Narek Hakhnazaryan was propelled on to the international scene when, at the age of 22, he won the Cello First Prize and Gold Medal at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011, having impressed distinguished jury members such as Sir Clive Gillinson, Mario Brunello, David Geringas, Ralph Kirschbaum and Krzysztof Penderecki. He has since received critical press from both sides of the Atlantic, with the Daily Telegraph describing his playing “a marvel of musicality and technique combined” and the Washington Post describing him as “a seasoned phenomenon”.
Since winning the competition, Hakhnazaryan has won over audiences across the globe. His many high-level debuts have included concerto appearances with the London Symphony Orchestra/Gergiev, Chicago Symphony/Koopman, Tonkünstler Orchestra/Fedoseyev, Mariinsky Orchestra/Gergiev, Filarmonica della Scala Milan/Valcuha, Dallas Symphony/van Zweden, Seoul Philharmonic/Wolff, Rotterdam Philharmonic/Gergiev and with the Orchestra of St Luke’s at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, New York. In chamber and duo recitals he has performed at the Salle Pleyel Paris, Berlin Konzerthaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boston, Vancouver Recital Series and at the Tivoli, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, City of London and Verbier Festivals.
Highlights of Hakhnazaryan’s 2013/14 season include further significant debuts including with Toronto Symphony/Lehninger, Czech Philharmonic/Bělohlávek on tour across Japan, Estonian National Symphony/Neeme Järvi on tour in North America, Aspen Festival Orchestra/Robertson, and his South American debut with the Sao Paulo Symphony, performing Lera Auerbach’s Last Letter with the composer. In addition he returns to Filarmonica della Scala/Gergiev to perform the Dutilleux Concerto and to the Mariinsky Orchestra/Gergiev to perform the Brahms Double Concerto with Sergey Khachatryan. Recital highlights include debuts at Oji Hall Tokyo, London’s Wigmore Hall, in Glasgow for BBC Radio 3, and in the USA at the Ravinia Festival and Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall.
Narek Hakhnazaryan was born in 1988 in Yerevan, Armenia, into a family of musicians: his father is a violinist and his mother a pianist. Hakhnazaryan’s early studies were at the Sayat-Nova School of Music in Yerevan with Zareh Sarkisyan and subsequently at the Moscow Conservatory with Alexey Seleznyov. Hakhnazaryan has received scholarships from the Rostropovich Russian Performing Arts Fund, and his prizes include First Prize in the 2006 Aram Khachaturian International Competition in Armenia and First Place in the 2006 Johansen International Competition for Young String Players. As First Prize winner in the 2008 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, Hakhnazaryan made his debut in the Young Concert Artists Series in New York at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, sponsored by the Jerome L. Greene Foundation Prize, and in Washington, DC. In 2011 he received an Artist Diploma from the New England Conservatory of Music where he studied with Lawrence Lesser.Narek Hakhnazaryan is represented by Intermusica.
2013/14 biography / 434 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra / Neeme Järvi / Dvorak Cello Concerto / U.S.A Tour
“Hakhnazaryan had what few other cellists can boast: the power to stand up to such a wall of dark, overpowering Estonian sound… Even his grandly shaped lyrical phrases had the quality of mowing down anything in his way. His tone is as gorgeously sure as it is huge. His encore was a strummed, folk-like obscurity: "Chonguri" by Sulkhan Tsintsadze, a Georgian composer. Hakhnazaryan is clearly on his way to a big career.”
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, November 2013
“Narek Hakhnazaryan, the 2011 recipient of the Gold Medal at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition made an immediate sensation… Even the orchestra musicians seemed to have stopped breathing while the young virtuoso made an impression of artistic subtlety not to be forgotten.”
Gary Lemco, Peninsula Reviews, November 2013
“Hakhnazaryan’s performance of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor was electrifying. Playing with lean, compact sonority, he swept through the opening Allegro at a daringly fierce clip, yet displayed agile dexterity in the cadenza with its forays to the instrument’s high register. The lyrical second theme was assayed with broad, aristocratic authority.
In the slow movement.. Hakhnazaryan’s beautifully varied dynamics emphasized bold contrasts, from a barely audible whisper to a full throttle singing line. He brought a sense of deep sadness to the movement’s closing pages without exaggerated bathos.
