The endless richness of Armenian culture gave this encounter the air of a great celebration. The Sounds of the Dolomites audience were treated to a two-and-a-half-hour immersive journey through the music of an ancient people, the people of the biblical Mount Ararat. This journey – courtesy of the labours of Mario Brunello, cellist and the festival’s artistic director, and the Centre for the Study and Documentation of Armenian Culture, based in Venice – brought Armenia’s beguiling sounds and rhythms to the meadows of Brenta Bassa farmstead. The concert followed on from a three-day trek on the Brenta Dolomites, when Brunello’s cello and Gevorg Dabaghyan’s duduk struck up a unique musical dialogue to everyone’s delight.
The performance spanned the compositions by priest and musicologist Komitas in the monophonic style typical of the duduk and the Armenian tradition, in contrast with polyphony, building a bridge between Western and Armenian culture through a piece by John Taverner, whose own personal voyage moved from writing for the Beatles onto a mystical and cultural exploration of Orthodox music. After a fascinating foray into traditional popular Armenian song, the festival finale brought together Mario Brunello, the Gevorg Dabaghyan Duduk Trio and the National Chamber Choir of Armenia. Conductor Robert Mlkeyan’s painstaking work to research and arrange the Armenian repertoire was amply appreciated.
These were moments of pure poetry in the Val di Brenta. Time stood still amid the beauty of nature, as past and present met and embraced in the ethereal mystique of the human spirit, eye to eye with the infinite. You could hear the joy and suffering of a careworn people, the result of a long, turbulent history that risks being swamped in the whirl of this often heedless world.