Troubadour & the Nightingale

“Isabel Bayrakdarian invites you to a vibrant world of colour and poetry with music enriched by the cultures of Armenia, Greece, the Middle East and Occitane."

Anne Manson


Manitoba Chamber Orchestra price: $10 (inc GST); shipping and handling is $2.50; you may also arrange to pick up product at the MCO office or at a concert (please call +1.2047837377 to make arrangements after ordering).


The story behind
Troubadour & the Nightingale

The following is from Don Anderson’s Chamber Chatter article for the MCO’s 22 October 2013 concert.

Tonight you can pre-order the MCO’s sensational new CD, the first release on its own label. Troubadour & the Nightingale showcases the brilliant Armenian/Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, in exotic and ravishingly beautiful music by Maurice Ravel, Sayat-Nova, and the newly created piece, Trobairitz Ysabella, by Isabel’s gifted husband, the composer, arranger and pianist Serouj Kradjian. MCO Music Director Anne Manson conducts.

“The works on this recording bring us into another world of language, colour and sound,” Anne Manson said. “Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Armenian, and Occitane are reflected in a sound which stems partly from western classical tradition and partly from world music. We know Isabel as a beautiful, warm, lyrical voice; she is equally one of the best linguists I have ever encountered in the opera world. Her Arabic, for example, is not only fluent, but when she sings, incorporates the traditional quarter tone tuning of Arabic classical music. She invites us into a world of troubadours and poets from long ago. Will we ever want to leave?!”

MCO Managing Director Vicki Young described the origins of the CD. “One of our board members, Elaine Margolis, brought a magazine to a board meeting one day and suggested that Isabel Bayrakdarian, the young soprano on the cover, would be a good choice for soloist sometime. Isabel sang with us during the 2008/09 season, and in October 2008 we joined her on tour to major North American centres (San Francisco, Orange County, Vancouver, Toronto, Boston and New York). We had three curtain calls at Carnegie Hall. Anne Manson conducted that tour and she, Isabel, and Serouj began a discussion about the cultural harmony of medieval Spain.”

The result was Serouj’s composition Trobairitz Ysabella. The MCO and the CBC co-commissioned it. It was performed in March 2011, first in Winnipeg and then in Banff.

“We thought it would make a good recording,” Vicki said, “and after much discussion we settled on the Sayat-Nova and Ravel songs as companion pieces. These were first performed in two summer concerts in 2012, followed closely thereafter by recording sessions for the CD and by the opening concert of the season. This made most efficient use of the musicians’ time.”

Serouj created the highly effective orchestral arrangements that accompany the Ravel and Sayat-Nova songs. “We wanted them to feature strings to allow for multiple performances, and to contrast with Trobairitz,” Vicki said. “Serouj also thought percussion would provide additional colours.”

In the summer of 2013, Isabel, Anne and the MCO performed Trobairitz, two Sayat-Nova songs and the Ravel Kaddisch in two concerts in Ottawa (Music and Beyond Festival), a concert for the Indian River Festival in Prince Edward Island, and the Elora Festival in Ontario.

“Finding a place to make the recording took a LOT of work,” Vicki said. “We spent several months looking at different venues, talking with people, and testing acoustics. Some places were too small to fit the orchestra, some had too much noise nearby, some had too much noise inside, some were too dry an acoustic. We settled on St. John’s Cathedral because it was well away from main roads, bus routes, day care centres, had a nice acoustic and good space. Isabel was pregnant during the recording, so we took care to give her rugs to stand on. The orchestra was very accommodating and relaxed.”

By releasing the CD on its own label, the MCO maintains full artistic control and earns maximum profit. The orchestra had excellent support from the Canada Council, FACTOR, and Manitoba Film and Music, for which they are very grateful.

“After talking with several retailers of classical music, we settled on harmonia mundi to distribute the recording,” Vicki said. “We decided that we would get excellent service, advice and retail attention. We have had a very good relationship with David Feick, who works for harmonia mundi, for many years.

“We will sell physical and digital product through our own website and at our own concerts, and through harmonia mundi. It will launch on November 12 in Winnipeg and Toronto, and will be available through retailers of classical music. The best way to purchase the recording is through the MCO at a concert, through the office or online (pre-order now!). We have a few ideas for future releases on MCO Records, but no firm dates at this point.”

Review: Winnipeg Free Press

Troubadour & the Nightingale

PACK your bags and get ready to travel to exotic places with Armenian-Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, conductor Anne Manson and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (MCO) in their Nov.12 release, Troubadour and the Nightingale.

All the music on this CD was arranged or composed by Bayrakdarian’s husband, Serouj Kradjian. In his program notes (for which he is given no credit), he expresses a great interest and influence by the female troubadours of the 12th and 13th centuries in Southern France, near Spain.

Ravel’s Kaddisch is mesmerizing and suitably prayerful. Bayrakdarian’s gorgeous clear and sensuous voice is the perfect vehicle for this moving piece.

