NEW YORK—It was a presentation of Armenian Youth Talent competition finalists, and renowned professional musicians, at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall, on Sept. 17. The special event was dedicated to the 26th anniversary of Armenian independence, and presented by Direct Help for Armenian People (DHAP), and its founder and president, Dr. Svetlana Amirkhanian.
With the concert stage festooned with a large bouquet of fall season flowers in the colors of the Armenian flag, the enthusiastic audience was warmly welcomed by mistress of ceremonies Eugenia Sarian, a previous DHAP winning performer. This was a recital of preteen and teenage performers, with bright futures ahead of them.
The concert began with a rousing rendition of Arno Babajanyan’s well-known “Azg Parapantz” and “Yerevan,” joyfully sung by the costumed 16-member preteen Hamazkayin “Arekag” Choir, conducted by their musical director Vagarshak Ohanyan. These numbers were followed by Armen Martirosyan’s “Haykakan Banak,” each number garnering loud cheering and applause.
Several young gifted pianists shared their talents, including Arpi Bakshian, Eliz Ohanian, Jero Meradian, and Andre Boldi. Two of Arno Babajanian’s deeply heartfelt piano compositions, “Melody” and “Elegia,” were offered with great feeling and skillful technique by Michael Khoury and Nareg Balian, respectively. Both young artists were In Armenia last summer and participated in a group of 10 young Armenian youngsters who gave a patriotic concert, organized by Dr. Amirkhanian, for Armenian soldiers.
The only singer in the group, Anahit Indehigulyan, performed a passionately memorable “Martiki Yerg,” and Vahn Mouradian presented on the cello another one of Babajanyan’s most beautiful and soul-filled works, “Vocalise.”
Thirteen-year-old cellist Laura Navasardian, a winner of two international competition in 2014 and 2016, tackled Enrique Granados’s demanding ”Intermezzo,” displaying her flawless technique and long sweeping phrases played with warm and lush tones.
At the conclusion of each performance, each young musician received deserved plaudits from the audience, as well as a certificate and a monetary award. The 2017 judges for the Armenian Youth Talent Competition were pianist Lusine Badalyan, composer and pianist Karen Hakobyan, St. Vartan Cathedral Choir Director Khoren Mekanejian, baritone Vagharshak Ohanyan, pianist Karine Poghosyan, and violinist Diana Vasilyan.
Internationally Recognized Musicians
Following intermission, three renowned musicians took center stage, cellist Suren Bagratuni and pianist Lilit Navasardian, both born in Yerevan, and Ukrainian-Armenian-American cellist Marta Bagratuni.
Suren Bagratuni, winner of the Silver Medal at the 1986 International Tchaikovsky Competition, and an acclaimed international cello soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician, tackled the vry demanding modern solo work “Sonata” by Adam Khudoyan, playing with awe-inspiring technique and passion. He was joined by Marta Bagratuni, who has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, for another of Khudyan’s modern compositions, “Nostalgia.”
Both cellists performed Che Sharadyan’s solemn, flowing version of “Amen, Hayr Surb,” a deeply spiritual work, with Marta Bagratuni accompanying the moving performance with her delicate soprano voice.
Suren Bagratuni and Marta Bagratuni were joined by pianist Lilit Navasardyan, who has performed throughout Armenia, Russia, and the United States, in two difficult compositions, Franz Schubert’s harmonically beautiful “Adagio” for two cellos and piano, and Joseph Handel’s “Andante and Allegro in G Minor.” The three acclaimed professionals blended together showing great musicality and understanding, and played like one.
Their outstanding performance was greeted with a long, sustained standing ovation, and several bouquets of flowers were presented to them by the young talented DHAP competition winners.
Following the concert, Dr. Svetlana Amirkhanian expressed gratitude to the parents for their encouragement to the young talents, and to Ardemis Nazarian and the Nazarian Family Foundation for their longstanding dedication and philanthropy to DHAP. She also thanked Drs. Kenn and Irene Kakossian, and Edward and Carmen Gulbenkian, for their generous contributions.
A crystal award was presented to Suren Bagratuni by Dr. Amirkhanian, who also expressed appreciation to the professional musicians. She expressed special thanks to her assistant Marina Bagdasarova, who made a presentation of a special certificate from Armenia to Dr. Amirkhanian.
Honored guest Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, pastor of the St. Illuminator Armenian Cathedral, delivered his appreciation to all the performers, and read a portion of United Nations Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanian’s message, in which he congratulated all the finalists of the 2017 Armenian Youth Talent Competition, and thanked them for sharing their “talent and the fruit of their hard work. I am deeply touched by your strong dedication to the wealth of Armenian culture, by the pride and confidence in manifesting your identity,” the message read, and concluded with the Ambassador’s wishing them “every success in your future endeavors.”