- ...and then I was in time again, concerto for viola & orchestra
- Concerto for violin & string orchestra
- Lachrymae, for soprano saxophone & viola
- Confessing with Faith, 7 prayers from St. Nerses Shnorhali's Prayer-book for viola & 4 voices
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The ECM label has a virtual monopoly on bringing new music from the former Soviet Union to listeners worldwide. Their track record of discoveries is nearly impeccable, and Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian is a fascinating recent find. An earlier album, Hayren, offered a tantalizing taste of his music, but on Monodia, Mansurian gets the deluxe treatment with lovingly performed and produced renditions of four major works. Another Armenian musician provides a thread through much of the program: Kim Kashkashian, who surely elicits more beautiful sounds from the viola than anyone else. "...and then I was in time again," Mansurian's 1995 concerto for viola and string orchestra, takes its title from Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and proceeds in a stream-of-consciousness fashion akin to that novel's style. Kashkashian's commanding performance never loses the musical thread, however, bringing a sharp, dramatic edge to the first movement and a sumptuous, lyrical tone to its shorter aftermath. Both in this work and the earlier Violin Concerto (1981) -- the thorny solo line is played brilliantly here by Leonidas Kavakos -- Mansurian's style is distant from the easy-listening mysticism of many recent eastern European composers. This is occasionally difficult music, but a melodic basis in Armenian folk music contributes to its appeal, as does a palpable emotional immediacy. In these ways, among others, Mansurian is a true heir to Béla Bartók. A second disc brings Kashkashian back for two very different works. Lachrymae (1999) pairs her viola with Jan Garbarek's soprano saxophone in a quiet lamentation, creating a mood that carries over into Confessing with Faith (1998), for viola and four voices. The Hillard Ensemble join Kashkashian in exploring the roots of Armenian sacred music that Mansurian weaves throughout this meditative work, which is just as beautiful and as uncompromising as all the other music featured here.