Wigmore Hall Recital 2009 / Review
Sergey Khachatryan at Wigmore Hall
It’s the hardest lesson to master, because it can’t be taught. Sure, the musician has found out how to play Bach, Brahms or Beethoven, but has he found his own voice, too — the one that ultimately draws the audience to come back to him?
When it comes to Sergey Khachatryan, the answer is a huge, huge yes. There’s a big, glossy heap of talented violinists at the moment, but what separates this young Armenian from the pack isn’t just the rich sound of his Strad (the 1708 “Huggins”, if you’re interested in such things); it’s how forcefully, how individually he deploys it. By the end of this recital, delivered with another Khachatryan (Lusine, his sister) at the piano, I felt so convinced that his way was going to be the right way that what the critical pen was scribbling on the critical notebook seemed pretty irrelevant.
Perhaps the biggest surprise about Khachatryan is that his choices aren’t the obvious ones: he’s not one of those firecrackers who confuse pace and volume with energy and intensity. Opening with Bach’s unaccompanied D minor Partita he shirked anything to do with lean, limber Bach and went for old-fashioned, spacious Romanticism. But there was a wealth of expressive detailling here: the Courante was driven and tense; an intimate Sarabande breathed into life like a whisper in the dark. And then that mighty Chaconne, in Khachatryan’s hands a restless search for beauty that felt like an epic but never felt overwrought: it drew you in, rather than reaching beyond Bach’s natural austerity.
Brahms’s Violin Sonata No 1 came next, introducing a sibling partnership that clearly thought the same way: reflection over showmanship. Violinist and pianist handled it with rapt affection and the sort of noncholant, natural charm that could only mean hours in the practice room.
Then, another demon of the repertoire, Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata, and another surprise. Its obsessive rhythms and repeated refrains normally scream high-octane drama, but it was the soulful tang of Khachatryan’s Strad that led the way, and what stayed in the mind was actually the soft, middle movement, a tender set of variations served up with sprung, silken elegance. A spell-binding encore, an arrangement of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, rounded things off. By then, the notebook had long been abandoned: one for the personal archive instead.
The Independent on Sunday, Feature
Close-up: Sergey Khachatryan
He's dazzled the orchestral world – now the violinist is keeping it in the family
"I never counted myself as a child prodigy," says violinist Sergey Khachatryan. Others may beg to differ. Born in Armenia, he first picked up the violin aged five, only because his mother, father, and sister Lusine (pictured here with Sergey) were all pianists and another would have been "too much for one house". Within five years the family had moved to Germany and Sergey was playing concertos with professional orchestras. By 15, he had become the youngest-ever winner of the Sibelius violin competition in Helsinki.
A dizzy career ascent, then, but one during which he remained level-headed. "You see other young violinists getting complexes about going on stage because of the pressure put on them by parents and teachers, but that was never the case with me," he says. "I was going to a normal school and having a normal child's life."
Now 23, Khachatryan has been repeatedly acclaimed for an expressiveness beyond his years; one critic described his performance of Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto at the 2005 Proms as "one of the most mature and complete interpretations of this piece it is possible to imagine".
Aside from his orchestral work, he regularly partners his sister in recitals: they're at the Wigmore Hall this week, offering a programme of Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach.
Whatever may lie ahead, his main concern is conserving the passion that has propelled him this far. "You see many of today's artists go out on stage and you can tell they're there because it's their 'job' – I'm afraid of that word. Every time I go out on stage, I want to be in a special state, to create a special atmosphere."
Sergey and Lusine Khachatryan play the Wigmore Hall, London W1, on Wednesday (www.wigmore-hall.org.uk, 020 7935 2141)
By Hugh Montgomery, The Independent on Sunday, 15 March 2009
Tchaikovsky Concerto / Philharmonia Orchestra / Jukka-Pekka Saraste / Royal Festival Hall
...The jewel in the crown of tonight’s concert was Sergey Khachatryan’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. His playing was astonishingly innocent, with his Stradivarius creating a pure sound, rich and extremely clear...
...When listening to Khachatryan play, one cannot help but feel one is in the presence of a master. It is rare to find such a selfless soloist – one gets the sense with him that it is all about the music.
Carla Rees, MusicWeb, 20 February 2008
Prokofiev Concerto Nr.2 / Los Angeles Philharmonic / Stéphane Denève
Sergey Khachatryan, 22, captivates Hollywood Bowl crowd
...Poetic, introspective, effortlessly virtuosic, Khachatryan mined the classical lyricism of the concerto's first movement, the sweet and sour nostalgia of its glorious slow movement and the fiery gypsy rhythms of the last. His sound was vibrant and rich, and his interpretation was mature.....
By Chris Pasles, Los Angeles Times, 23 August 2007
Sergey Khachatryan and the RSO Prague, Tchaikovsky Concerto
“Although Sergey Khachatryan is celebrated as one of the world-wide best young violinists, he is in a very positive way, still introverted. His wonderfully through-formed tone distorts itself for beauty. He definitely earned the great applause. Next time, the only half-full Munich Philharmonie should be sold out!”
Harald Eggebrecht, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 05.10.2004
“Sergey Khachatryan shows his great talent at his concert in“Alte Oper”
Can a young violinist play a mature and complex piece, such as Shostakovitch’s violin concerto in a minor? Yes he can! If his name is Sergey Khachatryan, aged 19! His interpretation caught the audience at once.
Axel Zibulski, Offenbacher Post, 18.11.2004
Ladies Morning Musical Club Concert / Montréal, Canada
“Young Armenian fiddler stands out in growing crowd.
Young fiddlers are not exactly in short supply these days: A few more and we will have too many. It is safe to say, however, that there will always be demand for players of the calibre of Sergey Khachatryan, who played yesterday for the Ladies’ Morning Musical Club.
Short, dark and handsome, this 19-year-old Armenian conveyed serious intent with his very presence on the stage of Pollack Hall. It was the playing of course, that settled the matter, Bach`s Solo Sonata in A Minor- especially the Fuga movement- established his excellent ear and total freedom from technical encumbrances. With a strong, ardent tone, Khachatryan could adopt the slow tempo he preferred in the Andante. This was followed by a finale in which the sudden, animating shifts of loud and soft were perfectly calibrated.”
Arthur Kaptainis, The Gazette, 01.11.2004
Musikfest Bremen 2004
“Not often does an audience hear such affectionate and dreamy details, crowned with the beautifully played Adagio…”
Simon Neubauer, Weser Kurier, 23.09.2004
Sibelius concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra and Roberto Abbado
“Young violinist plays like a poet…….
Khachatryan, born in 1985 in Yerevan, Armenia, is the kind of poet that you hope to find but sometimes despair of locating in the crowded market of fiercely good competition winners. In 2000, he did win the International Jean Sibelius Competition in Helsinki, Finland. The judges knew what they were doing. On Saturday, Khachatryan played with an uncanny maturity and a refreshing lack of artifice. This musician is going places fast. Let's hope he'll be invited back to Northeast Ohio soon.”
Elaine Guregian, Akron Beacon Journal, Sunday March 14, 2004