Armenian State Symphony Orchestra on tour

Sergey Smbatyan looks ahead to Armenian State Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming European tour. 

In January 2020 I will be leading the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra (where I am principal conductor and artistic director) in a European tour with violin virtuoso Maxim Vengerov, organised by the European Foundation for Support of Culture.

We will be performing in England, Germany, Austria, Russia and the Czech Republic for the eight-concert tour, which will take place over three weeks in prestigious venues across these five countries. We will present a programme that will see Eastern and Western cultures delicately blended together, with rich Armenian pieces enveloped around much-loved German and French works.

This is a very special tour for us. Firstly, to have Maxim Vengerov touring with us is a great honour in itself. In my opinion, Vengerov is the best violinist in the world, and so for him to join us in these concerts, and for the Armenia State Symphony Orchestra (ASSO) to learn from his great mastery as they follow him, is a momentous occurrence for us.

Secondly, embarking on this extensive European Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not many orchestras get the chance to have, and consequently is a pivotal moment for us as we raise awareness about the ASSO to new and engaged audiences, both musically and culturally. It’s also a measure of success for our musicians to have got to this stage in their professional careers, where they are touring internationally for a specific stretch of time.

Armenian State Symphony Orchestra
Armenian State Symphony Orchestra

I founded the ASSO in 2005 when I was just eighteen, and we’ve since developed a distinctive, ample sound all whilst presenting over 50 concerts a year and facilitating various music and educational initiatives for young people to help draw their attention to classical music. With our backdrop of experience and passion for sharing exquisite music, 2020 felt like the right time for us to present our orchestra to European audiences.

The ASSO has unique, special and charming qualities, and we have wanted to share our sound live across Europe for some time. It has taken a lot of planning, as we wanted to make sure we played in Europe’s premiere venues. The European Foundation for Support of Culture organised our tour in a way that ensured we will be playing in some of the greatest venues around the world, from the Barbican Hall to The Wiener Musikverein.

Many prospective audience members may not yet be familiar with the ASSO, so the tour will give them to chance to cultivate their sense of our ensemble and the music we bring to the forefront. We aspire for our concerts to be refreshing to audiences; we always strive to programme works that are harmonious with each other, whilst coupling world-famous western works with unique new Armenian pieces.

The ASSO and Vengerov will perform a new pieces by the American-Maltese composer Alexey Shor, including Barcarolle and Lonely Sail. Both of these stirring works explore human emotions in a particular moment in time. We will balance these with two classic works: Violin Concerto No 1 by Bruch and the beguiling Tzigane by Ravel, pieces that highlight Vengerov’s technical genius.

We are also proud to present the European premiere of Armenian composer John Ter-Tatevosian’s Second Symphony The Fate of Man, a powerful piece inspired by Mikhail Sholokhov’s short story of the same name about a truck driver who is forced to join the army during WWII before he is sent to a concentration. The piece is ripe with emotional force and expertly conveys our innate and awe-inspiring human capacity to cope with the hardships of life through a zest for life and a strong will.

We hope that many of you reading this today will be able to join us for the UK’s phase of the tour, a concert held at the Barbican Hall on 14 January. There, we look forward to presenting a sophisticated and new ensemble to you, with an atmospheric programme that will allow you to experience the orchestra in all its glory.

Click here to find out more information about the Barbican concert on 14 January.