Music in Time of War, the new double-album from pianist Kirill Gerstein, places the music of Komitas, pioneer of ethnomusicology and founder of the Armenian national school of music, 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. Music in Time of War grew from Gerstein’s fascination with music’s power to reflect a narrative. The project will be released as a double CD album and will be accompanied by a hardcover book containing a series of illustrations and detailed essays in three languages commissioned by the pianist.

Gerstein pairs Debussy’s 12 Études from 1915 and Komitas’s Armenian Dances for piano, composed the following year, and includes a selection of Debussy’s late piano pieces composed to raise funds for the war. The artists featured on the album include Armenian soprano Ruzan Mantashyan, and pianists Thomas Adès and Katia Skanavi – they join Gerstein in a selection of works for voice and piano, piano four hands as well as for two pianos. Accompanying the recording are four in-depth essays from historians Annette Becker and Khatchig Mouradian, musicologist Artur Avanesov and composer Heinz Holliger, that explore the impact of war and genocide on society, and the reaction of artists to such events. These essays give socio-historical context to the music of Debussy and Komitas, and their response to creating in times of catastrophe.

Music in Time of War epitomizes both Kirill Gerstein‘s creative curiosity and his insightful approach to curating projects. Released on streaming services by the Platoon label on 12 April, the physcial album will be available from myrios classics as a double CD including the high-quality 172-page hardcover book on 3 May.