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Symphony No. 1


Written in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union, Manukyan's Symphony was written mostly during the summer and fall of 2006. Such a dedication was intended to contrast Aram Khachaturian’s Symphony No. 1 (1934), which was written in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of Soviet power in Armenia.

The work is in one big movement and it was originally called “Symphonic Fantasy”, but since the composer revised it considerably after his graduation, it became convincing that it should be more suitably called a symphony.

The duration is approximately 25 minutes.

Composer's note

In the written section of his project, Manukyan wrote:

“As a composer who has begun to realize what treasure folk music really is, I suffer greatly at seeing the mass indifference to it. Thousands of people join organizations to save the whales and other animals that are going extinct. People are rightly very sentimental about preserving the nature, although ninety-nine percent of all species that ever existed are now extinct. But folk music - that marvelous phenomenon, which contains such a high degree of musical thought and meaningful simplicity, having developed through a long human evolution - will soon go extinct too if it is not preserved in contemporary forms. The existence of archived recordings of folk songs does not at all guarantee that folklore will thrive, just as the breeding of captured tigers in fenced preserves does not guarantee their survival.

Taking all of this into account, I have dedicated my life to developing and preserving the Armenian folk elements in my music, where it is not merely stored but rather used as raw material for a formation of a personal style. However, this particular piece (very much unlike works by Khachaturian, for instance, and even my own other compositions), will not introduce folk idioms in a direct and easily distinguishable form. Only certain rhythmic and melodic motifs, which are characteristics of Armenian folk music, will bespeak of its relation to folklore. In this sense, it represents Armenian folklore similar to the way Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” represents Russian folklore.”


Not based on established formal structures, the main formal integrity of the work is held by the sectional development of the ideas heard in the beginning. The entire symphony evolves from two motifs. The first is immediately introduced by a tenor trombone.

The second motive, marked “misterioso” (mysteriously), appears in the first flute (measure 7) in its lower register and is characterized by an unusual quazi-chromatic melody:

The rest of the symphony springs from and develops around these two motives, the elaboration of their interactive relationship. The motives themselves are faintly related, and the second motive can be viewed as an evolved formation of the first.

It is an interesting fact that the accompaniment to the viola melody by the other strings (measures 323-23) was composed, exactly as it appears in the score, in a dream Manukyan had after having drifted into sleep while he laid wondering how the part in question should be composed more effectively. In the dream he saw the exact notes, dynamics and even images of violinists who would gently tap the bow-sticks at the upper boats of their instruments, as they played col legno.

It was all put down in the score immediately the next morning.

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