Loris Tjeknavorian

LORIS TJEKNAVORIAN has left a trace not only in the musical cultures of Iran and Armenia, his artistic path is related to long periods in the musical centres of different countries. Recognized as one of the brightest conductors of his generation, he has led renowned world orchestras in Austria, the UK, the USA, Canada, Hungary, Denmark, Iran, Finland, Armenia, Russia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, and Israel. His compositions have been performed by symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles in London, Helsinki, New York, Strasbourg, Halle, Tehran, Johannesburg, Haifa, Mexico, and recorded by RCA, Philips, EMI, ASV etc.

He was born in Iran into a family of immigrants from Armenia after the 1915 genocide. From the age of 8 he played the violin, wrote his first piano compositions, and at 16 he formed a four-part choir and organized and conducted his own orchestra in Teheran. He graduated with honours from the Music Academy in Vienna, where he studied violin and composition from 1954 to 1961. During this time he wrote a violin concerto, highly acclaimed and premiered by his teacher Hans-Joachim Drevo, and shortly after his graduation, the music publisher “Doblinger” published four of his piano compositions as well as his Ballet Fantastique. Returning to Iran, he became a lecturer at the Tehran Conservatory of Music and director of the Tehran Music Archives. Tjeknavorian returned to Austria in 1963 to further his studies in Salzburg at the Mozarteum with Carl Orff and was commissioned for the “Schulwerk”, Orff’s system for teaching music. Tjeknavorian composed over 130 short pieces for beginning to advanced students. These are collected in two volumes published by Schott as Bilder Aus Armenia (Pictures from Armenia).

He then pursued conducting studies at the University of Michigan, was immediately invited to be composer-in-residence at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and from 1966 to 1970 – to head of the instrumental and opera departments at Moorhead University in Minnesota. He then returned to Iran, where he became composer-in-residence and principal conductor of the Rudaki Opera House in Tehran. During this time he wrote the dance drama Simorgh, related to Zoroastrian myth, for traditional Iranian instruments. Between 1975 and 1987 he relocated in London, signed an exclusive contract with the RCA record company and made dozens of recordings that brought him fame as an outstanding symphonic conductor. There he created many of his most significant works, and organized the large-scale Music Armenia Festival.

The following years were devoted to the fate of Armenia – after the earthquake in 1988, during his stay in New York, he organized a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall with famous world stars and relocated to Yerevan, where he was appointed Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra (APO). In 11 years, he transformed the orchestra into a renowned, world-class ensemble that toured Europe, the U.S., Canada, Iran, Lebanon, and was ORF’s resident orchestra in Vienna for three years. He has also been active in a wide range of community activities – raising funds across the country for the ruined city of Gyumri, establishing an Academy of Music and Arts and a symphony orchestra there, rebuilding the theatre and television; playing an important role in the campaign for Armenia’s independence in 1991, taking part in the committee for the restoration of the national coat of arms and the choice of an anthem, and ensuring that regular concerts were given during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In 2000, Tjeknavorian returned to his native Iran for good and devoted himself to composing as well as drawing and writing stories. His oeuvre comprises over 70 opuses – 6 operas (most famously Rostam and Sohrab, Mowlana and Shams-e Tabriz, based on Rumi’s poems, and The Final Hour of Sadegh Hedayat), 5 symphonies, symphonic suites, and piano concertos, violin, cello and pipa (Chinese lute), choral works (God is Love, The Life of Christ, Book of Revelation oratorio, Requiem), chamber and piano works and dozens of film music opuses. The wide range of ethnic and cultural influences absorbed during his cosmopolitan career are reflected in his colorful, distinctly individual style: his sacred works show the influence of Eastern Orthodoxy, while his operas and orchestral opuses have elements of Armenian and Persian traditional music.

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