ALAN HOVHANESS BECAME THE LINK BETWEEN SWEDEN AND ARMENIA
Matilda Mettala, 2007-06-08
Alan Hovhaness is an unknown composer for many here in Sweden. This was also the case for me when my teacher in music history Tore Eriksson told me about him, "one of the interesting 20th century composers with Armenian heritage". Eriksson knew that I shared the same heritage as Hovhaness and asked me if I would be interested to write my thesis (BA, MD in Musicology) about Hovhaness and his Armenian influence. Little did I know at the time that this would lead me to the country of my forefathers which is Armenia.
To be able to understand a composer and his music one must also study the sociological context; his habits, values and attitudes, what he felt and what influenced him. Since my thesis is about the Armenian influence it was therefore important for me to come closer to this understanding, which was my main purpose for my visit. My visit in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia lasted for one week (24th-30th of May) and the impressions I got was filled with more beauty and emotions than I had expected. The country is truly a "Sleeping Beauty". Its cultural heritage is richer than the greatest treasures one can imagine. The beauty of the green landscapes and the warm hospitality of its people touched me as I realized that this is what Hovhaness' music has been trying to tell me. What is interesting is how Hovhaness could have these images in his mind as he composed through the influence of Komitas' music. He had yet not visited Armenia when he composed: Lousadzak (1944), Anahid Op.57 (1944) Prayer of St. Gregory Op.62b (1946), Avak, The Healer Op.65 (1945-46), St. Vartan Op.80/Op.180 (1950) and many more.
How could he capture the Armenian lousadzak, meaning the dawn of light? During my stay I woke up every morning to see the dawn and each time I felt what he had tried to say with his composition, a peaceful and strengthening experience. It is difficult to write about my visit and exclude my feelings. One must understand that my ambition to build a musical bridge between Sweden and Armenia is based on my appreciation for the great art of the country, the musical heritage of Komitas Vartabed in the beginning of the 20th century and Alan Hovhaness' wish to express the beauty of our heritage through his music.
During three days we travelled (I shared these experiences with my father Krikor Dingizian) around and visited the many ruins and historical places that the country has. It amazed me how the stories that I had read and heard about as a child, now all became very real to me. I know my heart belongs to Sweden, the country I was born and raised, but as I stood and watched at Mount Ararat I knew that my soul had at last found its home. This is the greatest gift I can give to my children, the heart and soul of two countries that make me whole.
With the generous help of Alexan Zakyan, the following four days were filled with meetings and discussions of how a cooperation with musical exchange is possible between these two countries. During four days we saw in a remarkable way how we could day by day have the opportunities to meet with those who can help us in our future projects.
I had the privilege to meet the Armenian Minister of Culture, Hasmig Boghosian, the main purpose was to discuss the possibilities to establish an agreement for cultural exchange programs. The interest shown from the minister is now presented to my sister Esabelle Reshdouni, who is a member of the Swedish parliament for further discussions.
We visited The Academic State Choir of Armenia and I was honoured to meet the conductor Ohaness Tchekidjian. We also attended a concert with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, a concert I was very impressed with and the interesting meeting with the conductor of the orchestra Ruben Asatrian. I also had a very successful visit with the Ambassador of the Nordic countries Ara Aivazian.
An astonishing event occurred on the 28th of May at Sardarapad. Ministers, ambassadors and governmental representatives were gathered together to celebrate the 89th year of the restoration of Armenian statehood and the proclamation of Republic of Armenia, the Katilikos Karigi II was also present. In the big crowd somehow I found myself being introduced to Katilikos and the president of the parliament Dikran Torosian. Our meeting did not last long but as I stood there talking to them about my visit and my future ambitions I understood once again Hovhaness' spiritual beliefs; an opportunity had been given to me that can not be understood by words but with the soul.
To visit the future Alan Hovhaness research centre was a testimony of the great work that has been done and is still continuing, with the work of many devoted persons. To further understand Hovhaness' influence of Komitas' music I had the chance of discussing about Komtas' life with researchers at the museum, I found myself in a world of fascination and awe. How could one man accomplish so much for his country's musical heritage? Seeing, hearing and feeling the music history at the actual places was a tremendous experience.
I am also grateful that the morning newspaper Aravot and the Public Radio of Armenia acknowledged my work and it confirmed to me the importance of the work we can do. A work that started with Komitas Vartabed and continued with Alan Hovhaness which is; to build musical bridges with the Armenian culture throughout the world.