For almost three hours, members of the Armenian community sat transfixed as they heard two of their countrymen, violinist Khachik Babayan and pianist Serouj Kradjian, perform a rich and colorful execution of classical compositions Sunday evening at the First Baptist Church of Glendale.
Babayan, in his U.S. debut, and Kradjian delved into a fast-paced program of works by composers Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, Giuseppe Tartini, Fritz Kreisler, Komitas, Aram Khachaturian and Johannes Brahms that was breathless in scope and virtuosic in its performance.
Both men have Canadian roots and have performed together in the past. A program similar to the one presented here was heard to great acclaim last November in Toronto. The 55-year-old Babayan was born in Tabriz, Iran, and during studies there was accorded first place in the Iranian Violinist Competition. He has toured internationally, and is a recognized violin pedagogue in Canada.
Kradjian has performed around the world. His compositions and arrangements, including those dedicated to Armenian composers, have been well received on the concert stage and in recordings.
As lengthy as the concert was (three encores were performed) the crowded sanctuary remained attentive. Babayan used his masterful technique on the violin to produce expressive and warm tones. Kradjian at the piano collaborated with Babayan, producing seamless interplay. The duo moved from Schubert’s lyrical Sonatina in G-minor to Beethoven’s darker-toned Sonata No. 5 in F-major (Spring) then, following intermission, moved to Tartini’s gypsy-violin-inspired Violin Sonata in G-minor (“The Devil’s Trill”). Five shorter pieces completed the concert, each given emotion-laden performances.
In the Schubert work, Babayan displayed the light touch that made Schubert the toast of Vienna in his day in a performance marked by clarity of tone. In an extraordinary switch to something more somber, Babayan and Kradjian started immediately in the first movement to develop the themes, worked to a masculine forthrightness in the third movement, the Scherzo and Trio, and finished with a flourish in the fourth movement, the Rondo.
Noteworthy work by Babayan in the final five works showcased the technique he is known for. There was the fleet-fingered cadenza in the Tartini work, a gypsy violin piece — the opening music reminiscent of Victor Young’s score to the 1947 film “Golden Earrings; the bow control in Kreisler’s “Preludium and Allegro”; and the culmination of technique and emotion that flowed in the bittersweet tone drawn from his violin in the beautiful “Lullaby” from the “Gayné Ballet Suite” by Khachaturian.
Not satisfied with the full program, the audience demanded the return of Babayan and Kradjian. Without identifying the pieces, the two produced three encores. They were the violin standard “Souvenir” by Franz Drdla, “The Bee” by Francois Schubert and an unannounced work by Kradjian.
The program was presented under the auspices of the Cultural Division of the Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter.
BILL PETERS has reviewed the classical music scene in Southern California since 1998.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun