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BABADJANIAN, Arno (1921-1983)


  • Hayk Melikyan, piano

Alexander Arutiunian was one of the most prominent composers in the USSR, one of the representatives of the Armenian ‘Mighty Handful’ and much admired by Shostakovich. An accomplished pianist, Arutiunian created virtuoso piano works that are rooted in Armenian folk traditions while expressing, in the words of Hayk Melikyan, “a rich palette of emotions reflecting both his time and the history of his nation”. From the Armenian Dance of 1935, with its delicate, transparent texture and strong rhythmic drive, via the more dissonant, neoclassical Polyphonic Sonata, the descriptive Musical Pictures, and the almost Debussyan approach to tonality in the Six Moods, to the simple and beautifully crafted Album for Children of 2004, the works on this recording, the first complete edition, span Arutiunian’s entire compositional career.


Polyphonic Sonata (1947) (00:10:24 )
I. Prelude (00:01:05)
II. Fugue (00:07:15)
III. Toccata (00:04:29)
6 Kartin (6 Pictures) (1965) (00:13:00 )
No. 1. Improvisation (00:02:17)
No. 2. Folk Song (00:01:31)
No. 3. Toccatina (00:01:52)
No. 4. Intermezzo (00:01:37)
No. 5. Chorale (00:03:59)
No. 6. Sassoun Dance (00:02:41)
Melody and Humoresque (1973) (00:04:05 )
Melody (00:02:32)
Humoresque (00:01:54)
Elegy (1978) (00:03:45)
Reflection (1973) (00:02:23)
Prelude () (00:01:43)
Vagharshapat Dance (1947) (00:01:45)
Impromptu, "Exprompt" (1936) (00:02:49)
Capriccio (1951) (00:04:49)
Poem (1966) (00:06:36)
Total Time: 00:55:02

The Artist

Hayk Melikyan is recognised internationally by classical music audiences and critics alike as one of Armenia’s most versatile and imaginative musicians and among today’s most engaging virtuoso pianists. Since winning Second Prize at the Valentino Bucchi International Piano Competition of Twentieth Century and Contemporary Music, in Rome in 2000, he has included contemporary music as a leading component of his concert programmes, with performances throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. In 2012 Hayk Melikyan was awarded a Gold Medal by the Moscow Composers Union for his contribution and promotion of contemporary music and in 2013 the title of Honoured Artist of the Republic of Armenia. He has given premières of numerous works by contemporary composers and a number of pieces have been specially written for him. His recording of Arno Babadjanian’s complete piano works [Grand Piano GP674], released in 2014, entered the Fanfare magazine ‘Want List’, the performances described as having “power and agility to spare.”

The Composer

Arno Babadjanian was born in Yerevan, Armenia on 22 January 1921. His earliest musical influences came from his home. His father was an accomplished folk musician, capable of a variety of folk instruments. During childhood, Babadjanian witnessed the Westernisation of music in Armenia: with the creation of the Armenian Philharmonic and the Union of Armenian Composers was formed in 1932; the opening of the Opera Theatre in Yerevan in 1933; and the première of Arno Babadjanian’s Symphony No. 1 in 1934. Babadjanian’s first formal lessons were at the Yerevan Conservatory with Vardkes Talian (1896–1947). Talian instilled a sense of Armenian musical history in Babadjanian by insisting that his young student study the folk traditions of his country, in addition to the music of the great Armenian composer and ethnomusicologist, Vartabed Komitas (1869–1935).

Babadjanian graduated from the Yerevan Conservatory in 1947, and entered the Moscow Conservatory a year later to study the piano with one of Russia’s great pianists, the legendary Konstantin Igumnov (1873–1948). A student of Alexander Siloti, Anton Arensky, Sergey Taneyev and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Igumnov passed a musical tradition to Arno Babadjanian that few were lucky to experience. Under Igumnov’s guidance, Babadjanian studied Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, Beethoven’s sonatas, Chopin’s piano works, and the works of the great Russian composers, Rachmaninov and Scriabin. These were formative years for Babadjanian, who, as a result of his God-given talents and rigorous schooling, became an extraordinary pianist. Concurrently with his studies at the Moscow Conservatory, Babadjanian studied composition with Heinrich Litinsky (1901–1985) at the House of Armenian culture in Moscow Litinsky was one of the most influential composer-teachers in the Soviet Union who contributed several important text-books on polyphony (Problems in Polyphony) (three volumes) and Imitation in Strict Counterpoint). He also taught over two hundred pupils, including Aleksandrov, Arutyunian, Khrennikov, Mirzoyan, and Peiko. In addition to being a brilliant teacher, he was an ethnomusicologist, who imbued his students with a love for their native folk-music. Babadjanian composed his expressive and powerful Polyphonic Piano Sonata in 1946 while studying with Litinsky.

In 1950 Babadjanian returned to Armenia where he taught the piano at the Yerevan Conservatory (1950–56), and also gave concerts and composed. It is during this period that he wrote one of his most celebrated works, the Heroic Ballade for piano and orchestra (1950). This Romantic work is a series of picturesque symphonic variations rooted in Armenian folk-lore and pianistically close to the Rachmaninov’s keyboard style. Always aware of his national roots, Babadjanian collaborated with Arutyunian in 1950 and created another of his most popular works, the Armenian Rhapsody for two pianos.

Babadjanian was not a prolific composer; he spent much of his time teaching and giving concerts. His extraordinary Piano Trio was competed in 1952 and was followed in 1954 by his orchestral Poem-Rhapsody. The Sonata for Violin and Piano was produced in 1959, followed by the Cello Concerto, which was written for and dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich. Among his last compositions were the Six Pictures for Piano (1965), the Third String Quartet (1979) and the Nocturne for piano and symphonic jazz ensemble (1981). Arno Babadjanian died in Moscow on 15 November 1983.



“This is an exemplary introduction to the music of Babadjanian.” – Fanfare

“Melikyan’s performances are very good…” – American Record Guide

“Here is more extremely good and fulfilling work done by Grand Piano with a well documented and recorded recital played to the manner born by Hayk Melikyan.” – MusicWeb International