Celebrating Alexander Arutiunian

From Armenia with love

Written by Paul Cooke

If Alexander Arutiunian is known at all to audiences outside the former Soviet Union, it is because of his 1950 Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. It is quite possibly the best-known trumpet concerto since those written by Haydn and Hummel in the early years of the instrument’s development. Philip Smith, former principal trumpet with the New York Philharmonic, has characterised its appeal: “…a flashy piece. It has a very gypsyish, Russian, Armenian kind of sound, with very soulful, beautiful melodies and plenty of exciting rapid- tonguing kind of things.” The concerto was written for Arutiunian’s compatriot Zolak Vartisarian, who died in military action before it was finished. It was taken up by the virtuosic and influential Timofei Dokschitzer, who performed it widely and was the first to record it.

Arutiunian was born a century ago, on 23 September 1920, in the Armenian city of Yerevan. He studied piano and composition at the Yerevan Conservatory, named for the composer Komitas, who had collected and published folk songs and church melodies, laying the foundations for the development of a classical Armenian style. Komitas, together with fellow Armenians Spendiarian and Khachaturian, had a major influence on Arutiunian’s music.

Don’t miss the program on Wednesday 23 September at 2pm


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