Bashmet says he was honored to open the
newly refurbished hall..
The blue tarpaulins that have been wrapped around
the Aram Khachatryan Concert Hall for almost two
years were stripped away last week to reveal a
clean and renovated building.
Throughout Khachatryans anniversary year,
the only statue in Yerevan in honor of the composer
stood next to a tent hiding the debris from the
Only on November 22 were flowers put at the foot
of his statue.
The same day the long-awaited re-opening of the
hall was marked with a concert dedicated to Khachatryans
centenary by the Moscow Soloists Orchestra headed
by world-renowned musician, violist and conductor
The anniversary concert was the first time Bashmet
has been in Armenia since 1988.
Its a great honor for me to perform
for the great composers anniversary. Unfortunately
he didnt compose music for chamber orchestra
and we cannot play his works. However, today from
the heart we dedicate all the compositions we
play to a giant of the centurys music,
Armenias First Lady, Bella Kocharyan, and
numerous honored guests were present at the concert.
Despite ticket prices ranging from 5,000 to 25,000
drams ($9 to $45), which were expensive for ordinary
music fans, every one of the 1,600 tickets for
the concert was sold.
In a welcoming address, Bashmet described Armenians
as very talented and creative, saying he felt
a need to perform for them and visit the republic
since my connections with this country are
not artificial but spiritual.
He attributed this connection to conductor David
Khanjyan and composer Edward Mirzoyan. With warm
feelings, Bashmet recalled that after some concerts
in Yerevan in the 1990s they had to stay five
extra days in Armenia because of the fog.
They were taking care of me during those
five days. I felt myself in Edward Mirzoyans
home as in my mothers home, Bashmet
years after his birth, the composer watches
over his hall.
That friendship led Bashmet to record Mirzoyans
symphony for string instruments and kettle drum
in the United States together with the Philadelphia
When they recorded my work, a terrible thought
invaded my mind as I realized that we didnt
have enough money to pay for that. Bashmet looked
at me generously and said that playing my composition
was more valuable than any money, recalls
These days, besides his work with the Moscow Soloists
Orchestra, Bashmet gives master classes in the
United States, Japan and Europe. He also makes
recordings in London at the BBC studios, and in
Germany and France. He is an art director of the
well-known Moscow December Evenings
festival and founder of the leading competition
for violists in Russia.
During Soviet times, authorities confiscated 90
per cent of his earnings from concerts. Bashmet
received seven offers to live and work in Europe
during the years of changes, when many talented
artists were leaving their homeland. And all members
of the orchestra's 24 musicians left for Paris
where they sought political asylum, taking with
them even their pets. However, Bashmet returned
to his homeland without his orchesta and in 1992
created the Moscow Soloists Orchestra, whose performances
have lit up the best concert halls of the world
and have won two Grammy Awards.
He recalled 1988, the year of the Spitak earthquake,
when a concert was organized in London on his
initiative and sponsored by Prince Charles. Ray
Charles, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and other stars
took part in the event, which raised about $1
million for Armenia.
But Bashmet insists that Armenians were saved
not by financial aid but thanks to their talent.
This country has a great future as it doesnt
forget about cultural centers despite being under
the pressure of social problems. Im glad
that I am the first to perform in this renewed
hall, said Bashmet.
The new hall's look hasnt changed much,
but changes in the performance quality are very
noticeable. The audience noticed the refurbished
stage, which was glittering under the light of
new technology projectors in harmony with the
It was planned to complete the reconstruction
work of Yerevan Philharmonic Hall before Bashmets
concert and conduct an official opening ceremony
However, they didnt manage to be in time.
The hall is ready to receive an audience,
but the final re-opening will take place in the
middle of December, says the director of
the hall, Ruzanna Sirunyan.
The roof of the building has been completely renovated,
along with toilets and the make-up rooms. An air-conditioning
system has also been installed.
As in all the cultural centers reconstructed with
funding from the Lincy Foundation, a local boiler-room
has been constructed. But, like the others, the
management of the concert hall also faces the
unresolved problem of covering the heating expenses
We hope that the problem of heating will
be resolved and in winter the audience will be
able to enjoy music without wearing overcoats,