Magazine Jan/Feb 2013 When Cello Plays Violin

28 January 2013, 02:43
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When Cello Plays Violin

Acclaimed by three of America’s most reputable newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, 24-year old cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan who, since winning the first prize at the prestigious 2008 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and the coveted gold medal at the 2011 XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition – the most esteemed award given to a cellist, has literally brought concert-goers from across the globe to their feet in lengthy standing ovations.

It was in New York, at a black-tie concerto debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in 2011 with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s where Hakhnazaryan not only performed with his usual dazzling virtuosity and mastery, but after another lengthy rapturous ovation by the sold-out crowd, introduced his encore by announcing, “I would now like to play a piece by a noted composer from my country, Armenia.” For those of us in the audience who were of Armenian heritage, it was a moment of great pride which brought tears to the eyes.

Narek’s 2011-12 season included debuts with symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Europe and in particular with the famed Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by the eminent conductor Valery Gergiev, who has championed him. In 2011, he played with the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of Gergiev for the celebration of Armenia’s 20th anniversary of independence. Mentored by the world-acclaimed cellist Mstislav Rostropovich in many master classes, Narek was the only cellist invited to travel on behalf of the Mstislav Rostropovich Foundation.

Narek Hakhnazaryan was born in 1988 in Yerevan, Armenia, into a family of musicians – his father, a violinist for 24 years with the Komitas Quartet, and his mother a pianist. Following early studies from age six to eleven at the Sayat Nova School of Music in Yerevan with Zareh Sarkisyan, he began studying intensively at age 12 at the Moscow Conservatory with Alexey Seleznyov. Coming to America, he continued his studies at the New England Conservatory of Music, graduating with an Artist Diploma. Then came the singular honors of winning both the Young Concert Artist International Auditions in 2008 and the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011. Besides concertizing throughout the world on a heavy schedule, he is currently based at the Moscow Conservatory, completing his studies for a doctorate.

Uncanny, Wise, Charming

During the one and a half-hour exclusive interview with this writer, Narek, a tall, lean young man with sparkling dark Armenian eyes, a charming smile and wisdom beyond his years, laughed easily and sometimes gesticulated when he wanted to make a special point, never avoiding a question, sometimes becoming thoughtful before answering. His early start in music was due to his parents, both of whom are professors at the Yerevan and Moscow Conservatories, but now are mostly based in Moscow.

“My father, Suren, wanted me to be a musician – a violinist. But my mother, Gayane, really loved the cello, and one day she secretly took me at age six to the cello class at the Sayat Nova School. When she told my father, he was very angry and disappointed,” Narek recalls. But at age six, Narek was much more interested in soccer, sports and “being a very bad boy, never listening to people, and doing what I wanted.” He still does what he thinks is “right in a smart way. I’m still a bad boy. Maybe I’ll change when I’m 25,” he says with a chuckle.


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