Vahan Mardirossian’s Exceptional Concert in Montreal

By Ashot Ariyan

The solo concert by prominent pianist Vahan Mardirossian, which was organized by the AGBU Montreal Chapter, took place in Montreal on February 21, 2010. The evening’s guest of honor was the renowned conductor Prof. Raffi Armenian.

Vahan Mardirossian was born in Yerevan. Upon graduation from the Spendiarian Music School, he was accepted into the composition department of Yerevan’s Komitas Conservatory in 1992. However, shortly thereafter, he left for France to continue his studies in the Paris Conservatory. Graduating with honorable distinction, he won the first piano and the chamber music prizes.

Mardirossian has appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras, including the Armenian Philharmonic and the national orchestras of Paris, Prague and Portugal.

It deserves mention that already at a young age Mardirossian displayed his aptitude as orchestral conductor. In 1990, he was appointed artistic director and musical conductor of Armenia’s Youth Chamber Orchestra. Most recently, Vahan was invited to New York to take part in a seminar led by Kurt Masur; during that seminar, Vahan conducted the orchestra of the Manhattan School of Music. At present, Mardirossian has been appointed conductor of the Caen Orchestra in Normandy, France.

Returning to the February 21 concert, which was held in the Jirair and Elise Dervishian Hall of the AGBU Alex Manoogian Center with an audience of over 200, we should point out that the program selected by the pianist was quite interesting and “daring.” Not every performer would venture to include, in one program, such well-known compositions as Beethoven’s “Midnight” and “Pathetique” sonatas, as well as Mozart’s D Minor Fantasy and Sonata. There have been unforgettable renditions of these works by numerous brilliant pianists, and, in this case, to be “original” in these days of ours is an extremely complex matter. In addition to the Mozart pieces, works of Komitas and Arno Babajanian were performed in the first part of the concert. Mozart, Komitas, Babajanian … on the surface, different periods and musical styles … but there was one common element, namely the simplistic and accessible quality of the melodies of Mozart and Armenian folk music. This circumstance assured the harmonious connection between them.

Mozart’s sonata was interpreted in a purely classical style, i.e., restrained and, at the same time, extremely expressive. Mozart’s music, in and of itself, is extremely delicate; for that reason, any super-emotional rendition can literally detract from its natural appeal and essence.

We can state the same opinion pertaining to Komitas’s music. Vahan Mardirossian grasped the most important characteristic, namely the internal rhythmic pulse of Komitas’s dances, thereby ensuring a full-fledged “Komitasian” performance.

Included in the second part of the program were the aforementioned two well-known Beethoven sonatas. The rendition of the first part of the “Pathetique” sonata, in particular, was unforgettable. The pianist displayed true Beethoven-esque power and inexhaustible energy. Without exaggeration, such a rendition of the “Pathetique” can assuredly be ranked among the best performances available.

Thus, Vahan Mardirossian presented to the audience his brilliant and, most important, “faithful,” namely performing artistry corresponding to the composer’s text – a phenomenon that one doesn’t frequently encounter nowadays. I think that this noble attitude of Vahan toward musical text was prompted, first and foremost, by the circumstance of his being a composer. Yes, in 1992, he was accepted into Prof. Lazar Sarian’s class in the composition department of the Komitas Conservatory, not the piano division. However, like other numerous young and talented musicians, he was forced to leave Yerevan, which was immersed in darkness and cold, and go to Europe.

As a composer, Vahan Mardirossian has a series of vivid and unique works to his credit, including “Nocturne” for two pianos, “Tempesta” for cello and orchestra, “Three Dances” for orchestra and percussion instruments, and “Dance Perpetuelle” for piano trio, etc. Particular stress must be placed on “Dance Perpetuelle,” in which we can find high-quality mastery of compositional technique, brilliant development of musical material, a most important compositional characteristic, owing to which he, as a pianist, interprets the scores of great composers so profoundly and so expressively.

A reception was held in the Demirjian Hall following the concert. Thankful members of the audience had the opportunity to purchase Vahan Mardirossian’s recordings, as well as obtain his autograph. During the reception, words of praise were uttered by Garo Nichanian, chairman of the organizing committee; Armen Bechakjian, chairman of the executive committee of AGBU Montreal; Boghos Kichian, Honor Member of AGBU and former chairman; and Prof. Raffi Armenian. Vahan Mardirossian also expressed his thanks to the attendees, stressing in particular the most important role played by AGBU in Armenian cultural life, both in Armenia and the Diaspora.

Present at this concert were AGBU benefactors Arden and Christine Dervishian; principal donors, Diran and Sylvia Boyajian, their mother Lizette Durgerian, Arto Mouradian; other donors, Armine Setrakian, Levon and Anna Afeyian, Dr. Sero Andonian, Vartan Balassanian, Armen and Hermine Bechakjian, Dr. Arto and Sona Demirjian, Armen-Garo and Shake Gundjian, Boghos and Sirvart Kichian, Haig and Shake Majarian, Silva Mangassarian, Dr. John-Jack and Sossi Manoogian, Shahan and Marie Pakradouni, Roupen and Maro Nichanian, and Garo and Georgette Nichanian.

We wish Vahan new successes and hope that a new encounter will take place in Montreal in the near future, this time with composer Vahan Mardirossian.

(Translated by Aris G. Sevag)

The author of this article is a member of the Cultural Committee of AGBU Montreal.

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