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Jem Condliffe
Review Corner, December 2019

Part two opens with the Book of Lamentation, and it’s pretty full on lamenting, before the beautiful In Supernal Jerusalem. A lovely interlude featuring soprano is the closest it gets to easy listening; CD2 also features the powerful Three-Voice Mass and closes with some shorter songs perhaps indicative of redemption.

A huge piece, that will be, if it isn’t already, a classic. © 2019 Review Corner Read complete review

Andrew Desiderio
Fanfare, November 2019

Ian Krouse’s sprawling choral masterpiece may one day take its place among the most important examples of the Requiem genre. Armenian Requiem (2015) is a powerful work commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, synthesizing Armenian sacred music (in which Krouse has long held a keen interest) with Western modes and choral techniques. The wailing of the chorus and aching expressivity of the cantorial solo voices conjure the unspeakable horrors of 1915, in fractious coexistence with a belief in mankind’s latent ability to be better. The UCLA Philharmonia and Lark Master Singers are in top form, and this disc should not be missed. © 2019 Fanfare Read complete review

David Reynolds
American Record Guide, September 2019

The Lark Master Singers is superb, a large choir the blends well and fully participates in the drama. … The Tziatzan Children’s Choir is just as skilled, providing a lovely counterpoint to the adult forces. Barsoumian is the choral director for these forces and is an expert at drawing colors and emotions from his choral groups.

The UCLA Philharmonic Orchestra and the entire performance is led by Neal Stulberg in a work that still has me reeling after listening to it three times.

Highly recommended to all choral buffs and people who need proof that there still are composers who can summon the heights and depths of humanity in their music. © 2019 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

James H. North
Fanfare, August 2019

Section 2, “The Creation,” is no-holds-barred music ranging from cataclysmic to serene, during which the children’s choir produces some gorgeous moments. Then comes the first of six “Interludes,” although I can perceive no difference from the other nine sections; mezzo-soprano Garineh Avakian is magnificent, her thrilling voice and extraordinarily moving singing taking one back to Janet Baker, even Kathleen Ferrier.

One must admire Ian Krouse and these Armenian performers for the scope of their ambition and the magnitude of their devotion… © 2019 Fanfare Read complete review

George W. Harris
Jazz Weekly, July 2019

In an era when there are Holocaust Deniers, it’s important that we have people like composer Ian Krouse around, to remind us about the prototypical tragedy of the 20 Century, namely the 1915 Armenian Genocide. In fact the word “genocide” itself was created because of this very slaughter of 1-2 million Armenians. This two part, 90+ minute piece features passionate vocals in liturgical chants, with poems featured as interludes between orchestra, string quartet, trumpet, organ and even the Armenian reed instrument, the duduk. Vladimir Chernov’s deep baritone is cantoral, while Garineh pleads during “I Want to Die Singing” and “Naze’s Lullaby” respectively, while a rich choir is haunting for “Creator of All Things.” A children’s choir brings gentle yearnings on “In Supernal Jerusalem” and harp with Shoushik Barsoumian’s voice on a crying “Book of Lamentations.” The music agonizes and broods, but with the faith of the nation, the ultimate result is a hope in God, as the Armenians so sadly learned, hoping in man is a futile bet. An important piece musically and historically. © 2019 Jazz Weekly

Brian Morton
Choir & Organ, July 2019

Judgement of this titanic performance and world premiere recording is obviously secondary to the existence of the work itself, the first large-scale sacred work to memorialise the Armenian massacres of 1916. Krouse has—perhaps following Benjamin Britten in the War Requiem—not strictly followed the liturgical form of the traditional Armenian Mass, but has interspersed poetry, mostly by writers little known in the west, and devices like the offstage trumpets of ‘Interlude II: Moon of the Armenian Tombs’. This clearly was a key moment in the cultural life of the large Armenian diaspora in Los Angeles, and to rate it according to ordinary aesthetic standards is to fall somewhere between cultural appropriation and just missing the point. It’s an extraordinary piece, which manages, for all its scale and powerful orchestration, to seem quiet and inward to the point of intimacy. An astonishing achievement. © 2019 Agora Classica

Lawrence Vittes
Gramophone, July 2019

…Krouse’s sprawling tapestry of 21st-century colours, sonorities and textures, infused with his knowledge of Armenia’s deep and rich musical history, is a timeless and timely pan-religious call to ‘fight against oppression’ … ‘not with arms and violence, but with immortal song’.

With the composer producing, conductor Neal Stulberg’s command of the assembled forces—including many of LA’s finest musicians, such as the UCLA Philharmonia’s concertmaster Movses Pogossian—brings with it the assurance of authority. © 2019 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Rolf Fath
Opera Lounge, May 2019

