Touching the soul: Young musicians deliver classical music to Armenian youth

Touching the soul: Young musicians deliver classical music to Armenian youth

Youth orchestra preaches classical music to students

Last Friday the Youth State Orchestra of Armenia held its first concert at the State Medical University. More than 70 musicians of the Orchestra, who are also students of the Yerevan State Conservatory, are aged between 16 and 24 and their aim is to propagate classical music among youngsters.

For some of the students who gathered in the ‘Red’ hall of the Medical University that was the first experience of listening to classical music and when orchestra started playing Symphony No. 24 by Mozart even the most garrulous students stop talking in the hall.

The Youth State Orchestra of Armenia was founded in 2005 upon the initiative of Yerevan State Conservatory students. Conductor of the Orchestra Sergey Smbatyan says that the idea of founding a youth orchestra always existed at the Conservatory.

“All the members of the Orchestra are my friends, we all studied together. The best thing is that we managed to orientate correctly and we organized it on time,” says 21-year-old Smbatyan, a post-graduate student at the Department of Violin of the Yerevan State Conservatory.

“If a student comes and gets pleasure, it means that he or she is able to appreciate and perceive classical music. But if he returns home and listens to pop music, it is not bad, either. I do not like extremes,” says Smbatyan. “Pop music is a much easier genre of music; you may listen to it on TV, radio, in a car constantly, whereas, classical music is considered to be a more ‘closed’ type of art.”

The orchestra is planning to have concerts at different higher educational institutions in Yerevan. The repertoire of the Youth Orchestra comprises the works of West-European, Russian and Armenian composers of different periods. The Orchestra cooperated with such established names in the classical music world as Vadim Repin (violinist from Russia), Mikhail Simonyan (violinist from the United States), Denis Matsuev (pianist from Russia), Yuka Tsuboi (violinist from Japan), and others. The employees of the state-funded orchestra are on the state payroll. The orchestra is going to hold its next concert at the Yerevan State University.

Meanwhile, a low cultural demand for classic music is a matter of concern for many musicians. Armenian musical experts regularly raise the issue of classical music not being propagated as often as necessary, and they give assurances that it is impossible to listen to classical music out of the doors of special cultural institutions (Opera, Philharmonic, and Conservatory). Specialists believe that the reason is not only the fact that classical music was traditionally considered to be more ‘indigestible,’ but also because it is almost not being broadcast on TV or radio.

Valentin Tovmasyan, Professor at Yerevan State Conservatory after Komitas, Executive Secretary for the ‘Musical Armenia’ magazine, and Editor of the ‘Musician’ newspaper, says there is no need to look for concrete sinners in the current situation.

“People buy that ‘rabiz’ music and spread it, don’t they? Komitas did not manage to clean the Armenian music from those foreign rabble decorations and modulations during his whole life, and now we managed to give it up as a bad job within a few years,” says Tovmasyan.

The musicologist remembers that during the cold and dark 1990s, when the only music center was the Aram Khachaturyan Concert Hall, where Armenia’s State Symphonic Orchestra was playing.

“During those years the Concert Hall was overcrowded. Even housewives, people who were far from classic music, were attending the concerts. And now only professional musicians attend symphonic concerts,” he says with pity.

Tovmasyan says it is a very difficult problem, but still a solvable one.

“I strongly believe that not only professional musicians should be involved in this issue, but also the statesmen. I do not mean that they should forbid playing that rubbish music, but at least they can restrict its sale,” says the music expert.