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Evgeny Kissin's Chopin, Krzysztof Penderecki World Premiere Commemorate Armenian Genocide Centennial at Carnegie Hall on May 26

By K. Young k.young@classicalite.com on May 10, 2015 03:50 AM EDT

Virtuoso pianist Evgeny Kissin will be leading a special concert at Carnegie Hall entitled "With You, Armenia" in commemoration of the centennial of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks some 100 years ago. As Classicalite contributor James Inverne duly lets us know, the concert will juxtapose Armenian composers with works by Chopin and, surprise, will feature the world premiere of a newly composed work by Krzysztof Penderecki. Poland's greatest living composer, as per the Guardian, yes, Mr. Penderecki is all too familiar with historical horrors--and how to honor them.

Tuesday, May 26 at Carnegie Hall marks but the first in a series of concerts around the world, in association with the Yerevan Perspectives International Music Festival. The festival is a year-round celebration that invites top-flight classical soloists and ensembles to Armenia, organizing special events in cooperation with Armenia's own Ministry of Culture.

Classicalites, you're culturally aware. Most of you grew up learning about the ethnic cleansings of the first half of the 20th century. 100 years later, it is shocking, indeed, that the Armenian genocide is still not universally accepted, as is the fact of it ever having happened at all. In fact, it's only in the last weeks--as the centenary date, itself, neared--that Pope Francis acknowledged the carnage, as have the leaders of France, Russia, Germany and Austria.

Shockingly, but perhaps not unbelievably, Turkey's leadership has voiced strong objections. Meanwhile, President Obama still won't actually say the word "genocide."

And yet, Kim Kardashian will?

Kissin, the grand Russian/British/Jewish pianist of our day, is hoping that, with this concert, Armenia and the world can move toward a more harmonious future:

"That's why genocides must never be forgotten. That's why I am taking part in the concert in commemoration of the Armenian genocide centennial at Carnegie Hall in New York. Not only to honor the memory of 1.5 million innocent martyrs and to mourn together with my Armenian brothers and sisters, but also to make sure that more people will remember the tragedy of the Armenian nation and the hideous crime against it."

A curious blend of Armenian and Polish music, the concert's first half features the Hover Chamber Choir of Armenia and will include pieces by Armenian composers such as Komitas, Vache Sharafyan and the great Tigran Mansurian.

Its culmination, though, will most certainly be the 80-something Penderecki's brand new remembrance, who will be in attendance to hear its premiere--sung by what the composer calls, quote, "the best chamber choir in the world."

The second half will see the stage given over to Kissin, the headliner proper. His performance of select Chopin pieces will be followed by a TBD Armenian encore. Kissin notes further, "people often treat each other badly, but seldom does it happen on the scale of what took place in Turkey 100 years ago--the killing of nearly a million and half people, half of all Armenians in the world, for belonging to their nation."

Away from the backroom deals and negotiations of geo-politics, there are melodies that touch our soul and remind us of stone-cold facts. Namely, that horrific atrocities of genocide and ethnic cleansing still exist in parts of the world and cannot be overlooked. This concert can sound a warning bell for our own future.

So, until May 26, here's Kissin performing Chopin's first opus 11, in full, with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic.

As per the request of Mr. Kissin, this article has been edited to better reflect his political stance. 

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TagsEvgeny Kissin, Chopin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Armenia, Carnegie Hall

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