In the finale, Hakhnazaryan’s cello sang out at top volume over the full ensemble at top speed. The collaboration between soloist and conductor was tight and well coordinated…
Hakhnazaryan offered a daring encore, Lamentatio, by Giovanni Sollima. In this improvisation on a Romanian folk song, the cellist sang and chanted as he played an austere, almost liturgical melodic line, suddenly taking off with finger-breaking trills and stops at high speed in a tour de force. This young cellist is an amazing musician whose future career holds the greatest promise.”
South Florida Classical Review, November 2013
Aspen Festival Orchestra / David Robertson / Beethoven “Triple” Concerto
“Hakhnazaryan, in a stunning Aspen debut, unfurled the music with grace and clarity, supple in tone, eloquently phrased.”
Harvey Steiman, Aspen Times, August 2013
“When cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan began to play the theme with just the lightest of accompaniment in the strings, all uncertainty was forgotten. At once the confidence of his artistry put the listener at ease, and, knowing well right away that he possessed an impeccable refinement of technique, one could then shift attention to his wonderful phrasing and musical ideas.”
Andrew Crust, Bach Track, August 2013
Eindhoven Muziekgebouw / Recital with Marianna Shirinyan
“Narek Hakhnazaryan, winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, proved himself to be an excellent craftsman. No virtuosity is too much, and he plays with great ease and flexibility, with a beautiful full tone across all dynamic levels. Pianist Marianna Shrinyan is of the same musical calibre. Their interplay is exciting and possessed… A thrilling virtuosity featured in the works of Tchakovsky, Khodoyan, Bronner and Rostropovich. The Debussy Sonata sounded sublime and exquisite in tone. The Shostakovich Sonata was full of energy and fascinatingly sculpted; the silence of some phrases was ‘deafening’. What technical prowess, and what a musical force majeure. Mature mastery was also witnessed in the encore – Vocalise by Rachmaninoff. Straight from the heart to the hearts of the listeners. Brilliant!”
Cornélie Hoendervanger, Eindhovens Dagblad, February 2013
Vancouver Recital Society / Franck, Khudoyan, Bronner & Tchaikovsky
"Haknazaryan showed himself an aristocrat of the cello: all the superlative technical skills you’d expect, but with a sensitive, beguiling feeling for both style and content.
Perhaps most telling was his work with co-recitalist Noreen Polera in Franck’s Sonata. Thickly conceived and ultra-lush in the post-Wagner mode, it is all too often rendered as flat-out melodrama. Here the duo maintained a touching measure of elegant French restraint; rigorously logical pacing made this old warhorse sound fresh and compelling. It was a performance to treasure.
Will Haknazaryan be the 21st century heir of the great Mstislav Rostropovich? Given playing this impressive, I wouldn’t be surprised."
Vancouver Sun, February 2013
Gardner Museum Boston / Recital with Noreen Polera
“Hakhnazaryan technically has it all: fabulous bow technique, beautiful vibrato, mastery of ponticello and every other cello device, and ability to play super-fast, brilliantly. But what really distinguishes his playing is its effect on the listener. There is an immediate connection between his cello playing and those lucky enough to be in the audience. It’s that personal connection, that passion and musical charisma, that not only wins competitions, but people’s hearts as well.”
The Boston Musical Intelligencer, October 2012
City of London Festival / Recital with Denis Kozhukhin / Ysaÿe & Franck
“Hakhnazaryan flings himself into everything he plays, eyes closed in romantic abandon. This made for something absolutely riveting in Eugene Ysaÿe’s solo sonata of 1924. Its wayward romanticism, which could seem puzzling in a more cool, objective approach, carried total conviction through the sheer intensity of each gesture. The perilously high, dying-away ending was a marvel of musicality and technique combined.”
Daily Telegraph, July 2012
“Hakhnazaryan brought out the lyricism of the piece [Ysaÿe’s unaccompanied Cello Sonata], while negotiating all the technical challenges (including copious double-stops) with ease. Hakhnazaryan has a flawless technique... Hakhnazaryan especially excelled in the light-hearted moments, and this was brilliantly demonstrated in the encore – the cello version of Paganini’s Variations on One String on a Theme from “Moses”. He performed it with dazzling virtuosity but without a hint of flashiness – every variation was played with character and it was utterly delightful.”
