Composer KURKEN ALEMSHAH (Գուրգէն Ալէմշահ) was born on May 22, 1907 in Bardizag in Asia Minor (now Bahçecik, near Izmit, Turkey). He began schooling in his own hometown. But during the 1915 Ottoman atrocities, his parents sent the young boy to Italy to continue his education in the Murat-Raphaelian Armenian school in Venice. In 1923, when his teachers there became aware of his striking musical gifts, they registered him at the Milan Conservatory to study music.
Following his graduation, Alemshah joined the faculty of the Paris branch of the Murat-Raphaelian school, where he organized the Giligia choir, performing not only in Paris, but also traveling to Venice, directing the choir in an all-Komitas program at St. Mark's Square. Alemshah continued to introduce the Armenian song to all music lovers: he presented Tchouhadjian's popular operetta Leblebidji (The Chickpea Vendor) and Haygagan harsanik (Armenian Wedding), a composition put together by combining popular songs and Alemshah's own melodies. In 1937, Haygagan harsanik received second prize in an international competition to which twenty nations participated.
Concurrently, Alemshah conducted the Alakyaz choir on a number of occasions, initially to mark the establishment of the Soviet regime in Armenia, and later to benefit the Armenian War Relief efforts. In 1939, he was appointed conductor of the Sipan-Komitas chorus; he presented Tigranian's opera Anush and performed the Armenian Divine Liturgy in a number of cathedrals in France.
Alemshah sang with an individual voice. His music exhibits fluid and elegant melodies, exquisite refinement and poise. His feeling for poetic atmosphere -- and the craftsmanship he used to communicate it -- was unique, giving his songs a rare musical substance and emotional intensity.
Some of his vocal scores were published in Paris in 1947 and his manuscripts are reposited in the Charents State Museum of Literature and Arts in Armenia. A CD of Alemshah’s complete solo songs, performed by Elisabeth Pehlivanian, is available through cdrama
His works include: Solo vocal: «Պուխարիկ» (Stovepipe), «Իմ երգը» (My Song), «Ես սիրեցի» (I Loved), «Իմ եարը» (My Beloved), «Աղուորներուն» (To the Beautiful), «Նազերով» (Of Coyness), «Ծաղիկ էի» (I Was a Flower), «Իղձ» (Desire) «Սիրելիս» (My Love) and «Պճինկօ» (A Coquette). Choral: «Հայաստան» (Armenia), «Անուշիկ եար ջան» (Beautiful Sweetheart), «Մեր պարտիզում» (In Our Garden), «Հունձք» (Harvest), and «Պլպուլն Աւարայրի» (The Nightingale of Avarayr). Instrumental: "Lamento et dance arménienne" (Lament and Armenian Dance) for vn & pn. Orchestral: «Արեւելեան գիշերներ» (Oriental Nights) (1931), «Հէքեաթ» (A Tale) and «Երկու պատմուածք հազար ու մէկ գիշերներէն» (Two Stories from 'The Book of One Thousand and One Nights'). Vocal-orchestral: «Աւարայրի պատերազմը» (The Battle of Avarayr) (1934). Incidental music: «Վարդավառ» (Transfiguration) (1932) and «Ծովինար».