The performers with Ambassador Mnatsakanyan after the show

St. Vartan’s Concert Celebrates Armenian Music


By Taleen Babayan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator


NEW YORK — The joyous musical notes emanating in the sanctuary of the St. Vartan Cathedral served as a welcome to the new season during the “Celebration of Spring Concert,” on Wednesday, February 28, in an event presented by the Armenian Mission to the United Nations, in the spirit of friendship, dialogue and cooperation among nations.

Performing to overflowing pews of United Nations diplomats and delegates, the internationally acclaimed and award-winning artists Levon Chilingirian (violin), Suren Bagratuni (cello) and Karen Hakobyan (piano) played works by Haydn, Beethoven, Khachaturian, Hovunts and Babadjanian as they kicked off their North American tour.

Trio of Karen Hakobyan (piano), Levon Chilingirian (violin) and Suren Bagratuni (cello)

The culturally rich event, in partnership with the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, with the support of Nazar and Artemis Nazarian, also recognized the season when Armenia became a member state of the UN in March 1992, marking an opportunity for the Armenian Mission to invite the United Nations community to share in their nation’s musical talents and traditions.

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“Our primary targets were our international partners,” said Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, permanent representative of Armenia to the United Nations. “The whole idea of this concert was to combine all of the elements of our culture into one single commonality, just as we are here in New York City.”

The predominantly international crowd, coupled with the global backgrounds of the performers, who have trained in Armenia, Russia, England, Cyrus and the US and who play both Eastern and Western composers, was shared with the entire UN community in an effort to “participate and share in diversity.”

He continued, “The incessant applause demonstrated how exciting it is to showcase Armenia’s rich cultural and musical heritage in one of the most beautiful churches located by the United Nations, which demonstrates the vibrancy of the Cathedral’s architecture, faith and culture.”

The hour-long concert captured various tones and moods of classical music, ranging from Haydn’s lively piano trio to Hovnuts’ rarely-performed Duo Sonata for violin and cello to Babadjanian’s emotionally charged piano trio, culminating in an artistic and enriching performance.

“It was a great honor and pleasure to be invited by Ambassador Mnatsakanyan to perform in St. Vartan Cathedral,” said Chilingirian, who had played there previously with his Chilingirian Quartet 40 years ago. The Cyprus-born violinist, who is professor of violin and chamber music at the Royal Academy of Music in London, remarked on the “wonderful acoustics” of the Cathedral, making it “an ideal venue to promote the music of Armenian composers in front of a truly international audience.”

Each of the musicians was pleased to form a trio with their colleagues and fellow musicians, with whom they share mutual respect and admiration.

“This concert gave me the opportunity to collaborate with two of the most prominent Armenian musicians,” said New York-based pianist, composer and conductor Hakobyan, who is founder and artistic director of Pegasus: The Orchestra. “The acoustics, beauty and spiritual richness of the Cathedral, combined with the warmth and enthusiasm of the audience, enhanced our performance.”

For the Yerevan-born Bagratuni, this was his first visit to St. Vartan Cathedral, which he described as a “unique experience.”

“I can’t think of a better way to introduce Armenian music and musicians to the world community,” said Bagratuni, a professor of cello at Michigan State University and artistic director of the International Music Academy in Italy. “The international and Armenian communities have to realize Armenian musicians are capable of performing music of all composers, not only Armenian.”

Hakobyan echoed Bagratuni’s thoughts, noting that events such as this concert “have the capacity to reach wider audiences by showcasing the music of Armenian composers alongside Western works.”

Further highlighting the artistic abilities of the Armenian people was the artwork hanging on the walls by Ardean’s designs. Inspired by Armenia’s architecture, illuminated manuscripts and cross-stones, the Armenia-based design company, under the artistic guidance of founder and director Vasken Brudian, was originally established at the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies in Armenia and has grown into a contemporary design company in the country.

“Armenian artists and musicians are recognized worldwide not only because they are Armenian but also because their quality and talent,” said Bagratuni. “This, I hope, was the message behind the Celebration of Spring concert.”


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