-voice choir, conducted by Ohannes Tchekidjian, will give performances Thursday through next Sunday nights, and then again Sept. 26 and 27, with an appearance in San Francisco in between. Only the first and last programs will be the same. All the concerts list music by Armenian composers, as well as American choral staples such as spirituals and excerpts from "Porgy and Bess." Pieces by Rossini, Verdi, Bach and other classical composers will also be sung.

The tour also includes performances in Detroit, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Tickets for the opening gala ($100) are available only from Editions Erebouni, the tour producer, at (213) 465-6168. Tickets for all other performances are available through Ticketmaster.

NEW ETHNIC DANCE GROUP FORMED: Three divergent, locally based dance companies have joined forces in a new folk dance and music organization to be called Folk Fest. AVAZ International Dance Theatre, Floricanto Ballet Folklorico and Karpatok Hungarian Folk Ensemble have scheduled joint performances in various sites, beginning Oct. 18 at the Beverly Theatre.

The companies have received funding from the Brody Arts Fund and a matching grant from the National/State/Local Partnership administered by the Los Angeles County Music and Performing Arts Commission, enabling them to develop large-scale combined choreographies and consolidate various administrative functions. The three ensembles will continue to work independently, but are also considering the possibility of collaborating with yet other groups, such as Asian companies.

COLEMAN SEASON ANNOUNCED: There seems to be a youth movement under way at the venerable Coleman Chamber Concerts, at least in the programs and performers announced for the 1987-88 season. Five string players from the Boston Chamber Music Society open the season Oct. 18, with an agenda listing works for different combinations of instruments by Beethoven, Martinu and Schubert.

The other concerts scheduled are: the Pasquier Trio, a second generation of the noted French ensemble, Nov. 15; the Alexander Quartet, bringing a new work by Peter Maxwell Davies, Jan. 17; the Trio di Milano Feb. 21; the Muir Quartet with pianist Jean-Philippe Collard, Apr. 10, and the Colorado Quartet with clarinetist James Campbell and a new piece by Karel Husa, May 1.

All programs will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium on the Caltech campus. Information: (818) 793-4191.

AT THE BOWL: We have become accustomed to a pre-season at Hollywood Bowl--now we have a post-season. Following the annual Fireworks Finale this weekend, Leonard Bernstein leads the vaunted Vienna Philharmonic in performances Monday and Tuesday.

Asked what he would most like to see (or hear) at the Los Angeles Festival, Philharmonic executive director Ernest Fleischmann replied: the Vienna Philharmonic. "This is one of the world's greatest orchestras and probably the world's greatest conductor, Leonard Bernstein."

Well, the Viennese are not part of the festival, but Fleischmann found them a place at his house. The Monday program lists Mahler's Fifth Symphony and Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, with soloist Peter Schmidl. The Tuesday concert consists of Mozart's Symphony No. 29 and Sibelius' Fifth, plus Bernstein's own "Jeremiah" Symphony, with mezzo Christa Ludwig.

ON CAMPUS: Saturday, the newly formed Southern Pacific chapter of the College Music Society holds its first meeting in the Recital Hall at CSU Northridge. The daylong event is free and open to the public, and will include two concerts of music by local academic composers, as well as various lectures.

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