Tekeyan Celebrates 70th Anniversary with Brilliant Concert


From left, Hilda Hartounian (Chair), Saro Hartounian, Sarkis and Maral Jebejian (Benefactors)
Photo Credit: MaryLynda Bozian Cruickshank

Ani Kavafian (violinist), Archbishop Khajag Barsamian (Primate of the Eastern Diocese), Orion Weiss (pianist) and Ani Kalayjian (cellist)

By Florence Avakian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

NEW YORK — It was a concert with gifted artists who ranked with some of the best in the world. And it celebrated an organization that has championed Armenian culture throughout its 70 years.

On Sunday afternoon, May 21, the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) celebrated its 70th anniversary, presenting a piano trio concert at New York’s Alliance Francaise titled “The Armenian Spirit”. The performance featured internationally famed artists violinist Ani Kavafian, cellist Ani Kalayjian and pianist Orion Weiss.

Warmly welcoming the large crowd, TCA Greater Committee Chair Hilda Hartounian noted that the event “brings to light the importance of upholding the Armenian culture in our community and beyond. Since its establishment 70 years ago in Beirut, Lebanon, the Tekeyan Cultural Association has been a leader in Armenian cultural programming around the globe.”

Coming on stage to enthusiastic applause, the performers opened with Joseph Haydn’s tour de-force Piano Trio Hob XV: 27 in C Major. The festive three-movement piece combined turbulent dynamics with soft delicacy, changes of mood, and a spirited conclusion. The musicians demonstrated their virtuosic talents, playing with great confidence and perfect harmonic balance.

Thirty-four-year-old contemporary composer Mary Kouyoumdjian’s work Moerae, portraying the Fates, the Greek mythological trio, was a work that is basically unfamiliar to concert audiences. The three-movement modern composition musically tells the tale of three mythological women, Clotho, a spinner who spins the thread of life, Lachesis, the measurer who chooses the lot of life, and Atropos, the cutter who cannot be turned, and who at death cuts the thread of life with her shears. Though the work was both volatile as well as melancholic, it rang with much Armenian feeling.

The detailed program booklet described the composer as a first-generation Armenian-American who came from a family “directly affected by the Lebanese civil war, and the Armenian Genocide. She uses a sonic palette that draws on her heritage, and interest in music as documentary and background in experimental composition to progressively blend the old with the new.”

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Trio Elegiaque #1 in G Minor, a profoundly beautiful and haunting masterpiece demonstrated the lyrical sounds of the violin, the lush tones of the cello, and the power of the keyboard. A romantic , nostalgic work, a part of which reflected the soulful feeling of the composer’s “Vocalise”, it flowed mournfully and thematically, building to a pounding pitch, and ending with a foreboding quietude.

Armenian Nostalgia and Longing

Following the intermission, the Piano Trio in F Sharp Minor by famed Armenian composer Arno Babajanian (1921-1983), reflecting the visions of a life replete with both happiness and turbulence. The music is poignant, lyrical and rich with Armenian nostalgia and longing, and sweeping melodies which turn from dark emotions to tranquility.

Babajanian who composed, taught, and concertized extensively throughout the former Soviet Union, was also an ethnomusicologist who instilled in his students at the Yerevan Conservatory a love for their native folk music. Cellist Mstislav Rostropovich has described Babajanian as “a brilliant composer, fiery pianist, beloved neighbor and devoted friend for many years. Despite his early death, he made a significant contribution to the music of our time.”

The Babajanian composition, which concluded with a dramatic and powerful finale, brought on a standing ovation lasting for several minutes. Ani Kavafian congratulated the Tekeyan Cultural Association on its 70th anniversary, and announced that the trio would play an encore, the Scherzo by Eduard Abramyan, a glittering dance-themed work which brought on another lengthy ovation, and flower bouquets presented to each of the artists.

Among the dignitaries attending this anniversary concert were Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Zohrab Mnatsakanian, and concert benefactors Sarkis and Dr. Maral Jebejian.

Outstanding Artists

Violinist Ani Kavafian has been on the world’s famed concert stages for decades as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician, performing with all of America’s leading symphony orchestras. A renowned chamber musician, she has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since 1979.

Kavafian has often appeared with her sister, violist Ida Kavafian, and together they have recorded the music of Mozart and Sarasate on the Nonesuch label. They celebrated the 25th anniversary of their first performance together at Carnegie Hall in 2008 with a concert at Lincoln Center featuring their colleagues and students. An honor Master’s graduate of the renowned Juilliard School where she studied with the legendary Ivan Galamian, she plays the 1736 Muir McKenzie Stradivarius violin, and is a Professor of Violin at Yale University.

Cellist Ani Kalayjian, a Grand Prize winner of the International Chamber Music Competition of New England, and First Prize winner in the Anglo-Czechoslovak Trust competition in England, has performed as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician and teacher in Japan, Australia, Canada, the Middle East and throughout Europe, and the U.S. Having made several trips to Lebanon, she has given outreach performances to needy communities, including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Insan School for Iraqi and Syrian refugee children, Syrian refugee camps, Byblos Birds’ Nest Armenian orphanage, and the Karageusian Foundation.

Pianist Orion Weiss is another Juilliard School graduate where he won the coveted Gina Bachauer Scholarship. He has been a featured performer with major symphony orchestras throughout the US. The impressive list includes the New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and New World Symphonies, and the New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic, winning worldwide acclaim.

The TCA Greater New York Committee includes Honorary Chair Hagop Vartivarian, Chair Hilda Hartounian, Vice Chair Diana Mkhitarian, Treasurer Barkev Kalayjian, and Secretary Taleen Babayan. The advisors are Harout Chatmajian, Carmen Gulbenkian, Ani Hovanessian Esq., Vartan Ilandjian, Helen Misk, Jerry Misk and Marie Zokian.