You can tell a lot about a composer from the performers who champion him or her. Tigran Mansurian, the 75-year-old Armenian composer of music in which deep cultural pain is quieted through an eerily calm, heart-wrenching beauty, has been superbly served by such string players of concentrated virtuosity as violinist Movses Pogossian and violist Kim Kashkashian. Now it is the turn of the young Moldavian violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, featured in three of the four works for violin and/or cello for string orchestra on this spellbinding new disc.
The Mansurian program is a woman's affair with the young Moldavian violinist joined by cellist Anja Lechner and Amsterdam Sinfonietta conducted by its leader, Candida Thompson. Kopatchinskaja brings resilient radiance to Mansurian's 2006 hauntingly plaintive Second Violin Concerto ("Four Serious Songs"), which takes its cue from late Brahms.
In two recent short works for soloist and strings — "Romance" (written in 2011 for Kopatchinskaja) and a "Quasi Parlando" (written in 2012 for Lechner), both soloists luxuriously capture the composer's fluctuating twilight luminosity. The much earlier Double Concerto (1976) is more brittle, a quiet surface which is broken by an anger that has now become profoundly philosophical, and it is played with impeccable intensity.
A sensation in Europe, Kopatchinskaja has had as yet little exposure in this country. She made her U.S. debut earlier this season with the Boston Symphony. But that is about to change, since she has been named an artistic partner of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra beginning in the fall.
Given that Mansurian divides his time between the Armenian capital, Yerevan (where he is perhaps his country's most acclaimed cultural figure), and Glendale (where he can walk down the street unrecognized), it would be a natural for an L.A. ensemble to put two and two together and entice Kopatchinskaja farther west sooner rather than later. In the meantime, the Lark Musical Society will be performing works by Mansurian on Saturday night at First United Methodist Church in Pasadena.