Magazine article Gramophone

Armenia: Back in Focus as a Musical Powerhouse: Championing Artists, Growing Audiences and Making a Statement

Magazine article Gramophone

Armenia: Back in Focus as a Musical Powerhouse: Championing Artists, Growing Audiences and Making a Statement

Article excerpt

The colonnaded facade of the Yerevan Opera Theatre and Khachaturian Concert Hall dominates the skyline of the Armenian capital. In front of the Concert Hall sits a statue of Armenia's most famous musical son, Aram Khachaturian. But Yerevan and the whole of Armenia was a hub for musicians from throughout the Eurasian region long before Khachaturian's time and remains so to this day. The difference now is that musicians come from far further afield too.

Yerevan's position as a centre for excellence in classical music was reinforced in July 2017 with the launch of the Armenia International Music Festival and Competition--a major enterprise that saw the best of Armenian and international musicians joining together for nine days of exceptional and unique music-making. It also launched a special collaboration with the Malta International Music Festival 2018, hosted in the year's European Capital of Culture, Valletta (maltafest.eu).

For the competitive element of the inaugural festival, 48 young pianists from 14 countries were chosen to participate. In the first round, each presented a solo recital with a free choice of repertoire. But there was one prescribed work: the delightful but demanding suite Childhood Memories by the Festival's composer-in-residence, the American-Maltese composer Alexey Shor. Accolades have poured on to Shor's music from many quarters, with the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli experiencing 'a feeling of overwhelming peace and harmony' on hearing Childhood Memories. 'His music is very pleasing to the ear', continued Kancheli. 'His admiration for the epoch of post-Bachian classicism is clear.'

Pianists from Armenia, China, France, Georgia, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Poland and Russia were chosen to proceed to the next round. But it was a native Armenian, Hripsime Aghaqaryan, who took the First Prize of 10,000 [euro] and the prospects of a fine international career; the other prize-winners were Khachik Andreasyan, also from Armenia, Dominik Wizjan of Poland and Seolhwa Kim of South Korea. All four pianists--plus Georgian entrant Tamta Magradze--receive vouchers of participation in the Malta International Piano Competition 2018, which offers a total prize fund of 200,000 [euro].

Such international cooperation tells of the unique status of the Armenia International Festival. Konstantin Ishkhanov, President of the European Foundation for the Support of Culture which organises the event in collaboration with the State Youth Orchestra of Armenia, stated that the Festival and Competition will not only 'discover, promote and support the great masters of the keyboard emerging in this generation' but also pose a unique opportunity for the discovery of unusual repertoire, 'providing audiences with a unique experience and building the audiences of the future'. …

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