Award-winning pianist Kariné Poghosyan graced the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on February 1, 2023, to celebrate the release of her new album Folk Themes. The album features works from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Komitas Vardapet, Edvard Grieg and Franz Liszt.
Poghosyan stunningly executed her performance of each of the pieces on the album, which is now available for purchase and streaming on all major platforms, including Apple Music and Spotify. Poghosyan is a true performance artist and a brilliant pianist. Audiences are captivated by watching her process, flow and trance-like state through which she bares her emotional world. Poghosyan is able to get to the core of each piece and plays with her entire body.
While playing the ”Three-Fours” (Valse Suite), op. 71 by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, she masterfully integrated both the Western classical styles and the early jazz and ragtime influences that are the signature of this composer’s style. It was as if she was dancing from her hips while playing this piece. However, when she was playing two selections from “Six Dances for Piano” by Komitas Vartabed, her demeanor changed entirely, and it was as if she was playing directly from the heart. These pieces transported the audience to another world, and Poghosyan’s connection to this material was clear. As the concert continued to Grieg and Liszt, Poghosyan added increasing intensity to do these composers justice. Although all four composers fall under the umbrella of classical music, they each have strong ties and influences from the folk music of their cultures (Samuel Coleridge-Taylor to his African roots, Komitas Vartabed to his Armenian roots, Edvard Grieg to his Norwegian roots and Franz Liszt to his Hungarian roots). Poghosyan’s cultural situatedness as an Armenian gives her the ability to understand the importance of honoring and exposing the depth of these roots in the music. To truly honor her background, Poghosyan performed two encores: “Vagharshapat Dance” by Arno Babajanyan and “Toccata” by Aram Khachaturian. The Toccata is her most streamed song on Spotify and a frequent finale for her live performances.
Poghosyan is incredibly detailed in her preparation for a performance, right down to her choice of clothing. For the first half of the concert, she chose a beautiful green dress with red and gold floral trim on the sides, as the first three sets elicited a sense of flowers and springtime. For the Liszt, she changed into a bright green jumpsuit to allow for intensity and power to come through in her playing. It is this attention to detail and thoughtfulness that sets Poghosyan apart from other pianists—to make her a true performance artist. Reflecting on the evening, she told the Weekly, “It’s just such a magical experience of oneness. To have such a large crowd of people where every single one of us – no matter our age, background, race, religion – as one heart, one soul, we are on our feet, we are enjoying, we are beaming with this amazing experience that has just happened, the experience of music, life, livelihood. These are the moments that I always have in my piggy bank to remind myself of why I do what I am doing.”
Poghosyan’s journey to this point in her musical career started when she was just seven years old in Yerevan. That’s when she began piano lessons, referring to herself as a “late-bloomer.” During her interview with the Weekly, she recalled her first recital as a child. She was feeling nervous and went to her teacher for comfort. Her teacher responded by saying, “If you’re scared, go home.” Angered by her teacher’s response, she said a “switch flipped” on-stage. She described a deep love and excitement for the feeling of performing.
Poghosyan was accepted into the Yerevan Conservatory, but she and her parents immigrated to the US before she could start. She credits her drive and strength to watching her parents experience the difficulties of immigration and working hard to build a life in a new country. Poghosyan received her bachelor’s degree from California State University in Northridge. She was encouraged to explore the east coast for her master’s degree. She auditioned and was accepted into the program at the Manhattan School of Music. She received her doctorate and specialized in the music of Khatchaturian for solo piano.
Poghosyan and her parents packed up all their belongings, including a piano, in a U-Haul truck and drove across the country from California to New York in just four days, almost non-stop. Poghosyan was scheduled to perform upon her arrival in New York City. When her father packed the piano into the truck, he left some space so that, during their few driving breaks, Poghosyan could climb through a hole into the back of the truck in the heat of the summer just to practice and keep her fingers warm and in shape. This story is a true testament of her dedication to the craft.
“There’s two specific modes I have,” Poghosyan explained. “I have performance mode and practice mode. In performance mode, I test it out. I set my phone on the piano and see how it goes, how it feels. Then practice mode is like microscopic vision. I will take a four-measure chunk and journal about it,” she noted. “The key is to make the notes to be yours.”
Poghosyan hopes to make classical music accessible and exciting to the general public by infusing depth of emotion into her playing, rather than focusing solely on the technical aspects. Aside from journaling to manage the stressors that come with a performing arts career, she has received inspiration from books such as Open by Andre Agassi, The Five-Second Rule by Mel Robbins, and most recently Finding Me by Viola Davis.
Through these inspirational stories, Poghosyan began creating opportunities for herself. She has put together her own performances, rented her own recital spaces and created an online community to reach people all over the world who enjoy her music. She particularly enjoys connecting with people through her Patreon community, where supporters have access to daily video posts and high-quality online concerts.
When asked if she had any advice for other artists, she stated, “Be strong and do this for you. Do this for that little girl or boy that fell in love with this, because ultimately that is really what matters. The critics and the reviews and the opportunities, God bless, may that all come your way. But really, make that little girl or that little boy happy because they deserve it, they fell in love with it, and they had stars in their eyes saying, ‘I want to do that!’”
I was so fortunate to have attended Kariné Poghosyan’s recent Carnegie Hall concert. It was truly amazing and the audience was totally captivated throughout every note!
Spot on review. What a remarkable performer and person.