François Mardirossian (photo by Melania Avanzato)

François Mardirossian: With Filial and Musical Love to Armenia

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YEREVAN / LYON — I met French pianist and poet François Mardirossian in Yerevan, where he gave a solo concert on last April 10. He was born in 1989 in Metz, to a French-Armenian father and a French mother. At the age of 19, after studying at the Lyon Conservatory, François joined the Brussels Conservatory. He regularly performs in concerts in France and Belgium. His taste ranges from Frédéric Chopin and Serge Rachmaninov to John Cage, Philip Glass and Keith Jarrett and many contemporary composers. His first solo album, released in 2019, includes recording of the piano works of American composer Moondog. His last two recordings released in 2022 by Advitam Records devoted to Philip Glass’ Piano Etudes and Alan Hovhaness’ piano works. Mardirossian writes regularly for the contemporary music magazine Hémisphère Son and in 2018 released a collection of poetry, Ce que Bruxelles recèle dans son ciel (What Brussels holds in its sky) published by Chloé des Lys. In 2021, he was awarded the Grand Prix for music of the Paris/Lyon group.

François, let me congratulate you about your brilliant concert in Yerevan. We all were very impressed to see your unusual energy interpreting Philip Glass. Why did you choose this particular composer?

Philip Glass is a composer who has been with me since my early youth. I discovered his Violin Concerto when I was 11 years old by chance in my father’s record library and I fell in love with it. I was soon able to get some of his piano works and as soon as I was old enough to give concerts I put it in my recitals, which was quite rare for a classical pianist, but today I realize that it is the beginning to be accepted more and more in classical venues. I try to interpret him as honestly as possible, like with Chopin, Rachmaninoff or Komitas! I was happy to play his Etudes for piano in Yerevan because it is a collection that I often defend in concerts and that I deeply enjoy playing

If you were to meet, Glass, what would you ask him?

He got my recording and apparently liked it! If I had to ask him a question: In what state of mind were you while composing the Opening, one of my most beautiful pieces for solo piano?

François Mardirossian

I should confess that although Philip Glass is not my favorite composer, I always take opportunity to listen his opuses an always listen with interest. Back in 2011, I attended his opera, “Satyaghara,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Yet his Piano Etudes sound extremely exciting to me. Perhaps that was because of your performance.

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I am always happy to know that people who don’t necessarily love Glass nevertheless enjoy my concerts or recordings of his music. I think one of the problems with Glass is that it is often misinterpreted: in a mechanical, soulless way, or sometimes the opposite, in an overly corny way. I try to play these Etudes as I feel them and as I read them — scrupulously but with emotion. Of course, there are feelings on the surface with this composer, but we must not forget that he is above all a radical composer. Like Pierre Boulez. These two composers have nothing to do with each other, but they have only one undeniable point in common: either one adores them or one hates them to the utmost. However, it is undeniable that both of them have made the history of music of the last century.

Your biography mentions Svetlana Eganian as one of few fortunate encounters that led you to make the piano your profession. Who is this musician?

She is a French teacher of Russo-Armenian origin with whom I had the joy of working for several years. She taught me a lot, especially Scriabin and Schumann. She taught for some time at the Conservatoire supérieur de musique de Lyon.

You perform Alan Hovhaness and Gurdjieff, whom we can consider Armenian composers, but you also played Arno Babadjanyan. And you showed us a bunch of piano works of Armenian composers. Are you expanding your Armenian repertoire?

I have always loved Armenian music, not only piano music. I highly love to play it! I perform Babadjanyan, Komitas of course, Abramyan, Baghdassaryan, Arutunyan. I took the opportunity of this recent concert to look for others and I made some splendid discoveries: Robert Amirkhanyan, Georgy Sarajyan, Nikoghayos Tigranyan, etc. I plan to have a recital with all these composers but also female composers as I also like Gayane Chebotaryan very much. I am very happy that my third CD is dedicated to the American composer of Armenian origin Alan Hovhaness. His music remains relatively unknown in the country of his origins, even though it was very much inspired by Armenia. This disc was awarded the title of best recording of the year by a French magazine.

What is Armenia for you?

This was my second trip. I had already visited with my sisters and my father in 2014 for more than three weeks. We had stayed in Yerevan for a long time and then we had done the monasteries route, gone to the Sevan lake, to the South, etc. At that time, it was a trip that excited me and brought me a lot. I reconnected with my origins and the country of my ancestors, even though I don’t speak the Armenian language.

Where is the Mardirossian family originally from and what Armenian traditions do you observe, if any?

I don’t know exactly where my family comes from: I think it’s more in Western Armenia or Anatolia. I have always lived with the knowledge of Armenian history, its culinary culture, but mainly the music! Since my return from my second visit to Armenia, I have been reading some books and frankly I would be happy to come back and promote these discovered composers – who are not played more in Armenia as far as I can see from my research!

You also write poetry. Have you written anything after your trip to Armenia?

Poetry was a part of me for a few months, almost six years ago. I wrote a whole collection very quickly and in a very particular feeling. I managed to publish it but since then nothing. I am more interested in expressing myself in music now. So, why not a tribute piece to Armenia? Like the improvisation from a theme of Komitas, at the end of my concert…

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