The Gurdjieff Ensemble photo by Andranik Sahagyan 1024x683

The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble is a music group from Armenia. The ensemble is headed by the pianist and composer Levon Eskenian and is named after the Armenian musician, composer and mystic Georges Gurdjieff (1866-1949).

The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble was founded in 2008 by Levon Eskenian with the aim of performing arrangements of G. I. Gurdjieff’s piano music in an “ethnographically authentic” way. Gurdjieff’s compositions were inspired by Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, Arabic, Kurdish, and Caucasian folk and spiritual music and were written by him for the piano. They became widely known through the transcriptions of the Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann. Levon Eskenian has now set about rearranging these piano pieces in what he calls “ethnographically authentic” instrumentation, and to render them on instruments such as the duduk, blul, kamancha, oud, kanun, santur, tar/saz, dap/daf, dhol and tombak together with Armenia’s leading artists of traditional music.

Their debut album “Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff” came out in 2011 on the renowned German music label ECM Records and was internationally acclaimed. The ensemble received a number of awards for the album, including the Dutch Edison Award for Best World Music Album 2012 and the Armenian National Music Award for Best Folk Music Album 2011.

Apart from dealing with the compositions of Georges Gurdjieff, Levon Eskenian and the musicians of the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble also concern themselves with the works of Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935), another notable Armenian composer. A composer, ethnomusicologist, arranger, singer and priest, Komitas is considered to be the father of contemporary music in Armenia. In his work, he explored the ties binding Armenian sacred and secular music.

2015 saw the release of the second album by the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble entitled “Komitas”, once again on ECM Records, and dedicated this time exclusively to the work of Komitas Vardapet. To delve deeper into his compositions and their potential for interpretation, and to emulate the sounds encountered in Komitas’s works, the pieces were also specially arranged for traditional Armenian instruments for this project, but without changing Komitas’s structures and details. Since some of the instruments date back to ancient times, it was necessary to construct replicas of instruments no longer used to make the recordings.

Ever since it was founded, the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble has been regularly touring around the world. It has performed at festivals such as the Holland Festival in the Netherlands, the Morgenlandfestival in Germany, the Nostalgia Festival in Poland, the Imago Dei in Austria, the Stansern Musiktagen in Switzerland, the Fiestival in Belgium; and in concert halls such as the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels; the Frari Church in Venice; the Pushkin State Museum in Moscow; the Albert Hall in Canberra, Australia; the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam; the Sala Radio in Bucharest; the Gulbenkian Hall in Lisbon; the Sala São Paulo in Brazil; the Capilla del Buen Pastor in Cordoba, Argentina; the AUB in Lebanon; and the Komitas Hall in Yerevan, among others.


Levon Eskenian – arranger, artistic director
Emmanuel Hovhannisyan – duduk, zourna, pku
Avag Margaryan – blul, zourna
Armen Ayvazyan – kamancha
Aram Nikoghosyan – oud
Meri Vardanyan – kanun
Vladimir Papikyan – santur, vocals
Davit Avagyan – tar, saz
Mesrop Khalatyan – dap/dhol
Norayr Gapoyan – duduk
Eduard Harutyunyan – tombak, cymbals, bell



Text: Robert Lippuner / Global Music Network

Translation. Jamie Davies





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