By Nancy Kalajian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BOSTON — In baseball, you might walk, strike out or make some hits. In the musical field, one talented cellist is following in the direction of baseball and making some home runs, perhaps even grand slams, with numerous well-applauded national, international — as well as local — performances.
Though cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan has had a chance to learn about baseball while living in the Boston area during the past year, becoming one of the sport’s biggest fans, he hasn’t yet attended a Red Sox game. Practicing cello an average of two to three hours each day, performing and being involved with the musical excitement rampant at the New England Conservatory (NEC) has kept Hakhnazaryan a busy young man. This I learned as we casually sipped berry-infused tea at a cafe near the New England Conservatory (NEC). One of only two students in NEC’s prestigious Artist Diploma program this year, the 21-year-old cellist has enjoyed studying with Laurence Lesser who holds the Walter W. Naumburg Chair in Music at the New England Conservatory. “He is incredible,” says Hakhnazaryan.
To simply say that Hakhnazaryan is from a musical family would be an understatement. His dad, now a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, played violin for 26 years in the respected Gomidas Quartet and performed in 40 countries. His mom and brother are pianists while another brother is a conductor.
Hakhnazaryan grew up in Yerevan, Armenia, and started playing cello when he was 6. He studied there for years at the Sayat Nova Music School. At 11, he moved with his mother to Moscow so that he could study cello at the Moscow Conservatory. “My mom was my pianist for 15 years,” says Hakhnazaryan proudly. Most recently, she accompanied him on a tour that took them to Rockville, Md., Jacksonville, Fla., Pittsburgh, Penn., Bridgeport, Conn. and even a New England Conservatory outreach concert at the historic Old South Meeting House in Boston.
Adjusting to life in Boston seems to have been a comfortable transition and he reports on the ease of taking public transportation. Actually, it was Kim Kashkashian, a noted violist, who helped him find his conveniently located apartment in Jamaica Plain. Discussing the winter weather here and how it compares to Moscow, he says it isn’t cold here in Boston, just windy. The idea of not having school on snow days is a new concept to adjust to, admits Hakhnazaryan. “There are so many snow days here. People in Russia are shocked to hear about them.”
Describing Boston as “a great city,” he said he feels “it has a great atmosphere, an educational atmosphere and is very cultural. It reminds me of Europe more than any other city.”
During his time in Boston, Hakhnazaryan has become friends with Ara Arakelian, president of the Friends of Armenian Culture Society (FACS), and soprano Elvira Ouzounian, and their families. Last year, Hakhnazaryan’s Boston debut was at the FACS Annual Armenian Night at the Pops, where he performed to rave reviews. He will be back at Symphony Hall for a concert on April 7.
A winner of the 2008 Young Concert Artists Auditions, he will perform Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto (composed in 1850 in Dusseldorf) at the Symphony Hall concert with Conductor Hugh Wolff and the NEC Philharmonia, marking the orchestra’s first appearance there in more than a decade. For that concert, Hakhnazaryan will play on a Storioni cello, built in 1779, on loan by Christopher Reuning at Reuning and Sons Violin. “It’s an amazing instrument. It almost plays by itself,” he says with a chuckle.
In 2008, he made his New York City debut at Zankel Hall, at Carnegie Hall, and received favorable media reviews.
For tickets, visit facsboston.org.