The New York Times Explores Kirill Gerstein’s New Album ‘Music In Time Of War’

3 May 2024

Following the release of Kirill Gerstein’s new album Music in Time of WarThe New York Times delves into Gerstein’s fascination with music’s power to reflect a narrative and connect to the world’s past and present, by looking at the historical context behind the project as well as the resounding sentiments the works chosen hold today.

Music in Time of War is a double album which places the music of Komitas alongside that of Claude Debussy, a seminal composer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who held a deep admiration of Komitas’s music. Both composers were profoundly affected by the implosion of their worlds – Komitas by the Armenian Genocide, Debussy by the First World War – and their music reflects a close emotional alignment.

Hugh Morris wrote:

“What began as a goal in Gerstein’s ‘self-development program’ — to record Debussy’s Études (1915) — quickly accumulated connections owing to the collection’s composition during one of history’s darkest moments. ‘Our understanding of a piece of music cannot be divorced from the historical and cultural setting in which it was created and received,’ Gerstein, who lives in Berlin, writes in the foreword for his new album’s book.

During the early days of the pandemic, as Gerstein thought more about Debussy’s final years, he also revisited a pile of scanned piano music by Komitas (1869-1935) that he had received from an enthusiastic member of the French-Armenian diaspora 20 years earlier. A pairing of late Debussy and late Komitas made for an intriguing fit: They were two composers who, for a brief time before World War I, existed in the same Parisian orbit and channel the darkened spirit of the age in their art.

Gerstein’s project asks an important question about the place and purpose of art and artists in times of humanitarian crisis. One of the roles of culture, he said, is to provoke a conversation, ‘not in the context of a political news item, and not in the context of a historical lecture,’ but through the lens of culture itself. ‘People are confronted,’ he said, ‘to think about Komitas, about music, about preserving the sound of a disappearing people, of genocide, and of the effects of war on society — on both artists and culture.’ “

Read the full article here.

Buy and stream Music in Time of War now.

Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve

Kirill Gerstein is managed in association with Enticott Music Management.