Conductor Nvart Andreassian

Nvart Andreassian: Conducting Symphonic Music Worldwide

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YEREVAN — Conductor Nvart Andreassian was born in Istanbul; since 2017, she has lived in Armenia. From 1966 to 1971, she studied at the Romanos Melikyan Music School, Armenia, with Herman Terterian, and graduated with a degree in choral conducting. She emigrated to France where she studied at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, with Pierre Dervaux, and graduated with a higher diploma in orchestral conducting. From 1977 to 1980 she was assistant conductor at the Paris Grand Opera and Orchestre de Paris. Andreassian has taken master classes with conductors and composers Michel Tabachnik, Jean Fournet, Péter Eötvös, Igor Markevitch, Daniel Barenboïm and Arthur Oldham. In addition, she has also studied with Pierre Dervaux and Pierre Boulez and attended courses in music analysis of contemporary music with Max Deutsch and classical music with Sergiu Celibidache and Roland Catoir. Nvart Andreassian has been a prizewinner in the Young Conductors (Besançon, France) and Yehudi Menuhin Foundation (Great-Britain) competitions.

She has been guest conductor of numerous orchestras in Belgium, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Russia, the US, Netherlands. She has been the artistic director of Polychromie Contemporary Music Ensemble and Polychromy Festival. Nvart has given masterclasses and taught in various countries such as Russia, Brazil, Turkey, Armenia, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Uruguay, recorded with different labels and for Classical Radios.

“I have an excellent recollection from my collaboration with Nvart Andreassian during the Festival Polychromy. She gave an excellent reading of my work Ballade des Pendus. Nvart’s know-how and understanding of contemporary music as well as her musical comprehension permit me to look forward to further collaborations and complicity,” said Vincent Paulet, composer, France.

“I can state that her musical maturity and knowledge are combined with a very solid conducting technique. She leads the orchestra with Olympic calm, bringing the best of the musicians to the service of the composer is always very kind, although strict about their performance. As an artist manager, I greatly appreciate her professional approach at this high-level,” added Zdenek Prouza, managing director, Czech Artist Management International.

Dear Nvart, while there are many women among choirmasters, it is not common to see female conductors of symphonic orchestras. Although in my adulthood I was watching famous Soviet conductor Veronika Dudarova’s concerts with great pleasure. How do you explain the lack of female conductors in the musical scene?

What you are saying was a reality in the 20th century, but not in the 21st. Now there are many more female conductors all over the world and this is very new. Societies are changing and becoming more open minded and tolerant to the “others” than before.

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Frankly speaking, of course I had some unreasonable problems but as I knew and I know to be a very good and experienced conductor of all styles of European classical music since the 9th century to today. I think that segregation is an expression of weakness. I never pay attention to their sexism; it is not interesting. But, after 50 years of musical experience and career, today, composers entrust me with the world premiere of their scores. This is a huge responsibility for the future of their music and an honor for me to know that my hard work is considered necessary.

In the 1960s not many Istanbul Armenian were coming to study in Yerevan. What brought you there?

Well, my parents wanted to emigrate, but it did not work out so I studied. The school gave me a huge chance to study with a very good teacher of conducting, Herman Terteryan, an orchestra and opera conductor. I took advantage of this opportunity and worked hard to enlarge my musical and conducting talent. This was a very big chance to be educated at that period.

Who was your main inspiration as conductor?

I cannot say that there is one who influences me, because the conducting is not moving arms/gestures/beatings/ but talent of hearing, listening, reading, understanding, transmitting and knowledge of culture, music, psychology and many, many other things. Lots of work, but not copying anyone. As a performer I respect the composer’s imagination, wishes, ideas, sensibilities and combine them with mine. A conductor is a performer who plays on a very huge musical instrument composed of 70 persons and more, who are playing different instruments and having their knowledge, sensibilities and comprehension of the music they play. The conductor is the “medium” who makes the played music’s unity of interpretation. So, it is really not possible to be inspired by any one’s conducting technique, because it all depends on my commitment to the process of interpretation of the composer’s ideas of music.

You have worked in eight different countries. How would you describe your work in each of them in one sentence?

It is difficult to answer this question in one sentence. Each country has a different culture of being, living, music education, making music, musical tradition, composing school. But I can say that I not only bring them my French musical and rehearsal processes, as well as my vision for any score, but I also bring them a lot about life, being, tolerance and many other things from their culture. This can sound incomprehensible by anyone but this way work not only with me but with all those who are traveling, as we now call nomadic or globe-trotter artists. This is very exciting and keeps one humble and continuing to explore the world and making progress in the professional and personal life. You know I am not only exploring the visiting country’s musical score for a concert program but also all their culture.

In 1992, eminent Italian composer Ennio Morricone asked you to conduct his piece Distanze, after which he wrote: “She made it a memorable performance.” Can you speak about this collaboration?

Well, I have been the artistic director and the conductor of the French Contemporary Music Orchestra Polychromie and his annual Festival of Modern Art and Music. This festival, as five others, were always based on a composer of the 20th century, in residence and his country. I invited him next to six young Italian composers to a residence in the so-called “Music and Design, Art from Italy.” It was a huge collaboration which not only presented Morricone’s music but also conferences, exhibitions, educational projects. Ennio Morricone was not only a movie soundtrack composer, but also a very good trumpet player, a classical contemporary music composer. It was a privilege to meet him, to conduct his music and to be appreciated by this great musician. Thanks to him, my vision of music, in general, was enlarged.