Will Ian Krouse one day be immortalized on a battle painting or honored in any other form in Armenia? Like Franz Werfel, who was posthumously awarded Armenian citizenship in Vienna in 2006, because—as an Armenian priest in the United States preached from the pulpit—he had given the nation a soul. With his novel about the forty days of Musa Dagh, which celebrates the Armenians’ struggle for survival during the persecution of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-17, Werfel delivered the literary national monument of Armenia. Each year, a quarter million people come up on the hill over Yerevan to the genocide museum and the eternal flame amidst mighty steles to remind of the massacre and commemorate the victims. On the 100th anniversary of the genocide, the Armenian Requiem—which was commissioned by the Armenian community in the Diaspora in Los Angeles—was premiered. The work was written by 1956 born composer Ian Krouse who came to be known for his compositions for guitar quartet. In the booklet, the conductor and musicologist Vatsche Barsoumian describes the creation of the 95-minute-work, which is divided into two-parts and which cannot be built on any corresponding tradition in spiritual Armenian music, but is rather based on the structure of Britten’s War Requiem. He asserts this in reference to the selection and meaning of the 15 texts—including at the beginning and the end, in the Prelude and Postlude—the voices of the victims in the form of two poems penned in 1915 by martyrs of the Genocide, Atom Yanjanjan, known under his pseudonym Siamanto, and Daniel Varoujan; and also texts from the tenth and eleventh century, interspersed as six interludes with texts from the 19th and 20th centuries. The work is a return to Armenian patterns, a bow to Komitas Vardapet, the founder of modern classical music Armenia around 1900, and a deliberate turn to the Western forms from the Renaissance to Brahms and Britten, which an outsider can hardly recognize or adequately dignify.

The impression of this spectacular work (2 CDs Naxos 8.559846-47), which assigns a special task to the Armenian national instrument duduk ( Ruben Harutyunyan), is enormous. Four solo voices, two off-stage trumpets (Jens Lindemann, and Bobby Rodriguez), organ (Christoph Bull), string quartet, children’s choir (Tziatzan Children’s Choir) and choir and orchestra—the Lark Masters Singers (conducted by Barsoumian) and the UCLA Philharmonia—the Orchestra of the University of California in Los Angeles—are mobilized to underline the expectations and significance of the Armenian Requiem. Neal Stulberg brings this commitment vividly into action. Krouse has chosen a musical form that does justice to the expectations of a first Requiem in the Armenian language, not a firmly avant-garde work, but still serious contemporary music, effective, massive; including a thrilling solo for mezzo-soprano—in which Garineh Avakian gives her all—a short prayer for tenor (Yeghishe Manucharyan), or the ceremonial dignity of baritone Vladimir Chernov which can already be heard at the very beginning of the piece. © 2019 Opera Lounge

David Denton
Yorkshire Post, May 2019

Masked by the dreadful events that were taking place in Europe in 1915, the cleansing of Christians of Armenian saw the genocide of thousands of innocent people, an event marked on the centenary year by a Requiem commissioned from the American composer Ian Krouse. As with Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, it interweaves poems of our time with the established [Armenian liturgy]. It calls for four soloists together with an enormous choir and orchestra used to convey the horror of the message. Modern in concept, it receives a highly committed performance from Los Angeles based musicians, the sound quality on the two new Naxos discs certainly deserving a special award. © 2019 Yorkshire Post

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, April 2019

…It is music that comes out of the Requiem-specific Armenian liturgical chants, and does so with a spectacular assemblage of fine vocal soloists along with Ruben Harutyunyan on duduk, Jean Libdemann and Bobby Rodriguez on trumpets, Christoph Bull on organ, the VEM String Quartet, Tziatzan Children’s Choir, the Lark Master Singers and the UCLA Philharmonia, all under the capable direction of Neal Stulberg.

…You hear a veritable spring garden of musical delights… © 2019 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Read complete review

Records International, April 2019

Composed to mark the centenary of the genocide of 1915, the Armenian Requiem is a large-scale sacred work structured around the liturgical chants encountered in requiem services appended to the traditional Armenian Mass. It is written in a form that, uniquely for the music of the country, is not based wholly on the model of the Latin Mass. © 2019 Records International Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2019

Born in the United States in 1956, Ian Krouse, now the Professor of Music at the University of California, is a composer with a growing portfolio of various scores. Particularly drawn to the singing voice, his most ambitious work to date comes with the Armenian Requiem completed in 2015, that emotive year being the centenary of the genocide during the First World War, events taking place in Western Europe masking this mass ‘cleansing’ of Christian Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. That long-forgotten designation of a part of Europe is now in the control of Turkey who refuse to accept it ever happened. Krouse, for his part, takes it as fact, and intertwines modern writing with the established Catholic Mass, the work, in two parts, divided into 15 sections. To that end it takes its format from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the musical style being that of the mainstream West European composers of the early Twentieth century. The writing, however, is very individual, and if your taste reaches out to the time of Britten and early Shostakovich, you will be pleased to make acquaintance with Krouse. It calls for very large forces, as the above heading will make clear, including a major part for a quartet of soloists in the mode of conventional Requiems. Krouse also follows tradition in using the shock factor of massive climatic moments to drive home the horror of his message. Certainly it calls for outstanding performers, the Californian University Orchestra, based in Los Angeles, nothing short of the high ranking American professional orchestra. Equally incisive is the large chorus using the much acclaimed Lark Master Singers, and they too have a very demanding role to fulfil. Of the soloists I have to point to the admirable tenor, Yeghishe Manucharyan, in his exacting role, and Shoushik Barsoumian’s soprano effortlessly soaring on high in the Fourth Interlude. For the conductor, Neal Stulberg, it must have been a very challenging assignment, which he commandingly despatches. I do not want to exaggerate the place that this work could hold in the future, but it has deeply impressed me, the recording team, who have captured the very wide dynamic, deserving of an award. © 2019 David’s Review Corner

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