MEETINGS OF THE GREATS, Hovhannes Toumanyan and Komitas – 2009-1


Susanna G. Hovhannisyan
Toumanyan and Komitas met for the first time in Etchmiadzin in the summer of 1904. They became good and dear friends. It is common knowledge that Toumanyan was the only person Komitas met in April, 1905, in Tiflis before his concerts.

Komitas loved Toumanyan and recognized Toumanyan as an artist after he became acquainted with his collection of poetry entitled Poems that had been published in Moscow in 1890. No doubt the composer, who was opening a new era in Armenian national music, was enthusiastic to read the works of the poet who had the same role in national literary history. Komitas was proud of Toumanyan, who was a national treasure and who, he was sure, would elevate the Armenian nation. Komitas would visit Toumanyan every time he went to Tiflis.

As Komitas’ fame intensified, the more envious and malicious were the attacks by some colleagues within Etchmiadzin toward him. After the death of Khrimian Hayrik, Komitas was subjected to further oppression when Archbishop Gevorg Surenyants reduced his salary 10 times.

Toumanyan’s love for Komitas’ music was as deep as Komitas’ admiration of Toumanyan’s works.
Toumanyan especially loved Komitas’ “Mikac Mirza” and “Ter Ketso.” Both men were interested in the aesthetic upbringing of children. It is no coincidence that both of them cooperated with the magazine Hasker.

Komitas, at 40 years of age, was an internationally renowned musician when he received his first piano, a gift by a wealthy benefactor, Alexander Mantashyan. That piano was a consolation and salvation to the musician, so desperate and disappointed by his life and by the people around him. The piano provided him the opportunity to continue working and developing national songs, especially the Holy Liturgy.

Komitas is also famous for his attempt at writing the opera “Anoush.” Today, the beginning of Komitas’version of “Bardz Sarer” is preserved including an extract from the “Kokhi” scene written in Armenian notes; “Ampi Takits;” “Ai Pagh Jrer;” “Aghji Anastvats;” “Asum En Urin;” “Ai Toukh Mazavor Aghjik;” “Aghji Bakhtavor;” Siroun Aghjik, Inch Es Lalis?” “Ver Kats, Ver Igit!” Berum En, Hren” and other parts. While Toumanyan took on the responsibility of writing the lines, Komitas took on the lion’s share and thoroughly composed his creative thoughts. Perhaps upon Toumanyan’s request or maybe in accordance with his own desire, Komitas kept the content of the poem intact and preserved all the characters. The only reason for not finishing the opera was because both men were busy. The poet couldn’t find the time to work on it while the composer was ready to postpone all his work to adjust to Toumanyan’s very busy schedule. Later, political persecution and pressure against Toumanyan increased and by the end of the year, the poet had been imprisoned.

We can affirm with confidence, that had it not been for Toumanyan’s cruel sufferings and Komitas’ mental deterioration, the opera would have been completed.

These two “brothers in spirit” are the cornerstones of Armenian culture, the very root of Armenian music and literature, therefore their friendship and personal intimacy was quite natural.

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