Tribute in New York to the Armenian Composers of the Ottoman Empire

Avedis Hadjian writes the tribute to Armenian composers of the Ottoman Empire including Tigran Tchouhajian, wrote the first Turkish-language opera, Krikor Sinanian, composed the first march of Fenerbahce and Stephan Elmas, the first piano virtuoso of the Ottoman Empire, during the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide at Columbia University, New York.

Mezzo soprano Solange Merdinian performs Kanachian’s “Oror Im Balas,”
accompanied by the string quartet of Cecee Pantikian, Ani Bukujian,
Aleksandr Nazaryan and David Bakamjian.

Avedis Hadjian

The Italian Academy at Columbia University was a packed house, with 200 guests in attendance for a musical tribute to Armenian composers of the Ottoman Empire, in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, organized by the AGBU Performing Arts Department. Some of the rarely performed compositions were introduced to a New York City audience for the very first time at the event. The Armenian Society of Columbia University, the Armenian Center at Columbia University and AGBU University Outreach were cosponsors of the event.

In his opening remarks, AGBU Performing Arts Department Director Hayk Arsenyan, the evening’s artistic director and MC, discussed the musical contributions Armenians made in the Ottoman Empire. Throughout the program, guests enjoyed the works of Armenian composers from the Ottoman Empire, including Komitas, Alemshah, Elmas, Kanachyan, Manas, Sinanian, and Tchouhajian.



AGBU Peforming Arts Department Director Hayk Arsenyan delivers the opening remarks at the Italian Academy.


“One is struck by the scope of the cultural contributions that Armenians have made in the establishment of the Ottoman musical tradition over the centuries —the first Turkish-language opera was written by Tigran Tchouhajian, who also established the first music society and opera company in the Ottoman Empire; the first chamber and later symphonic orchestras in the Ottoman Empire were created by composer Krikor Sinanian; the Armenian concert pianist Stephan Elmas became famous in the West as the first virtuoso from the Ottoman Empire,” Arsenyan said in his introduction. “The list continues with Hampartsum Limonciyan, who created the first notational system for Turkish classical music. The world famous Zildjian “Turkish cymbals” were created by the Armenian alchemist Avedis Zildjian in the early 17th century, and at nearly 400 years old, Zildjian is now one of the oldest family-owned companies in the world.”

The AGBU Performing Arts Department, Arsenyan said, wanted to “commemorate the Genocide by honoring the rich legacy of our Armenian ancestors who lived and created in the Ottoman Empire and to shine the spotlight on their often unrecognized works for a broader audience.”

The concert concluded with a string quartet of Komitas’ music followed by a loud applause and standing ovation by attendees.

(With contributions from Nicole Zabounian and Armine Minassian from New York)