For over a decade, the AGBU Sayat Nova International Composition Competition has been inviting musicians of all heritages to be inspired by the grand tradition of Armenian arts. Winners have been named from all over the world, from Hong Kong to Mexico, Syria to France, each recognized for their versatility, ingenuity and artistry. As their original compositions have traveled to international audiences for world premieres, our composers have built their network of fans, increasing their exposure globally. 2018 was a year of celebrating great strides and historic progress in women’s rights in the Armenian World so it was only appropriate that the competition announced revolutionary 20th century poet Silva Kaputikyan as the inspiration for competing composers. The winning compositions of 2018 are Aregnaz Martirosyan’s “Inqnutyun” [Identity] in first place, Bardy Minassian’s “Loure da Loure” [News, It’s News] in second place, and James Maunders’ “Khosk Im Vordun” [A Word to My Son] in third place.
Silva Kaputikyan was a revolutionary artistic force in the 20th century, prolific in her poetry and social activism. While her art memorializes the universal travails of love and loss, she engaged with the numerous yet particular facets of Armenian identity, forever conscious of the people’s suffering and sovereignty. Kaputikyan’s words were therefore rewardingly complex primary sources for composers to weave into their own work. “Her spirit is present in my piece as she was equally a romantic and nationalist poet,” asserts Bardy Minassian, who won second place with a composition inspired by Kaputikyan’s “Loure da Loure,” a poem based on Vrtanes Papazian’s novel of the same name. “For Kaputikyan, his novel carried a national, patriotic message: a man of the working class represented the poverty and injustice of the people whilst his lover’s father, an aristocrat, represented the regime that enforced the injustice,” she explains.
Born to Armenian parents in Aleppo, Syria, Minassian is a classically trained composer and guitarist. In 2012, she graduated Parsegh Ganachian Music School but when the Syrian Civil War broke out, Minassian was forced to flee the country with her family. After settling in Yerevan, Armenia, she began her studies at the Komitas State Conservatory, graduating with her Bachelor of Music for Composition with honors in 2017. Inspired by the symbolism of Kaputikyan’s poetic interpretation in “Loure da Loure,” and enchanted by the rhythmic repetition of the language, she crafted a piece that entices the audience to engage in a story deeper than what it appears.
Kaputikyan’s poetry not only subverts recognizable archetypes in literature, but wrestles with behemoth cultural concepts, often making the personal political. “Since becoming a father, I’ve been continually drawn to themes of continuity, passing on things to the next generation and that connection between parent and child” James Maunders, whose “Khosk Im Vordun” took third place this year, explains. “I was struck by the relationship between motherhood and mother tongue in this poem, the concept of what a mother might want to say to a child who is leaving her— or indeed what a motherland might say to her people who have left her.” As a windplayer, Maunders took on the challenge of composing for both the duduk and the zurna for the first time for the competition, learning techniques, fingerings and ranges by studying videos and speaking with other musicians.
Originally from Norwich, England where he was a chorister and student of the clarinet, saxophone and piano, Maunders is working as an educator, composer, conductor and musician in Newbury. Currently, he is completing his Master’s Degree at Birmingham City University. For the AGBU Sayat Nova International Composition Competition, he succeeded in creating a work that imbues a classical orchestral composition with traditional Armenian sounds, incorporating voices that laud and lament into one piece.
With a vast body of work, spanning decades, Kaputikyan was an artist who indeed celebrated and grieved through her life and career. Aregnaz Martirosyan, the first-place winner of the 2018 AGBU Sayat Nova International Composition Competition, chose to meditate on these many meticulous interpretations of the poet’s inner world. To compose her piece, Martirosyan used four poems marking the four movements— “Indignation,” “Thoughts on The Halfway,” “Late Words” and “It Is Late”—to narrate her own family history, honoring her grandmother as the hero. “I’m telling the story of my grandmother in a piece that uses the duduk, zurna and the western classical instruments, which are already very difficult to combine, but with music and Kaputikyan’s poetry, I was able to convey what I could not communicate with words,” she reveals. Intergenerational trauma also comes with the recognition of the triumph of survival and Martirosyan’s composition invites the audience to consider their own family’s history.
Currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Music Composition at the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan, Martirosyan already has a Bachelor’s degree in the study. Born in Dvin, Armenia, she is a passionate musician, educator and composer whose work has been performed internationally. She has been a member of the Youth Forum of the Armenian Composers’ Union and the Scientific Council of Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory since 2018.
Initiated by AGBU France in 2006 and held biennially since the establishment of PAD in 2012, the AGBU Sayat Nova International Composition Competition continues to challenge, connect and reward talented musicians worldwide. 2018 was a monumental year in celebrating original talents. First-place winner Aregnaz Martirosyan will receive 2,500€ and the Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra Award, a commissioning award to write an orchestral work that will premiere by the ANPO during the 2019/20 season. In second place, Bardy Minassian will receive 1,500 € and the Carnegie Hall Award, having her piece premiere at the “AGBU Performing Artists in Concert” at the Weill Recital Hall on December 6th, 2019. In third place, James Maunders will receive 1,000€ and the Piano Teachers Congress of New York Award, in which he will be commissioned a work to be premiered at Carnegie Hall during the Piano Teachers Congress of New York’s Honors Program Gala in November 2019.
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