Arsen Petrosyan: Charentsavan; Music for Armenian Duduk

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Havik
Arsen Petrosyan: Charentsavan; Music for Armenian Duduk

The acknowledged master of the Armenian duduk — a double-reed flute capable of deep emotional expression in the right hands — is Djivan Gasparian, but already the young Petrosyan is spoken of as being in the same league.

He is already acknowledged as a prodigy in Armenia and this deep, resonant and moving album of traditional music is the soulful evidence.

Somewhat oddly the US-based label Pomegranate Music bills this debut as “world fusion” which suggests some dilution of the tradition he explores in favour of some contemporary hipness.

Nothing could be further from the truth (although he does play in some fresh contexts) and this album mostly sounds as ancient as the 1500-year lineage of the instrument he plays.

The minimalist Havik here was written over 1000 years ago, but Petrosyan makes it as relevant as any spiritually imbued album on ECM.

To the more contemporary centerpiece Lullaby for the Sun, he brings an aching resonance and the melody makes oblique reference to the traditional music of Central Asia.

Other than the somewhat boisterous ensemble piece Javakhki Shoror and the romantically sentimental Kessabi Oror, there is a deep and innate melancholy at the core of most of these pieces. And with stately reflectiveness Petrosyan lets the wordless stories be told.

Petrosyan, barely into his 20s, found most of these pieces in archives and — sometimes with empathetic accompaniment from harp, acoustic guitar and soft percussion — he explores them with mature restraint, letting the music and melancholy speak for itself.

At just 29 minutes this may seem short but it makes up for it in beauty, focus and intensity.

Well worth locating.

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