Songs Without Words: The Grigoryan Brothers

Diana Carroll

An intimate evening of fine music in the company of two renowned guitarists.
Songs Without Words: The Grigoryan Brothers

The Grigoryan Brothers. Photograph by Simon Shiff.

Slava and Leonard Grigoryan strolled onto the City Recital Hall stage, adjusted their strings with some last minute tuning, and the music began.  There is no fuss or hyperbole here – just a bare stage with two brothers, two guitars, and an audience of music lovers sharing the moment. 

The mutual understanding that comes from a lifetime of playing together is evident.  A nod, a look, is all the communication Slava and Lenny need as they work through a program drawn from the classics, folk, world music, and jazz.  They take it in turns to introduce the pieces, both a little hesitant, with younger brother Lenny letting Slava take the lead.  The intimation is clear – they want the music to do the talking – but a little more background to the individual pieces would be helpful.  Their anecdotes are engaging and add to our understanding and enjoyment.


A piece composed by Slava, the soulful Fantasy on a Theme by William Lawes, set the mood with its intense themes and driving pace.  From there it was a carousel ride through Debussy and Bach, a little Tchaikovsky and Fauré, a few more of their own compositions, some Nigel Westlake and Ralph Towner ('one of our heroes) and a wonderful selection of stirring Spanish songs and meaty Brazilian pieces.

The highlight of the evening was the collection of seven Spanish folk songs by Manuel de Falla. These are powerful, passionate works that allowed the Brothers’ virtuosity to shine. Like most of the program, these pieces were expertly arranged by their father (and teacher) Edward Grigoryan. “So if you don’t like them, tell Dad!” they said. 

But the audience favourite was clearly Debussy’s beautiful Clair de Lune which received the biggest applause of the night.  And deservedly so, the much-loved song being played with a gentle elegance.  

There is something very intimate about a performance with just two musicians, especially when they clearly have such a deep bond.  The warm acoustics of the Recital Hall added to the sense of togetherness.  And the audience shared a collective giggle when a wayward mobile phone rang, conveniently in a break between songs. 

It really was a delight to spend a couple of hours in the company of such masterful musicians. 

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

Songs Without Words: The Grigoryan Brothers

One performance only

City Recital Hall, April 1, 2017. 

The Grigoryan Brothers are touring throughout NSW in April promoting their new CD, Songs without Words, to be released by ABC Classics on April 21, 2017.


What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Sydney. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.