U.S. Premier of Soviet-Era Concerto Wows Audiences

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Monika Chamasyan performed the U.S. premier of Armenian composer Arno Babajanian’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” with the Crozet Community Orchestra on November 11 and 12. Photo: Keith Williams.

The Crozet Community Orchestra, under the direction of Philip Clark, performed an outstanding concert to a full house at the Crozet Baptist Church on November 12, with an earlier performance at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Charlottesville on November 11. The varied and impressive program featured the other-worldly Mars movement from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, Maurice Ravel’s tribute to French Baroque composer Francois Couperin, and the U.S. premier of Arno Babajanian’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” with virtuoso violinist Monika Chamasyan. The orchestra, which has grown dramatically in numbers and quality since its founding in 2013—now 70 members strong—performed this challenging and lush concerto with great confidence and artistry.

Performed only once before in Armenia in the 1950s, the work was suppressed by the Soviet Union and lost to the public. Performing it has been a lifelong dream of Armenian-born Chamasyan, whose first teacher was a friend to Babajanian (1921-1983). It took Clark and Chamasyan three years to find, prepare, and fully orchestrate the concerto after meeting at a party in Northern Virginia.

Chamasyan has performed internationally, including at Carnegie Hall. Her exquisite, passionate performance was perfectly suited to Babajanian’s exotic, soaring, sometimes mysterious music, written in the harmonic minor reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov. To set the mood, paintings of desert scenes with tents, camels, and wild dancing were projected on the wall above the musicians, who received a well-deserved standing ovation before the delightful encore, “Song of My First Love.”

Mark your calendars now for the CCO’s next concert, on Sunday, March 18, at 4 p.m.

The Crozet Community Orchestra has grown to 70 members since its founding in 2013. Photo: Keith Williams.

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