Interview with Pianist Patil Harboyan
Interview with Pianist Patil Harboyan –
By Tina Soulahian
A Unique Release by Canadian Artists: Music from Armenia for Cello and Piano
Armenian classical music was brought to new heights and international recognition through the talented duo of pianist Patil Harboyan and cellist Heather Tuach with their recent anthology release: Music from Armenia for Cello and Piano.
Critically acclaimed across the globe, this CD has been making waves for its uniqueness (the only recording of Armenian classical music for cello and piano), but also for the duo’s performance and for producing an unbelievably beautiful recording that appeals to all types of music lovers.
The CD features 13 folk-inspired works by Komitas, Stepanian, Babajanian and Arutiunian.
How old were you when you first started playing the piano? Was it love at first note?
I started playing when I was seven. Coming from a musical family, it was a natural process to pick up an instrument. My mom wanted me to study the violin, but I was stubborn and kept asking for piano lessons.
How did you meet Heather and can you tell us a little about your relationship with her?
Heather and I met in Stonybrook, NY where we were both completing Doctoral degrees in music. We played in a trio together and enjoyed it so much we ended up playing as duos in all our recitals. We’ve been friends and partners on stage ever since. After completing our degrees, Heather moved to the UK and I moved back to Montreal. And despite the distance, we collaborate for concerts and projects, including the recent recording. The friendship keeps the musical partnership human and real. Musically, we get along wonderfully. Finding partners in chamber music can be very challenging; different opinions and characters play a huge role in rehearsals. In our case, we often have the same thoughts, ideas and approach about the music we play, and so playing together comes very naturally. And when we don’t agree on a specific point, we are both very open to hearing out the other’s suggestion. That’s the beauty of chamber music; there is always dialogue- both in rehearsals and on stage.
How and when did you come up with the idea of this recording?
We came up with this idea about two years ago. We were invited to give a concert in Newfoundland, and I had suggested adding an Armenian piece to the program (the Arutiunian Impromptu). The piece was a definite hit, the audience loved hearing something different and new. After the concert, there were so many questions about Armenia, our culture and specifically our music, we were impressed by the audience’s reaction. Heading back home, Heather’s father suddenly said, “Maybe you should do a recording of Armenian music!” And after some research, we found out that there had never been a recording done of Armenian music for cello and piano. We proposed our project to Stephen Sutton, CEO of Divine Art Records, and he was interested. It took off from there.
If you had to choose a piece as your favorite, which one would it be?
All the pieces on this recording have a special place in my heart. However, If I were to choose one that stands out I would have to pick the Stepanian Sonata. This is the first ever professional recording done of this piece. We came across it on youtube, played by the wonderful Armenian cellist Madea Abrahamyan, and we fell in love with it! It’s an absolutely gorgeous piece and it deserved to be heard. That’s when the search for the score started. After almost 6 months of contacting everyone I could think of on every continent, we were finally able to find the music from a friend in Alabama, believe it or not!
What was the most challenging aspect of releasing such an album?
To begin with, this project would not have happened without the support of the people around us, starting with our families. There were many challenges, starting with finding all the scores. Unfortunately, Armenian classical music has not benefited from the stewardship it truly deserves and some of the music (especially when written during the Soviet period) is extremely hard to find, all the more reason why it deserves to be recorded, heard and preserved. We were lucky to have the help of Aram Talalyan in Yerevan, who at one point emailed me about 30MB of scanned music scores from Armenia. Another part of the music was actually brought from Yerevan and Los Angeles by family members.
Another major challenge was the logistics of planning the recording session. This project was originally planned to take place in London, UK. The church where we were to record, the recording engineer, hotel and flights were all booked when I was restricted from flying in my 7th month of pregnancy. That’s when everything shifted towards Montreal. Luckily, the recording engineer Carl Talbot from Analekta (who also records for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra) got interested in our project. Yamaha kindly loaned a Concert Grand piano for the recording session. That’s when it started to feel like things were starting to fall into place. We recorded for about eight hours a day, for three days in a row.
Let me just add that the snowstorm on the first day of the recording session made it a memorable day!
Your critically acclaimed CD has been making a lot of waves in the world of music, could this be the beginning of a career in recording?
I loved every aspect of the recording process, and definitely plan on working on other recording projects. The satisfaction of having a piece played in the exact way I want it to sound is incredible. That being said, performing live has characteristics that a recording does not offer neither to the performer nor to the audience. For example, in live performances I can actually feel the energy in the audience when I am able to connect and converse through the music I play. That kind of interaction is absolutely priceless for me. Plus, there is the spontaneity element in performing live; I would never play the same piece the same way twice.
Are you planning any concerts in the near future?
In the coming year, most of my efforts will be towards promoting this CD and introducing it to various communities. Our Montreal launch will be on October 25th at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur. Los Angeles will be the next one in the spring. After that, we have plans for New York and the greater Massachusetts area. I think 2015 is the most opportune time to talk about Armenian music. As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, it’s also important to show the world that Armenians as a nation are very much alive, celebrating their cultural treasures.
How has the non-Armenian public reacted to the CD?
I’m delighted to say that the reviews we have had so far from professional classical music critics have all been very positive. A significant part of the CD was also aired on Radio-Canada. I am very happy that we are able to introduce our beautiful culture, though a very tiny portion of it, to a greater audience through this CD. We also made sure that the booklet provided sufficient and interesting information in three languages, English, French and Armenian. Most critics have also mentioned that favorably in their reviews. On-line and in-store sales also reflect a positive reception so far.