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Composer Hayg Boyadjian Meets (So to Speak) with Bach, Beethoven

LEXINGTON, Mass. — Grammy Nominee composer Hayg Boyadjian was recently in Bonn, Germany where his “unusual” solo piano composition Variations on a Theme by Bach (20 variations) was recorded for CD release beginning of next year. The recording was done in a concert hall with superior acoustics, on a brand new Steinway Concert Grand piano, with one of the top recording engineers in Europe, Peter Hertmans, and also supervising the recording the teacher-mentor of the recording virtuoso pianist Armen Manaseryan, Heribert Koch, who is also a concert pianist and a composer.

Armen Manaseryan will be performing in Frankfurt, Germany on December 2 at the prestigious Steinway Hall a lengthy solo concert pairing Boyadjian’s recently recorded Bach variations with the 32 Variations by Beethoven. Manaseryan will close the concert with Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons. The concert is sponsored by the Harvard Club of Germany. Many Harvard University luminaries will be present and Armen Manaseryan will introduce me to the audience in my absence.

The Boyadjian Bach variations take their inspiration from a 30-set variations by Bach. Bach utilizes extensively the bass line of the theme that opens the variations. It is called a chaconne or passcaglia and follows Bach’s variations in a very similar way by using often the bass line.

“My first variation acts more as a prelude of things to come rather than a variation in itself. There are a number of musical forms in both Bach and my variations, such as: canons, counterpoint, fugues, sarabands, etc. They all contribute to the richness of the composition. My variations are a unique composition in that it is modern but having roots in Bach’s language and therefore sounding nothing like today’s music, it is modern by not being modern. That is why there was an interest in recording the work because of being unusual,” explained Boyadjian. “Originally the work had 32 variations like the Beethoven’s variations, one can hear my original 32 variations on YouTube, but for recording purposes only twenty were recorded at the present. The 20 were chosen very carefully in order to keep the composition feeling complete in its reduced format.”

While in Bonn the composer had the opportunity to visit the Beethoven House where the great composer was born and which is now the Beethoven Museum.

One room has his original piano.

He continued, “It was with great trepidation that I contemplated to write a set of variations for piano on a theme by Bach. The part that came easy was the choice of the theme, which in my set of variations comes only at the end of the composition. I planned to follow in the footsteps of Bach as to the structure of the variations and also in keeping the harmonic language to a great degree in the realm of traditional harmonies with modern harmonies used very sparingly so that the composition makes an almost direction towards the music of Bach. It is in my musical output a piece that stands completely outside of my normal harmonic language. There is a very close resemblance to the music of Bach but infused with elements of modern musical language. Even these infusions are kept at a minimum so as to keep the general tendency of the work connected to the music of Bach.”

Like the 32 variations version this present 20 variations version follow the same compositional patterns that Bach uses in his variations. Each new variation grows out of the previous one. Each has a specific harmonic language such as: in counterpoint, in fugues, basso ostinatos, canons, chaconne, etc. If one listens carefully one can hear the music of Bach and the Bach’s theme of the variations.

Musicologist and critic Robin McNeil has said, “Keep in mind that this is a 21st century piece …. relying on the use of a Baroque period counterpoint. Boyadjian makes use of retrograde, inversion, variations of rhythmic figures and ornamentation, and canon. As the piece progresses, it begins to sound more and more familiar in spite of the avant-garde harmonies and enharmonic writing……It truly is an epiphany.”

The Armenian Mirror-Spectator

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