Sahan Arzruni, Pianist in Review

Sahan Arzruni, Pianist in Review
With Cihat Askin, violinist
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall; New York, NY
October 7, 2010

Sahan Arzruni - Photo Credit: 2010 FrontRowPhotos.

In a most unusual presentation of music from the Middle East—specifically that of Turkey and Armenia—pianist Sahan Arzruni performed admirably for a full-house crowd at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. The concert was presented by the Turkish Consulate General in New York. Despite the hall’s somewhat dry acoustics, Arzruni’s playing was riveting from start to finish. He has complete command of the instrument and exudes a quality that lets his audience know that he is a deeply probing musician. Also insightful was his programming, which ties together rarely heard music by Turkish and Armenian composers. Much of the traditional music by Turks and Armenians are rooted in their respective regional dialects, and this concert music reflected the different ways the dialects are spoken—with their varying accents and stresses of phrase.

Some of the composers were familiar names, such as Aram Khachaturian, who was born in Tbilisi. His Poem and Toccata are lovely, as is Komitas’ nicely contrasting Piano Dances. H. Ferid Alnar’s Piano Pieces are evocative, with titles such as “On the Hillside” and “East Winds at the Seashore”, and naturally concludes with a tuneful Folk Dance. Arzruni captured both the traditional and forward-looking qualities in the music.

Sahan Arzruni, pianist and Cihat Askin, violinist - Photo Credit: 2010 FrontRowPhotos.

Guest violinist Cihat Askin made a good impression as well. He performed a work called “Crane” by Aslamazyan, music based on the music of Komitas, which made good programming sense, since we heard a work by Komitas earlier in the evening. Askin played with elegant phrasing and an enthralling spirit. In “Salacak Sarkisi” by Askin himself, he beguiled the audience with his superb technique. He returned with a more familiar composer in Khachaturian’s “Chant-Poeme” and Saygun’s more virtuosic “Demet Suite”. Both artists had great chemistry and consistently impressed the audience with committed, engaging performances. I only wish Askin’s sound resonated in the hall more. Arzruni was masterful and insightful with his performances of Hovhaness’ “Achtamar” and “Lake of Van” Sonata, in addition to his excellent playing in Koptagel’s “Tamzara” and Toccata.

Sahan Arzruni presented a program that can be perceived as an effort to bring the people of Turkey and Armenia closer together artistically. There are many common traits…and unique differences as well.