You have also worked with eminent musicians. Again, can you describe each of them and your cooperation with them?

It will be very difficult to speak in detail about my collaboration with each of them. I conducted world premieres of Pierre Boulez, Giovanna Marini, Edison Denisov, Iannis Xenakis and many other noted composers’ music, as guest conductor during very famous European festivals. My collaboration with conductors Pierre Boulez, Boris Vinogradov, Arthur Oldham was as assistant conductor in the Paris Grand Opera and Orchestre de Paris. All those collaborations are the occasions not only to exchange interpretational questions with them but also to understand, appreciate and exchange their knowledge and visions on the ART. These meetings are very important for the shaping of the musical mind of a young musician. I am so glad that I had the chance and privilege to meet them all.

You have been the chief conductor of the Armenia-Turkey Youth Symphony Orchestra. Whose initiative was it and does it somehow add to an Armenian-Turkish dialogue?

Oh, yes… this was a very interesting collaboration with “Anadolu Kültür” and “Istanbul Cultural Foundation.” The project was created with a common desire in 2009 after the signing of the Armenia-Turkey protocols. This musical project sought to put together young Armenian and Turkish musicians and help them to have a healthy dialogue. That worked! And also, it worked in the Turkish society because all Istanbul cultural organizations, TV channels, newspapers, Armenian community have participated morally and financially for the realization of the project. But unfortunately, the project’s second step which had to take place in Armenia, had no chance to be realized, until now.

You have recorded contemporary Armenian composers in Europe: Mansuryan, Avetisyan, Israelyan, Astvatsatryan. On your observation, how much is the Western classic music world aware of our composers?

Yes, I did that. One had to do something for Armenian living composers. Each occasion was good to propose or to put their music in my concert programs. In 2001, I broadcast a project on Armenian contemporary music for one week on Radio France/France Culture, but as Armenian musicians themselves are often performing Komitas rather than living composers, the classical music world does not know much if there is something very significant happening in contemporary music in Armenia. Armenians must understand that if they are not advertising their own culture, no one will do it for them, and they can tell that no one respects their geniuses! This is very unhealthy and dangerous. I hope the young generation of leaders and cultural managers will make the difference between this and the arrogance or the victimization.

Young composers should understand that the best is to work on the evolution of Armenian classical contemporary music without copying westerners, but create a very interesting style.

Experience shows that diasporan musicians have been, unfortunately, not so welcomed in Armenia. However, you decided to move to Armenia. So how is your professional life here?

Well, as you see my professional life has been and has nothing to do with where I am living. I am and have always been a freelance conductor/musician, so I live where I want to live and I work where they invite me to work and conduct. This way of life can be incomprehensible by a lawyer, a doctor or… but for me this is normal and I love it. So, I am taking advantage of my personal conception of life.

As about diasporan musicians welcomed or not in Armenia, I will answer very frankly to this question: Armenia has a very small population and few working places, which are distributed to family members, friends.

All Armenians are sure to be “talented” so why do they need diasporans and well-known musicians? And another question: do diasporan musicians need to prove themselves in Armenia? In my case, no, but many wanted to be accepted here. There is, as in Soviet time, no invitation to perform, unless the Armenian musician is rich or found support and can pay for his performance fees. The second thing I want to tell you is much more dangerous for Armenia’s musical culture. To make known our culture outside Armenia is very new, since 2022 and the exported music is Komitas and some other chamber music compositions of Khachaturian, Babajanian and some Soviet time composers’ music. Armenians convinced themselves that there are not very good Armenian composers to be shown outside. This is a destructive and dangerous self-underestimating thought of all Armenians, both inside and outside.

Young composers and new music need our help and there is very little representation of them, unless the composer left Armenia for abroad. One thing is for sure: nobody is waiting for them and the Armenian communities are not interested in them. This immigration is not a solution for Armenian musicians: how many of them are working in the music sector? Musical education must be developed and adequate for the small country and for the world’s quality needs. The country needs a cultural/educational management concept.

Since independence, 1992 to 1998, I have come to Armenia with proposals for collaborations to National Opera, Chamber Orchestra, Composers Union, Music Schools, State Conservatory financed by the French Government Cultural Department or by myself. In 2017, I received a proposal from Armenia National Opera and Composers Union and since then nothing has happened. I suppose they are not interested in collaborating with any diasporans.

Was that a solution to develop the musical culture? Did they not need to collaborate with experienced diasporan musicians?

This “mille feuille” is the reason that today there are copycat young composers. I hope it will change soon because this will be the death of the future musical culture of Armenia.

As for performers, Armenia needs to rethink its musical education policy. Very high quality of musical education can be only for the very talented ones. Talented young musicians are very few and they are leaving the country for education and are not coming back.

So, you see the country’s social/economical/cultural situation needs to be clarified. After saying this, I always think the verse from “The Gathering of Mice” by Atabek Khnkoyan: “Who will hang the bell?” If these words need an explanation: who will decide the change and go to the progress? This is one of the dilemmas that we must solve.

(For more information about Andreassian, please visit http://nvart.andreassian.free.fr/)

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