By David Luhrssen
(Greenfield, Wis.) The Mazmanian Family took its audience on a musical world tour with Armenia as the home base. At their Oct. 26 concert at St. John the Baptist Armenian Church in Greenfield, the quartet journeyed across Eastern Europe, to Spain via Cuba, to Ireland and the U.S., but their repertoire’s heart and soul was rooted in the Armenian homeland.
Leading the San Francisco ensemble was violinist Greg Mazmanian, a veteran musician who has performed with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra along with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Ray Charles. He acted as the evening’s gracious host and humorous icebreaker in brief introductions for each piece on the program, and leading his three grown children through the selections. Ida anchored the quartet on piano with siblings Eddy and Rose joining their father on violin.
The Mazmanians harmonized virtuosity and entertainment in a program that included Gypsy music, a rendition of the jazz standard “Take Five” as never heard before and an original variation on the familiar melody of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The torrid flamenco rhythms of “Malaguena” by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona provided lively contrast. The Mazmanians responded to an audience request by performing a medley of Irish jigs.
Much of the evening, however, was rooted in Armenian traditional music, especially the melodies collected at the turn of the 20th century by Gomidas Vartabed and transmuted into art songs. After a standing ovation, the Mazmanians concluded their concert with a rousing encore of Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.”