Maestro Ashot Tigranyan is the founder, director and soloist of CCCO, the Classical Concert Chamber Orchestra. The sky was bright, the sun rose high for a winter day, yet a nose biting cold made me glad to find refuge under the warm arcades of Saint John’s Smith Square, whom a German pilot decided it’d become a concert hall and not a church a few decades ago.
I was in company of a few young chroniclers from a an online, pop and r’n’b music newspaper. It made up for a generational meet and greet, sometimes addressing the dilemmas of our times between the young and old. Ashot’s eyes and expression carry a certain weight of passion, reminding how musicianship transforms a life, so far that I remain to have witnessed for the worse.
Ashot and his orchestra are currently touring the UK with a final date in Croydon, March 1st
They perform the follwing pieces:
J.S. Bach – Concerto for violin in A minor, BWV1041
A. Vivaldi – The Four Seasons (concertos RV 269, 315, 293, 297)
W.A. Mozart – Concerto for Violin in A major, K. 219
Maestro, the world has changed radically in just a few decades, yet we find you still out and playing Vivaldi – a name hardly meaning anything to a growing number of people. Has the time come for a revival crusade?
Sadly, this generation has lost the idea of who and what is important to music and performing. Of course we do have sound, and we do have voice. The violin and the violinist are imitating the voice. This, in return, generates my one goal: as I play my instrument, I am showcasing the beauty of voice. I am hoping reach the new generation and tell them what should been seen, what could be heard, what they might be missing. Our fathers and grandfathers passed us on a priceless gift, a legacy that has survived for centuries which I’m now carrying. This is no mesh of a paternalistic net I am trying to throw on anybody: things are faster in life when you are shown, taught, and told. Only after do you know where to go.
If I’m not wrong, the CCCO is an orchestra completely of your own. How did the story start?
Yes, that’s my own orchestra. It saw the day back in 2006 in the United States, and more accurately in California. My initial idea was to travel all around the world with fellow musicians, then show our hearts altogether to an audience. We are a group of messengers in performance and speech through the lens of a concert. Each musician, may he know it or not, somehow is a messenger. Music has become very important to us humans for centuries now, and maybe millennia. I believe it helps understanding who we are, why we’re here in this life, find a way to our goal and inspire peace, friendship and positive thoughts when at the same time, constantly more powerful weapons are being conceived to kill in ever greater numbers.
Can you please picture the early days of your musical life?
I started the violin when I was 3 years old. At age 6, I performed in front of an audience of a thousand souls. I used to practice for 8 to 12 hours every day. That’s what preparing for a professional life is. No childhood, no nothing. Later on I went to study at the conservatoire in Moscow under the guidance of the legendary Leonid Kogan. Once done with my masters degree, I travelled around the Soviet Union, touring within three major concert ensembles. In the middle of the eighties, I could emigrate to the United States. Now I’m 59. Looking back at it, it’s been 56 years that I’ve played my violin every day.
Is it hard to put pieces of an orchestra together? It’s a lot a musicians to commit and collaborate with.
Their job is to be ready technically for pieces and the interpretation I implement. My understanding of the composer’s intention must reflect in them, so in other words they are technical tools which I choose to work with. My presentation is virtuoso, from an old Russian virtuoso school. But one of the features we must be proud of is that we are a truly international orchestra. In this regard, technology is accomplishing a real miracle to knot and tie bonds between these musicians from all over the world and me. That wasn’t possible in the past.
What would you advise to a young musician and listener?
On this question I would like divert from the subject a bit if I’m allowed, because I must say that I don’t witness enough classical music being taught in primary schools. My advice is to recall that it develops an entirely different human being, more sensitive and understanding than others. I think it should be mandatory to hear and teach it seriously in all schools. Remembering the sixties, I loved the Beatles. I grew up to that style, and to country music as well! I admit that it speaks to you when you’re young and in good company, it makes you want to dance, etc. But the classical music has an impact on the mind and intellect that is radically different. Children must fall in love with classical.
As I listen to your words, you sound all and only music. Is there a side of you hidden behind the violin?
Business, even though music remains what I’m living for. Not only do I love making business, but this helps setting up your other projects. I landed in the United States 30 years ago. I had 45 dollars in my pocket, a wife, a family… Anything at hand’s reach for a job was good enough to feed my family, at first. Thereafter, I was lucky to meet success in my endeavours, I’ve had more money.
I could invest in property, I owned petrol stations, the future was a little more shiny. Besides music, I’m also fond of chess. Music and chess, that’s it! These are two things I could do forever and ever.
Are you able to foresee any kind of reassuring future for classical music?
To be fair, I don’t know what can be said. My future is here, living, performing, day after day. I am trying to drag youngsters over to take the place. Lots of people like me are striving to pass on their best possible legacy. I’m afraid classical music is a shrinking world.
Any last words to our readers?
Do listen to lots of classical music. I have three children. My son is a conductor. My two daughters are not full-time musicians although they’ve got the level for it. One is a neurologist, the other one is a fashion designer. It became part of their life without forcing them. At no point, must I say, classical music has been a waste of time in their life – it’s all the contrary.