Bach Track, July 2012
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / cond. Ton Koopman / Chicago Symphony Center / Haydn Cello Concerto No.2 in D major
“Although Haydn wrote two cello concerti, the piece performed on Saturday only became “Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major” in 1961, after the discovery of his earlier work. Narek Hakhnazaryan, who studied under Rostropovich, played the piece—which is less showy, though more technically rigorous than its predecessor—with assured grace, after Thursday and Friday night performances by Yo-Yo Ma, perhaps the hardest cellist to follow since the Armenian’s teacher passed away in 2007. If Ma’s “romantic indulgences” (as the Tribune judged them) were an anachronism on Thursday and Friday, Hakhnazaryan’s performance Saturday was appropriately staid, and the audience thanked him with an ovation that he took with a single, entirely pizzicato encore.”
The Chicago Maroon, May 2012
Piatigorsky International Cello Festival / Bovard Auditorium Los Angeles
Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor
"[Hakhnazaryan] got a near rock star ovation from an audience of screaming cellists in Bovard.... His command of the instrument is extraordinary, and he is clearly going places. He is an assured, flamboyant, old-school Romantic."
Los Angeles Times, March 2012
The Mansion at Strathmore, North Bethesda, Maryland USA / Franck, Chopin & Shostakovich
“Hakhnazaryan’s talent was obvious from the opening phrase of Franck’s late Sonata. Whether pianissimo or triple forte, his bow was ever emphatic, and his emotive power and subjective intensity captured the listener immediately, never letting go.
Hakhnazaryan’s two blazing encores weren’t enough for the audience, who clamored for more."
Washington Post, February 2012
Boston Chamber Music Society / Schumann Fantasiestücke, Op.73
“Why Hakhnazaryan is so highly touted became clear during his performance of Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, on the program’s first half. He gets a radiant sound from his instrument, phrases naturally, and has superb bow control. Perhaps the most impressive thing was that he made it seem so fluid and effortless, even in the vigorous third piece. Here is a musician on the fast track, and deservedly so.”
Boston Globe, October 2011
London Symphony Orchestra / cond. Valery Gergiev / Barbican / Tchaikovsky Variations on a Rococo Theme
“The brightest star of the evening was the 23-year-old Narek Hakhnazaryan, an Armenian cellist of real maturity whose performance of the Variations on a Rococo Theme was characterful and well-judged. Playing on a lovely instrument, Hakhnazaryan had the restraint to remain within the conventions of Tchaikovsky's idiosyncratic piece of Russian retro. But he also has the confidence to bring his own personality to the score and to respond to Gergiev's impulsive pushes.”
Guardian, September 2011
“23-year-old Narek Hakhnazaryan launched into Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme with a tone whose beauty shone all the more brightly for its restraint. Every nuance of this subtle work was lovingly observed, and when he did let rip it was with blazing virtuosity. I would now like to hear what this boy can do with Bach’s solo suites: he could certainly give Yo-Yo Ma a run for his money.”
Independent, September 2011
These are featured projects related to Narek Hakhnazaryan:
Narek Hakhnazaryan in performance
Watch Narek Hakhnazaryan perform the third movement of Rachmaninov Sonata for cello and piano, Op.19, at Jordan Hall, Boston, on 6 February 2011 (the pianist is Noreen Plera):Watch Narek Hakhnazaryan perform Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme with the Moscow City Symphony Orchestra and Michail Jurowski:Watch Narek Hakhnazaryan perform Schumann's Fantasiestuke, Op.73 at the Ravinia Music Festival:> Back to Narek Hakhnazaryan's profile
Tchaikovsky Competition film footage
Narek Hakhnazaryan won the first prize in the cello section of the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, summer 2011.
The competition was filmed. To watch footage of Narek Hakhnazaryan performing in the competition, please read the following:
1) Please go to www.paraclassics.com and follow the link to the International Tchaikovsky Competition.
2) Register your email address and select 'remember me'. (You will not receive...
BBC Music Magazine Interview
RISING STAR: Great artists of tomorrowInterview by Elizabeth DavisBBC Music MagazineFebruary 2013Narek Hakhnazaryan announced his arrival on the international music scene when he took away both the Cello First Prize and Gold Medal at the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition. But, confides the Armenian, it wasn’t his decision to take up the instrument. ‘It was my mother’s choice. My parents are both musicians – my father plays violin in one...