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First Play: Nuné Melik, Hidden Treasure

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Robert Rowat

"I am so thrilled to bring this music to the places it has never been heard!"

If the names Arno Babadjanian, Alexander Spendiarian and Komitas Vardapet are unfamiliar to you, then violinist Nuné Melik's debut album will be a pleasant introduction. Hidden Treasure, streaming in the player to your left until Nov. 2, is Melik's attempt not only to expand the Western classical canon, but also to indulge her nostalgia for her homeland.

Melik, who moved to Canada from Siberia in 2009 at the age of 19, claims both Armenian and Georgian heritage. "I was always wondering, why are we running circles around the same kind of repertoire, mostly written by the same composers?" she tells CBC Music. Melik soon began searching for the Armenian music she heard and loved during her childhood — a quest that has expanded into doctoral studies at McGill University's Schulich School of Music and the release of this debut album.

"I tried to choose repertoire in such a way that the listener discovers all sorts of emotions in all sorts of forms," she explains. "You cannot omit the fact of the Armenian genocide of 1915 [...] and though I have acknowleged that tragedy — Komitas Vardapet's Krunk - Crane is an anthem of the Armenian genocide — I tried to concentrate on the common topics, such as love, contemplation of nature, sadness, the joy of dance. The listener will experience all sorts of moods in beautiful harmonies, but each of the pieces represents a different story."

'The album could be a movie soundtrack'

Armenia's best-known composer, Aram Khachaturian, is represented with two pieces, including an excerpt from his ballet Gayanne. The album's centrepiece is a three-movement sonata by Babadjanian, a close friend of Dmitri Shostakovich.

"Overall, I have tried to build the creativity and survival spirit [of the Armenian people] into this album. Musically, I think they all are pretty intense and rich but there is plenty of room for lyricism and tranquility in almost every piece. One listener admitted that the album could be a movie soundtrack and that each track stimulated vivid visual images."

Melik, who plays a 1750 Carlo Ferdinando Landolfi violin on loan from the Canada Council's musical instrument bank, has given lecture-recitals on this repertoire at the University of Arizona and Wayne State University, and has travelled to Armenia to access scores that are unavailable in Canada and the U.S. She and pianist Michel-Alexandre Broekaert have played this music at Carnegie Hall in New York, and together they'll tour Canada in 2018-19 under the auspices of Les Jeunesses Musicales du Canada. A concert tour of China is also planned. "The journey has been long and there is still a long road ahead of me," she reflects.

Melik and Broekaert will launch Hidden Treasure on Oct. 27 at Montreal's Société d'art vocal and will perform the album's music on Dec. 1 at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York City. You can order the album here.

Here's the French-language promotional video:

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30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2017 edition

You'll enjoy this violin cover of 'Marietta's Song' from Korngold's Die tote Stadt