Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates 90th anniversary of Yerevan State Conservatory

Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra

Achod Papasian | Music of Armenia, Yerevan

A Taste of Germany…and Armenia! “Sehr schön!”For the 90th anniversary of the Yerevan State Conservatory, the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Maestro Eduard Topchjan, honored German musical heritage, by organizing a concert at the Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall in Yerevan.

The Orchestra performed Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto, together with Lusine Khachatryan, the famous Armenian pianist from Germany. After a few brilliant measures of their dynamic introduction, the first movement - an Allegro Affetuoso - developed a passionate atmosphere which was dominated by a graceful theme on the piano.

My attention was drawn to Lusine Khachatryan’s wide and expressive gestures, and especially to her playing, that was as elegant as her posture. The theme consisted of an interesting variety of moods, alternating between minor and major tones, which made it sound very romantic. The most unique aspect regarding the orchestration was that the soloist showed no supremacy over the ensemble but rather interacted with every group of instruments while often handing over the lead to the clarinet.

The composition reflected Schuman’s inner world, full of fluctuating and fragile feelings, far from the world of pure virtuosity. Afterwards, I had discovered that by the time Schumann finished writing this piece of music, his right hand was hurt for several years after, and therefore he decided to stray away from any demonstrative virtuosity in his future works. In his own words, he created the opus 54 as "something between the concerto, the symphony and the sonata".

While the orchestra was playing alone, Lusine Khachatryan was tenderly touching the piano’s keys without a note to sound. Then she launched into a long cadenza, answered with vigor by the entire orchestra. The cadenza led to an intermezzo, the second movement, which developed such a serene feeling that the whole sequence itself seemed suspended in time. The third movement, an allegro vivace, brought back the main melody before Lusine took the lead.

While all the musicians sat like statues, she wriggled on her seat while alternately sliding over the notes with fluidity and hammering them with force. The orchestra then joined nobly before eventually launching into an exciting finale, ending with a prodigious flood of notes on the piano.

After the crowd’s cheerful applause, Lusine came back on stage to play an encore and announced that she would perform “Four songs by Komitas”. I was quite surprised, mostly because I did not expect the switch to Armenian melodies after evening’s European orchestration! She started interpreting “Vagharshapat” in a keen and almost nervous manner. The melody was purposefully distorted from its traditional way and was backed by a monochord bouncing accompaniment which shook the main melody.

Lusine, who was leaning over her instrument, seemed to be deeply driven into the interpretation. After the orchestra’s performance, her piano solo allowed me to entirely focus on her playing. In the dim-light of the concert hall, these lonely notes made me feel the presence of the ghost of the famous composer, playing alone in the mountains.

The concert ended with an ethereal melody made of colorful notes melting with each other, like a kaleidoscope slowly turning. Lusine played with a great spirit, her head turned to the sky, as if she wanted to drink the notes from a spring above. Now I understand better why the world of classical music calls her “A Poet of the Keyboard.”