3rd June | St George’s
To see Armenian pianist, Tigran Hamasyan live is to experience a journey through baroque classical flourishes, jazz improvisations and hauntingly lyrical folkloric soundscapes. Hunched over his piano, rapt in concentration, this hugely and deservedly lauded musician startles with the depth of his playing.
It’s hot and humid outside and inside tonight, but the cool sweep of this guy’s explorations goes some way to fanning an appreciative audience. Sorry for the cliché there but this is impressive stuff. Bridging and building on influences from classical, jazz, and the tones and forms of Armenian folk, it leads us into dreamy and exhilarating places. It’s a synthesis of styles and moods that is gobsmacking.
After an opening of quietly meditative numbers, including the aptly named ‘New Baroque 1’ from last year’s An Ancient Observer album, shade and light melding wonderfully, we get a centrepiece of breathtaking audacity and inventive beauty. ‘Nairian Odyssey,’ also from the same album, is an epic voyage of computer-enhanced sound and piano with the static from a transistor radio which he holds to the mic, a jazz sequence where he scats over the rhythm and then back into the Armenian landscape, with a mixture of evocative keys and whistling. It soars towards the end before gently lowering towards its climax. It’s a moving experience.
As is ‘Revolving-Prayer,’ from his 2018 album For Gyumri which follows, with similar structures, but a faster, lighter mood. The applause for this passage is lengthy. Tigran addresses us for the first time to thank us for the appreciation and to introduce the next number, the jauntily playful ‘Etude No1’.
The cinematic quality of his music with its rich textures and layers is addictive – there are comparisons with Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi in much of his material – the yearning melodious ‘Lilac’ from his 2015 album Mockroot being a case in point – and nods also to Rachmaninov and Chopin. He ends with ‘Markos and Markos,’ the first track from last year’s album, its folky, almost bluesy drive dubbing out – Tigran with one hand in the piano, plaintively plucking a string.
There’s time for one encore, a gentle, again, haunting folk, the man’s whistling skills complementing the deft flow of his playing.
A memorable night of inward journeying and modern twists through centuries-old terrains.