What is the cultural level nowadays?
There is no doubt that there has been a certain rise in different aspects of life since radical changes in the political sphere of Armenia. But here, one side of the matter- culture – seems to remain unchanged. More precisely its current state. And here the question is not only about numerous scandals which accompanied actions of the state apparatus, responsible for this side of our life. It is about a general level of culture. Particularly, a general level of music. We do not have to go far for prime examples. From the phones of conservatory students leaving their alma mater you can hear only music in style rabiz. To make sure of this, it is enough to stand at the door of this higher education institution for 20 minutes. And such a seemingly insignificant fact is saying a lot. It is almost said about the crisis in cultural education of youth.
Constant work is necessary
Of course, cultural figures do much for the changing situation, but still “things are still there”. You can’t make the difference by one-two events, two-three concerts or productions. It requires serious, long-term and, most importantly, regular work. And here, as a good example, we can speak about the policy which has been implemented for 20 years already by the leadership of “Yerevan Perspectives”, the International Classical Music Festival. During the years of its existence Yerevan Festival received international recognition and took the rightful place in a top-ten of the best European Festivals of performing arts and since 2007 the Armenian Festival has also been a member of the European Festivals Association. The annual Festival, functioning throughout the year, has managed to introduce Yerevan music lovers to performers of different styles of this genre, moreover, of the highest level. The guests of the Festival “Yerevan Perspectives” were the best bands and the musicians of the world: the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The legendary conductors: Daniel Barenboim, Michael Tilson Thomas, Lorin Maazel, Valery Gergiev, Zubin Mehta. The famous soloists: Pinchas Zukerman, Evgeny Kissin, Joshua Bell, Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming. Most recently Yerevan residents have met with legendary The Swingle Singers and enigmatic Ivo Pogorelich. And in the upcoming days music fans will be able to enjoy the art of the Grammy Award winner, the world famous American band Parker Quartet, founded in 2002.
Parker Quartet as an example of the value of the Festival
The graduates of New England Conservatory, the musicians of the quartet were improving their ensemble skills under the leadership of György Kurtág and Kim Kashkashian. The Grand Prix of the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition in 2005, won by the quartet immediately made critics and specialists talk about them. And in 2011 the participants received a Grammy for their second album with the music by György Ligeti’s. Further awards fell on them as if from the cornucopia. Undoubtedly, the tours of such a band will enrich the cultural life of every country.
But these are the private cases. And what can be or should be done, what is already being done for raising the overall average of our compatriots? And about the role of the Yerevan Festival in this, we had a conversation with Sona Hovhannisyan, the General Manager of the Festival.
The main idea
According to her words, the idea of the Festival was born in 1999. Despite the existing difficulties in politics and economics of the country, it was decided to create such a Festival from zero, aiming to turn Yerevan into a world-class cultural centre. As a certain impetus for the realization of this idea was served the presence of the composer Stepan Rostomyan at the famous Edinburgh Festival, where his work was being performed in the presence of the author. Returning to Armenia, Stepan Arzumanovich decided to create something similar in his homeland, too. It was initially decided to ensure the highest level of performance of the Festival immediately, without wasting time. The main ideology of the future event was based on the thought that one could take and coexist with a gradual phased development of any side of the case, besides the quality. From the very beginning the organizers wanted to see more than just good musicians on the stage. They have always tried to bring first-class stars, fascinated with the idea to create a cultural atmosphere in Yerevan, similar to European. Over these years, its level of creativity, once set, was never dropped. Classical music superstars were performing in Yerevan, while many of them had never been in our region, or even in the countries of the former Soviet Union before.
In 2008 the leadership of the country made advances with full support of the idea to hold such a Festival. Fortunately, in spite of the fact that the policy of the country, the top officials were changing, the decision to support the Festival remained unchanged. Today the Festival takes place under the patronage of Nikol Pashinyan, the prime minister of the country. Over the past years about two hundred concerts were held within the framework of the Festival and all the concerts were of the highest level.
All stars are our guests
Gradually all this activity bears fruit. So, if in the first years, as if echoing the common phrase that “there were more people on the stage than in the hall during the concert”,, it was indeed the case in our philharmonic hall, then over time the halls started to fill up to capacity and now almost every concert takes place in a full house. And how it can be otherwise, if, let’s say, Kronos Quartet or Boris Berezovsky perform on the stage. By the way, Kronos Quartet has already been in Yerevan twice. It is not a simple case to get musicians of this level. And here the question is not only about money, it is often about huge star royalties. It is also about the fact that the schedule of performances of such musicians is usually scheduled for years ahead and they will not go anywhere at the first invitation. So, thanks to the organization and the grateful understanding listener the Yerevan Festival managed to build up a favourable reputation and, therefore, the stars, getting information from each other, usually come to Armenia without any objections. As for the listeners, the famous Russian cellist Ivan Monighetti, playing at the Festival, dedicated to Krzysztof Penderecki’s music (let’s note that music is not easy for the average listener) and seeing that the hall was filled to capacity, expressed his admiration towards the audience of Yerevan and predicted that theRenaissance of Modern Music would start exactly in Armenia.
It should be recalled that in 2015 the Music Festival’s Academy was opened in Byurakan where visiting guest-performers give master-classes, meet with a local musical community, which also helps to increase the level of serious music perception by people. The Festival also organizes special events with the support of the Ministry of Culture and other official and commercial structures.
The Festival started functioning in 2000 under the name “Perspectives of 21st Century”, in 2010 it was renamed “Yerevan Perspectives”. And today Armenian classical music lovers or just simply high-quality music lovers have the most iridescent perspectives (the Festival was also organizing concerts of the big jazz stars — George Benson, Al Jarreau, Joe Cocker), because the tours of many classical music stars are also promised this year. Music lovers know and wait. And there are more and more of them, and it forces organizers to work even better, because demand creates supply and there is no doubt that demand in this sphere grows from concert to concert . We can say that the audience grows at the Festival and the Festival tries to raise its level even higher, getting a positive response to its activity. It is a natural situation in art.
Author: Armen Manukyan © All rights reserved.
Translator: Sona Melkonyan