Narek Hakhnazaryan Wins XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow


MOSCOW ( and Moscow Times) — Cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, a recent Artist Diploma recipient from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, won the Gold Medal in the cello division at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition.

Held every four years, the Tchaikovsky is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world.

Hakhnazaryan was born in Yerevan in 1988. A recipient of scholarships from the Mstislav Rostropovich Foundation, he performed in Russia, Germany, Austria, France, Great Britain, Greece, Turkey and Canada. As a result of receiving first prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 2008, he made his debut that same year at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall in New York City and at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater in Washington, DC.

He has subsequently performed at the Young Concert Artists Festival in Tokyo and toured extensively in the United States.

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Hakhnazaryan plays a David Tecchler cello, dated 1698, on loan from Valentine Saarmaa, granddaughter of the renowned luthier Jacques Francais.

Over the past two decades, the competition has suffered an enormous decline in prestige. This time around, the Culture Ministry made an all-out effort to arrest that decline, appointing the country’s most influential musician, Mariinsky Theater boss Valery Gergiev, as competition chairman, hiring an experienced competition manager from the United States, instituting new jury voting rules and filling the juries with prominent performing musicians — rather than the professors who have dominated them in the recent past — and severely reducing the number of competitors.

More controversially, half the competition — the violin and vocal contests — was moved to St. Petersburg, ostensibly because of a possible delay in completing renovation of the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, but more likely, in the view of many observers, the result of Gergiev’s desire to see a part of the competition take place within his musical empire on the Neva.

As for the cellists, they seemed as a group to be the most talented of all. Hakhnazaryan performed extremely well throughout.

The Tchaikovsky Competition would not be the Tchaikovsky Competition without at least one good scandal. This year’s was no exception. As conductor for the third round of the cello contest, the organizers inexplicably chose Mark Gorenstein, somehow overlooking the fact or unaware that his conducting proved a hindrance rather than a help to the piano finalists at the last two competitions.

Following a rehearsal with Hakhnazaryan, Gorenstein was heard, via the Internet, making a derogatory remark about the cellist, including a crude reference to his ethnic origin. The organizing committee issued an immediate rebuke, which brought an apology from Gorenstein, followed by his departure from the competition “due to illness” and replacement by a pair of capable young conductors from the Mariinsky Theater.

Taking first prize in piano was Russian Daniil Trifonov, 20, the third-prize winner at last year’s ultra-exclusive Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.

The violin jury blithely ignored a new competition rule requiring that a first prize always be awarded. Declining to hand out that prize, it went on to split second prize between Russian Sergei Dogadin, 22, and

Israeli Itamar Zorman, 25. President Serge Sargisian congratulated Hakhnazaryan on the occasion of his victory.

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