Sayat-Nova/Four Songs starts with Graceful one — rhythmically interesting, especially with the addition of a single hand drum. Long, singing phrases twist and turn in the mournful The Nightingale. Kamancha gives the orchestra a prominent role in this exciting dance.

There is no doubting the skills and talent of Isabel Bayrakdarian; she is as convincing a troubadour as you’ll ever find, marvellous in every way. Manson knows this music like the back of her hand, as does the MCO, which excels in this recording. But when listening to this CD from start to finish, everything starts sounding the same. Some variety of genre would go a long way to remedy this.

Gwenda Nemerofsky

Ori­ginal article


Review: OpusOneReview

Isa¬≠bel Bayrakdarian‚Äôs Lumin¬≠ous CD‚ÄĒTroubadour & the Night¬≠in¬≠gale
reviewed by Stan­ley Fefferman

I puzzle over how to express the qual¬≠it¬≠ies that make Isa¬≠bel Bayrakdarian’s voice like no other. After fol¬≠low¬≠ing her through many albums, live in operas and the on the con¬≠cert stage, I can begin with her blend of rich¬≠ness, intim¬≠acy and clar¬≠ity. To match those qual¬≠it¬≠ies with the pur¬≠ity of her tone, you would have to go to a pre¬≠ci¬≠sion instru¬≠ment. My choice would be a cla¬≠ri¬≠net, but one with gold in its makeup to reflect the burn¬≠ish on her notes. To render their lumin¬≠os¬≠ity, it would have to be made of glass. To trans¬≠mit the sym¬≠pathy Bayrak¬≠darian feels for her sub¬≠ject mat¬≠ter of her songs, the itin¬≠er¬≠ant poets, lov¬≠ers and ladies, their moods of pas¬≠sion and mourn¬≠ing, you would need to bio-engineer liv¬≠ing tis¬≠sue into this already myth¬≠ical instrument.

To appre¬≠ci¬≠ate the flow of her lines, how she makes her melod¬≠ies soar and swoop and dart and glide, you would need to ima¬≠gine birds that fly over water such as swal¬≠lows and terns; and for her abil¬≠ity to sus¬≠tain long steady pitches you would go to the power¬≠ful white wings of the swan. To hear her song as sol¬≠it¬≠ary and com¬≠ing out of dark night, you would go with the poet Shel¬≠ley to the “night¬≠in¬≠gale who sits in dark¬≠ness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds,” and in over¬≠hear¬≠ing the song of the night¬≠in¬≠gale, like Shel¬≠ley, “you feel moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”

In pre¬≠vi¬≠ous albums, Bayrak¬≠darian often chose songs from Iberian tra¬≠di¬≠tions which have Moor¬≠ish roots that share the musical tra¬≠di¬≠tions of her nat¬≠ive Armenia. The songs on this album reflect the ‘troubadour’ tra¬≠di¬≠tions of medi¬≠eval Provence, and Greece whose instru¬≠ment¬≠a¬≠tion, arrange¬≠ments and can¬≠til¬≠la¬≠tion also share roots in Moor¬≠ish music. So there is a bazaar of Near-Eastern exotic tex¬≠tures excel¬≠lently woven behind Bayrak¬≠darian into a tapestry by the Man¬≠itoba Cham¬≠ber Orches¬≠tra con¬≠duc¬≠ted by Anne Man¬≠son. Many of the songs are arranged and orches¬≠trated by pian¬≠ist and com¬≠poser Ser¬≠ouj Kradjian, who co-produced the album with David Jae¬≠ger, which accounts for the album‚Äôs flaw¬≠less quality.

Ori­ginal article


Review: Musical Toronto

MCO 013001 Troubadour & the Night­in­gale. MCO, Bayrak­darian, Man­son.
Musical Toronto / John Terauds

We can cel¬≠eb¬≠rate two Toronto¬≠n¬≠ians on a new made-in-Winnipeg album: Isa¬≠bel Bayrak¬≠darian and Ser¬≠ouj Kradjian. The sop¬≠rano lends her vocal art to her husband’s com¬≠pos¬≠i¬≠tional ima¬≠gin¬≠a¬≠tion in a seduct¬≠ive pro¬≠gramme titled Troubadour & the Nightingale.

The album, released today on the Man­itoba Cham­ber Orchestra’s in-house MCO Records label, is a potent col­lab­or­a­tion by every­one concerned.

Kradjian, who began his pro­fes­sional career as a pian­ist, uses the orches­tra with remark­able restraint, choos­ing only those instru­ments that will help under­line the mes­sage behind each song. Man­itoba Cham­ber Orches­tra music dir­ector Anne Man­son lays everything out with abso­lute clarity.

Bayrak­darian is pas­sion­ately engaged with this music from begin­ning to end, deploy­ing a great range of express­ive and dynamic subtlety.

There is a lot to love here, includ¬≠ing the spa¬≠cious audio cap¬≠tured inside Winnipeg’s St John’s Cathedral.

Ori­ginal article


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