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Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan plays at Royal Festival Hall in a special concert to commemorate the Armenian Genocide on 3rd of May 2015

By H.Harutunyan


The concert “Music for Armenia” at London’s prestigious Royal Festival Hall was organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Great Britain to commemorate the centenary of the Armenian Genocide. Among participants of the special concert were the resident orchestra of the Southbank, Philarmonia Orchestra with renowned guest conductor Vassily Sinaisky, young soprano Anoush Hovhannisyan and violinist Sergey Khachatryan.

For this important and significant commemoration, the 2500-seat Royal Festival Hall at Southbank was packed with honorary guests, ambassadors, political figures, musicians, Southbank regulars as well as members of the Armenian community in London.

   His Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia Dr. Armen Sarkissian, welcomed the audience in his opening speech. He spoke with gravity about the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government hundred years ago that took the lives of one and half million innocent civilians. He urged the audience to observe a minute of silence for the Armenian victims as well as all people suffering nowadays in the Middle East, Nepal, Africa and Ukraine. In the heart of Britain – one of the most influential countries of the world that still refuses to recognize the Armenian Genocide – it was weird and powerful at the same time to witness the audience paying their silent tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide…

  After the minute of silence, the Philarmonia Voices choir and the orchestra with conductor Vassily Sianisky performed fragments from Mozart’s Reqiuem in D minor. This seemed the perfect solemn opening for Gala concert:  the Philarmonia voices and the orchestra gave an overpowering performance of this cathartic masterpiece.

  Talented Soprano Anoush Hovhannisyan performed solo for voice and orchestra by Polish composer Henrik Gorecki. The symphony, written for the victims of the Holocaust, is a majestic prayer for the souls of those perished innocent lives. Anoush, who has recently joined the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, gave an emotional and powerful interpretation, transferring the audience to the sombre, mournful ambience of the symphony.

It was particularly emotive to hear the British choir performing extracts from Patarag, the Armenian Sunday Mass by Makar Yekmalian, including Our Father and Saint-Saint (Hayr Mer and Surb-Surb).

The most memorable performance of the night was without doubt from the award winning violinist Sergey Khachatryan. In the first half of the concert the young Armenian violinist interpreted the song Krounk by Komitas and after the interval the Voilin Concerto in D minor by Aram Khachaturian. Sergey regularly performs Krounk as an encore, this time, he played the piece in an arrangement for orchestra and solo violin with thrilling sensitivity and matchless virtuosity.

“The reason I play like this, is because I am Armenian. I do not mean it is good or bad, but the emotional baggage that I have, is inherited from this old land”, said Sergey.

 Sergey is a prominent young violinist, the worthy successor of the great Armenian violinists Anahit Tsitsikian, Jean-Ter Merguerian and Ruben Aharonian. Born in Yerevan into a family of professional pianists, Sergey’s first violin teacher was Petros Haikazyan, the renowned Director of Sayat-Nova Music School. Sergey moved to Germany with his family at the age of eight and studied violin with celebrated violin professor Joseph Rissin in Karlsruhe, Germany from age 11. By the age of 15, young Sergey was ready not only to perform as a soloist, but also to take part and win the most prestigious international competitions: one of them was the Gold medal at Joseph Sibelius International Violin Competition, becoming the youngest artist who has ever won the prize. After a string of other international prizes, his last competition was the eminent Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium in 2005, where he won again the first prize of the Queen, as well as the privilege to play on a 1704 Stradivarius. His Music manager Rupert Chandler from prestigious Askonas Holt agency, representing the Armenian violinist for many years, said: “Queen Elisabeth was his final competition. What he had to prove, he proved it”.

Currently Sergey plays on a rare instrument, a Guarneri Del Gesù, the 1740 “Ysaÿe”, named after the famous Belgian violinist and composer who once owned it. Isaac Stern and Zukermann are among other world famous violinists, who have played on this exceptional instrument, on loan to the violinist from the Nippon Music Foundation. Sergey cherishes this instrument:

“It is incredible in every way, its tone, its history! This violin is like my child!”

Sergey recorded Aram Khachaturian’s violin concerto ten years ago, aged only 19! Performing the concerto ten year later, what has changed in Sergey’s style of interpretation? While before it was all about technique, speed and virtuosity, the current performance was different, more mature.  His ferocious speed of playing the fiddle is still one of his trademarks, but now Sergey is preoccupied more with his musical story-telling, unfolding the internal drama of the composition.

The sound of his Guarneri violin is unbelievably pure – the physical and spiritual connection between Sergey and his instrument, is extremely rare.