“Khachaturian Trio” is preparing for a large-scale tour: Karen Shahgaldyan

The cult ensemble “Khachaturian Trio” celebrates its 20th anniversary this musical season. The musicians are going to start the celebrations with a large-scale tour in Russia and the Baltic States, which will last from February 2 to 27 and will present a carefully selected anniversary repertoire to residents of more than 15 cities.

Laureate of numerous international competitions, a graduate of the Moscow State Conservatory, violinist of “Khachaturian Trio” Karen Shahgaldyan shared news about the upcoming tour, which, according to him, will be the longest in the history of the ensemble. That was what our “classic” dialogue was about.

-  You have repeatedly mentioned that the upcoming tour is exclusive in its scope. Which of our readers will have the opportunity to attend concerts? How many concerts are there?

-  The tour turned out to be gigantic, to be honest. This season marks our trio turning twenty years old, but we probably haven’t had such a long tour yet. There will be 17 concerts in a month. These are concerts in Russia and in the Baltic states: all three Baltic countries — Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. We will be in large Ural cities, in Yekaterinburg, where one of the best philharmonics in Russia is located. We will visit Chelyabinsk, Tyumen, Perm — all the cultural centers of the region. There will be Murmansk, Petrozavodsk, a concert in Moscow.

The tour is big, there are very diverse programs everywhere. We have concerts with an orchestra, concerts of our trio, so there is always something to strive for, there is always something to prepare for.

I am very glad that our long-standing partner Konstantin Ishkhanov, with whom we have been cooperating for many years and in different countries, on different venues, on different topics, helps us a lot in this tour, supports our concerts. The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of the Republic of Armenia, as well as our ambassador to the Baltic countries, Tigran Mkrtchyan, also assumed a significant part of the organization. Without them, all this, of course, would not have taken place.

- For many musicians, long tours are associated with great mental and physical stress. How does your body react to a long absence from home and constant moving?

- There is a famous Rostropovich answer to a question of the same type. He was once asked how travel, all kinds of tours affect him. And he said: “Look, I really like traveling to different countries and thanks to my profession I can do it. I also really like meeting new people, communicating with them and thanks to my profession I play my favorite music on different stages, with different orchestras, in different halls, for different audiences, meet amazing new cuisines and so on. And they pay me money for this. What, in your opinion, is wrong with the situation?”

So I honestly agree with him. In my subjective opinion, this is the best profession in the world, so I would not exchange it for anything else. Of course there are some difficulties associated with the family, since dad leaves for a month, and he is gone, but on the other hand, my children are very well versed in geography. And gifts, of course, I must bring gifts for them from every tour. Everything has its good sides.

- A myth has developed in different fields that it is very difficult for Armenians to work in a team: everyone is a leader and everyone tries to demonstrate his strength and ambitions. What is the secret of success and coherence of the “Khachaturian Trio” for twenty years now?

 - I think this is more likely not a myth, but the truth. There are pluses to this, because thanks to this, our people have survived and continue to survive only at the expense of their own resources. As a matter of fact, the only wealth that we have is our talent. It always has been. If we still learn how to put our individual talent into a common bank, then, to put it mildly, everything will be alright.

In our case, I think, it helps that there are three of us. In this regard, why is the quartet the highest degree of chamber music making and, at the same time, the most difficult? Because the parity and multiplicity of the number of musicians in the ensemble involves creative disputes, in a good sense, which should ultimately lead to a solution. When there are four people, it’s more difficult. When there are three, there is always the possibility of quick consensus. Then, we have a woman in the ensemble, which always allows us to rely on her determination in difficult situations.

The most important thing is that we do not play together in order to justify any of our ambitions or our superiority. Absolutely not. We came together to play music because we love it very much. A repertoire of chamber music and the trio is amazing in its quality.

- And what works will be presented on this tour? Are there certain works that you especially want to present?

- The three of us always choose the repertoire very carefully and look for a long time for pieces that we should play at each concert. This tour will have a fairly large repertoire luggage. Let's start with the iconic works. There will be the F minor trio of Dvořák, Trio élégiaque of Rachmaninov, plays by Khachaturian (transcriptions of his most famous works, which were specially made for us at our request), plays by Komitas, by Maltese composer Alexei Shor, whom we also play for a long time and with whom we collaborate. There will be the French part of the program — trio of Debussy and Ravel, with which we started our road on a stage as a trio, Trio of Arno Babajanyan, which we try to play at every opportunity, because this is an unconditional pearl of the chamber genre, and it is not well known in the west.

Here, again, on the issue of teamwork, we are very poorly at promoting our achievements and strengths. If we talk about it, then basically it happens in the Armenian society, for our own people, and this remains inside. In this sense, if I step aside a little, I am very pleased with the successes of Sergey Smbatyan and the State Symphony Orchestra, which performed Ter-Tadevosyan’s Second Symphony in his recent European tour. This is a very cool decision and certainly not an easy one, but I'm glad they did it. In our turn, we try to do the same with our scales.

- We got to the topic of Armenian musicians, who, as many say, including Konstantin Ishkhanov, whom you mentioned above, are ambassadors of Armenian classical music and Armenian culture abroad. What is being done in the country so that they have the opportunity to embark on the path of popularizing Armenian culture with their activities?

- Last year, for example, Konstantin and I did one project, which, unfortunately, was not very noticed, and I am very sorry about this. It consisted of two selections for students of the conservatory and all the current musicians. One selection was for pianists for a competition in Hamburg, and another for strings for a competition in Vienna. A selection was announced for participation in the competition specially only for Armenian musicians, as a result of which the best participants in this selection were given the opportunity to go absolutely free to participate in the competitions and master classes. The road, accommodation and participation were fully provided. In practice, it turned out a tourist trip. It was necessary to come, play the program for fifteen minutes and pack the bags.

We need to seriously think about our level of education, so that we have more guys who are able to compete and are ready to give concerts, because there are opportunities. People like Konstantin create this opportunity. If I were twenty years younger, I would run barefoot, just to get this opportunity.

We need to pay much attention to education, to the education system, to its quality. There are a lot of opportunities and such opportunities that are provided by Konstantin are unique. His organization has a very large network of projects, but nowhere else in the world except our country such opportunities have been provided. This was done specifically for Armenia thanks to our ties and his attitude towards Armenia. And it is very unfortunate that this was not used to the full it should have been.

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