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Mаry Mamyan

Conductor/Violinist Maxim Vengerov: 'Yerevan holds a special place in my heart'

“I highly appreciate you unprecedented contribution to world culture and classical music. You have great composers, Khachatryan, Babajanyan, and others; countless geniuses who were born and lived here, who created culture.” Grammy winner Maxim Vengerov.

Maxim Vengerov had his first solo concert in Yerevan on November 28. While he has appeared as a conductor in Yerevan years ago, this time, Vengerov took the stage with his own program. He was accompanied by pianist Vahagn Papyan. The two have been collaborating for the past twenty years and are close friends away from the concert hall. In fact, Vengerov received his first music lessons from Papyan.

“As a violinist and director, I see myself as the torchbearer of the best of Russian traditions,” says Vengerov. “The more I perform classical pieces, the more the borders of those geniuses, Brahms, Shostakovich, who have contributed to world culture, open up.”

Vengerov relates that as a child he dreamt about becoming a conductor, like his mother. But he was told that before becoming a conductor, he would have to master a musical instrument. So, he chose the violin. The 39 year-old musician only began to seriously hone his skills as a director in 2007.

“I believe that it’s a profession that stays with you for life,” he says. “My three professions, being a director, violinist, and professor, have brought me great joy in my musical career.” Since 2005, Vengerov has held the position of Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London

Vengerov told me that every 3-4 years he’ll request that composers write new works especially for him. He’s now in negotiations with several composers.

“It’s important for me to perform new works, all the while without forgetting g the old,” Vengerov says. “As Brahms used to say, ‘I preserve the traditions, both old and good.”

He regrets that his plans to organize a concert of the works of Aram Khachatryan with the New York Philharmonic ten tears didn’t pan out.

“But I keep thinking about it. It’s something I can’t avoid,” Vengerov says.

He says that each composer dictates his/her own rules of the game, and that this demands that a musician study new techniques.

In 1997, he became the first classical musician to be appointed as UNICEF’s Goodwill Envoy for Music, and has met and performed for children in such places, as Uganda, Thailand and Kosovo. He plans to return to Africa.

“The violin recognizes no borders. It’s the language closest to me and I uncover new things all the time,” he says.

Over the years, Vengerov has attracted an audience by remaining faithful to tradition. He points to some in the classical music world who are more concerned with image than tradition and argues that such individuals make concessions in the end.

“If we begin to think that playing Bach is boring, that in itself is a concession, a negative,” Vengerov says.

The musician says that it is important for the audience to be knowledgeable, of quality. Thus, he prefers that it be stable, albeit small in numbers. Of prime importance for Vengerov is to help spur the development of culture and to increase people’s love for it.

“Each artist must feel a responsibility to preserve that spiritual atmosphere. I feel that my responsibility is to grow as a musician,” he says. “When I appear on stage, my energy level rises. It’s like a magnet. I don’t do anything special. Music is our soul. Performing classical music imparts boundless happiness.”

Regarding his personal life, Vengerov confesses that Yerevan has helped him in this respect. Yerevan was the first city he visited together with his sweetheart, Olga Gringolts. They stayed for one week and got married in November of 2011.

“I want to thank-you for that,” he says with a smile. “It’s important to meet someone at the right place and time.”

They have two girls; Liza and Polina. Maxim Vengerov wants to raise his children in a musical milieu and to latter take up whatever instrument they might fancy.

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