The interwiev with Sigvards Klava
Maestro Klava, how did you become aware of Komitas' "Divine Liturgy", and how did the CD recording of the work with the Latvian Radio Choir you conducted finally come about?
The invitation to create, perform and record a mixed-choir version of Komitas’ Liturgy came from the Ambassador of Armenia to the Republic of Latvia, Tigran Mkrtchyan. We had already performed some of Komitas’ music, and it was a time when the sacred music enthusiasts and other music lovers were awaiting the composer’s approaching 150th birthday celebration.
For this CD, composer Vache Sharafyan made a special arrangement for mixed choir. Did this happen especially for the Latvian Radio Choir or did the arrangement already exist before you took over the project?
Vache Sharafyan was working closely with me when creating this arrangement, and it was written specifically for this performance. And with the intention of the Latvian Radio Choir premiering it.
What did you discover in the music of Komitas, what challenges does it present and what inspirations can you draw from it?
This is not something I can answer in short. It’s a new and profound experience. It definitely makes me want to return to the Armenian music and spiritual environment again.
Personally, I see in Komitas' choral music an early relationship to posthumous composers like Arvo Pärt, who on the one hand respected the strict rules of spiritual liturgies, but on the other hand found a very inward-looking spirituality within these boundaries and filled it with their own sound cosmos - can you put it that way?
I completely agree that the grandness Komitas’ liturgy expands beyond any canonical frame or border. Komitas’ own life experience exemplifies this – he felt the need to head into a borderless world.
For German ears it is comparatively difficult to understand what a composition like the "Divine Liturgy" is all about. We are usually used to the Mass liturgy of the Central European denominations, and many feel the sacred music of the Eastern churches as something hermetic and inaccessible. How can one describe to Central Europeans what this music is about?
One of the goals of this project was to make the Liturgy more approachable to the general public – to make it less foreign. I am confident that every listener will discover something dear and nourishing to them in this musically-spiritual monument. Both for their spirit and their soul.
Each piece brings with it special challenges - what was the biggest challenge for you when you were learning the "Divine Liturgy"?
To understand and approach the tradition. To find a manner of singing adequate for the musical language. These chants are based in both church and folk tradition. This requires practice and skills.
During the work on the piece, did you also deal with other compositions by Komitas from other work genres in order to get a "feeling" for the sound world of this composer, or did you deal exclusively with the "Divine Liturgy"?
Previously, we had only touched Komitas’ work fragmentarily. So I feel like this was the first true experience of this musical language and culture.
Today the Latvian Radio Choir is one of the most important and generally acclaimed choral ensembles in the world, which is by no means a matter of course when you consider that until a few decades ago Latvia did not appear very often on the typical "classical music map" for international audiences. What are the greatest challenges for an ensemble that performs its art from the geographical periphery of the cultural scene?
What are your plans and those of the Latvian Radio Choir for the near future?
Challenges and plans? These times will definitely bring corrections to all aspects of that. Currently, the main wish is to just return to the normal artistic and concert life. We want to get to actualize the ideas conceived during the halt of the quarantine as soon as possible and with great joy of creation.