Sergey Kosemyan: Cello on Concert Stage and in Nature

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YEREVAN/LOS ANGELES — Cellist Sergey Kosemyan, a native of Yerevan, was born into the family of Honored Artist of Armenia, famous violist, member of the Komitas State String Quartet Alexander Kosemyan and violinist Karine Rostombekyan.

Studying in Yerevan and then in Paris, Sergey has received awards and titles at prestigious international competitions. His repertoire includes Western European, Armenian and Russian classics, as well as contemporary pieces.

In 2014, he founded the Art Trio in Torreon (Mexico), in 2017, the Kosemyan Ensemble in Saltillo (Mexico) and in 2023, a piano duo and piano trio with the participation of recognized musicians, members of the Grammy Recording Academy Mikael Ayrapetyan and Philip Vaiman. He took master classes from such world-class musicians as Mstislav Rostropovich, Tibor Varga and Philippe Muller, among others.

Sergey, you were the first cellist to record Bach suites in various outdoor spaces in America, from the Grand Canyon (Arizona) to Sequoia National Park (California). It was supposed to be both a pleasant and difficult experience.

Yes, indeed, this is a very special musical project for me. You see, there is something in common in music and nature — it is a harmonious relationship. Beauty that is accessible to everyone. Working on this project, I want to reveal something new every time in this synthesis of forms, sounds, colors and give it to people. It seems to me that this project can encourage people to attend classical music concerts and strive for art in general.

For a quarter of a century, musicians have been sounding the alarm about the fact that the demand for cello is very low, not only in Armenia, but all over the world. Is that true?

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Unfortunately, this is true. This trend continues to this day. In addition to the above-mentioned demand, there is a shortage of professionals who can pass on the professional traditions of the masters of the past to a new generation. The cello is an extremely expensive instrument. Many of the great cellists of the past played collectible instruments belonging to various foundations and private collectors. To reach a professional level, a combination of several factors will be required — firstly, a natural talent, a mentor, hard work and a tool that will help to fully reveal the entire palette of aural colors.

Who are some of your mentors? And what qualities should he have?

It so happened that I studied with masters from different countries. Adopting their experience and techniques, I remember a wonderful teacher and, above all, a good person, Alexander Chaushyan Sr., under whose guidance I began studying the Bach suites that I am performing today in this project. Alexander Chaushyan had a great pedagogical gift. I always attended his lessons with great enthusiasm. Subsequently, in a very short period, I managed to learn a lot from Mstislav Rostropovich, who answered all my professional questions and shared the secrets of the technical and musical aspects of cello performance. I was also lucky to know and communicate closely with such outstanding artists as Geronti Talalyan, Robert Amirkhanyan, Stepan Shakaryan, Medea Abrahamyan and Edvard Mirzoyan. The Sonata for Cello and Piano by Edvard Mirzoyan, which is dedicated to Rostropovich, was first performed by me in Paris, after which this sonata became a mandatory work at the Pierre Lantier International Competition. Later, when I was in Yerevan, visiting Edvard Mikhailovich Mirzoyan, when I received from him as a gift the notes of this sonata with the author’s personal autograph.

Please tell us about your most memorable performance and how you came up with the idea to record in nature?

In 2015, the cello was performed for the first time in the ancient Sanahin Temple in Armenia. I recorded Bach’s music and the idea of this project was born from there. And after arriving in the US, I began to implement this plan. As for the concert. I have performed a lot on different stages of the world and with different orchestras as a soloist, but the most memorable concert took place again in 2015 in Yerevan, where together with the outstanding musician, pianist, organist and composer Hovhannes Manukyan, by the way, who dedicated his compositions to me. For the first time in Armenia, we performed all 5 Beethoven sonatas for cello and piano in one concert. The concert lasted about three hours and left unimaginable impressions that will be repeated in the United States in the near future.

We have heard your cello playing in Rudolf Kharatyan’s outstanding ballet, “Two Suns,” staged in Yerevan in 2015 and subsequently repeatedly broadcast by the prestigious Mezzo TV channel. It was an unprecedented event in the history of Armenian music and stage choreography.

You are right. This was really an extraordinary event for Armenian art. In addition to the extremely interesting list of Armenian composers — Mesrop Mashtots, Grigor Narekatsi, Khachaturian, Hovaness, Babajanian, Terteryan and Ariyan — whose works are performed in the ballet, showing the rich history of Armenian music, we see that for the first time this production is broadcast to more than 80 countries of the world to an audience of 60 million people. This ballet is regularly broadcast around the world from 2021 to the present, where the soloist of the Washington Ballet Jonathan Jordan dances a separate number dedicated to the cello. This music was composed by the outstanding Armenian-Canadian composer Ashot Ariyan. I recorded this number specially for the production of this ballet under the direction of the world-famous choreographer Rudolf Kharatyan. This is a great event for the whole of Armenia and I am extremely glad to be a part of this project.

Armenian composers have dedicated works for cello to you. By performing them, do you allow for some freedom in interpretation?

For me, personal interpretation is always inextricably linked with the composer’s idea. I try to stick to the golden mean, showing performing creativity that holds the hand of the composers’ ideas. I often discuss with composers their vision and offer my interpretation of the work. We always manage to find mutual understanding.

Please tell us about upcoming projects.

I have plans in 2024 to tour Mexico, where the works of Armenian composers will be performed for the first time, as well as a tour of US cities with the same program. A tour of Europe is also being discussed now. But it will already be in the 2025-2026 season.

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