Gurgen Petrosyan

Gurgen Petrosyan: “Conducting is a kind of magic”

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By Artsvi Bakhchinyan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

YEREVAN/SAINT-PETERSBURG — Russian conductor Gurgen Petrosyan was born in 1991 in Nalchik, in the Kabardino-Balkaria region of North Caucasus. He studied at the College of Culture and Arts of the North Caucasus State Institute of Arts, majoring in choral conducting, in Rosa Khashukoeva’s class, who sent the student to the Saratov L.V. Sobinova State Conservatory, department of choral conducting (Nelli Vladimirtseva’s class).

In 2015 Gurgen graduated from the Saratov State Conservatory as a choir conductor and in 2017 as a symphony orchestra conductor. He took part in master classes by Theodor Currentzis, Denis Fisher and Yuri Simonov.

During his studies, Gurgen became a laureate of a number of competitions, including the Krasnoyarsk International Competition of Conductors of Academic Choirs (1st Prize, 2015). In 2015-2017, he was the assistant conductor of Saratov State Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, and in 2016-2018, he was the conductor of the Volga Chamber Orchestra.

Gurgen Petrosyan performed with the State Symphony Orchestra of Armenia, New Russia State Symphony Orchestra, the Mariinsky Theater Symphony Orchestra, the State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Kostroma Region, Astana Philharmonic State Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra for Children and Youth, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta Symphony Orchestra.

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Since March 2018, Petrosyan has been the trainee conductor at the Mariinsky Theater of St. Petersburg. There he made his debut as an opera conductor with “The Tsar’s Bride” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and. He acted as an assistant conductor in the productions of the operas “Falstaff” by Verdi and “The Girl of the West” by Puccini. Gurgen also conducted “The Nutcracker” by Peter Tchaikovsky in two different productions, “Pan Voyevoda” by Rimsky-Korsakov, “Betrothal in a Monastery” by Prokofiev, as well as other performances and various concerts.

In December 2019, he directed the orchestra on tour of the Mariinsky Ballet in Baden-Baden.

Dear Gurgen, the first time I heard about you, in 2015, was when you won the first prize at the Krasnoyarsk International Competition of Conductors of Academic Choirs. Today, we are proud to see your Armenian name as a conductor of one of the best opera houses in the world.

I have only the fondest memories of the Krasnoyarsk competition: in addition to winning, I was also lucky to meet wonderful colleagues with whom we still stay in touch. Five years have passed since that time, and fortunately, I increasingly believe that if you really want something very much, it will certainly come true, even if you have no idea how this could happen.

You were born in Nalchik, a city that has already given Russian conductor art such a master as the USSR People’s Artist Yuri Temirkanov. Seems like Kabardino-Balkaria fosters classical musicians.

As we know, masters of conducting were born in completely different places of the world. Perhaps the Caucasus, thanks to the rich, amazing beauty of its nature, and the peoples living there, contributes to the formation of a strong character, the will that the conductor needs to go out to a large team, and with joy, pleasure, excitement, invite colleagues to play together. In any case, you need to really love the conducting process itself, this is an amazing action, a kind of magic, and then, wherever you are born, you will succeed.

Topics: Conducting, Music

Gurgen, where do your roots come from and do you speak Armenian?

My grandparents moved to Nalchik from Stepanakert, Artsakh, when my father was 5 years old. In my grandmother’s house, I constantly heard the Armenian language in the Artsakh dialect. Of course, I know some everyday phrases, but, on the whole, unfortunately, I cannot say that I speak Armenian. In the future, of course, I would like to learn the language.

Your older sister, Ruzanna Petrosyan, studied at the piano department at Nalchik School of Music No. 3. Does she have a musical career too?

My sister always loved to sing, but after graduating from music school, she chose a different path for herself. I am very grateful to her for the continued support and implacable faith that I will always succeed.

In 2016, 57 young musicians from 29 countries sent applications to participate in the 12th international competition of conductors named after Aram Khachaturian in Yerevan. Only 12 people were allowed to the first round, including you. Was this your first visit to the land of ancestors? What are your impressions of the Yerevan contest?

It was very nice to be among the 12 participants in the competition. This was my first competition of symphonic conductors, and my first visit to Armenia. I really liked the atmosphere of the city, and the nearby surroundings, amazing temples, museums, and of course, our people’s history is so rich. Especially memorable is the Echmiadzin Cathedral. The level of performance, sound quality, and the feeling of the ensemble of the State Symphony Orchestra of Armenia were also very impressive. It is always joyful to go to such an orchestra level.

Gurgen Petrosyan

Have you ever had to conduct Armenian music – be it with a choir or with an orchestra?

We had to conduct Armenian music at a competition in Armenia, but there was still an interesting experience – at the final exam on choral conducting at the Saratov Conservatory, one of the works was Komitas’s composition, performed by a female choir and I also found, through the Armenian community of Saratov, a duduk performer that gave an amazing atmosphere in the hall.

What were your plans for 2020 – and what did you do during self-isolation?

The plans for 2020 were to continue to develop, perform at contests, festivals. Of course, the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg remains the main place for my creativity. Naturally, I am extremely grateful to this opportunity for Valery Abisalovich Gergiev. Of course, I would be very glad to visit Yerevan again and collaborate with local teams. Regarding self-isolation, surely, there are no performances, but in everything, I think, it is necessary to look for pluses. For example, thanks to quarantine, it became possible to devote more time to reading books, listening to broadcasts of performances and concerts of various opera houses and symphony concerts, watching films, learning languages, doing workout and being with loved ones. But, of course, we are all waiting for the opportunity to restart our beloved work, which we hope will happen soon!

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