Loris TjeknavorianThursday, May 21, 2020
Loris Tjeknavorian (born 13 October 1937) is an Iranian Armenian composer and conductor.
He is one of the most celebrated cultural figures in Armenia, Iran and Austria.
As one of the leading conductors of his generation, he has led international orchestras throughout the world: in Austria, UK, United States’ Canada, Hungary, Copenhagen, Iran, Finland, USSR, Armenia, Thailand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Denmark, and Israel.
As a composer Tjeknavorian has written 6 operas, 5 symphonies, choral works (among them God is Love, The Life of Christ, the oratorio Book of Revelation, and a requiem), chamber music, ballet music, piano and vocal works, concerti for piano, violin, guitar, cello and pipa (Chinese lute), as well as music for documentary and feature films.
His compositions have been performed by major orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra Helsinki, American Symphony Orchestra in New York, Tehran Symphony Orchestra, Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra, Haifa Symphony Orchestra, the Mexico Symphony Orchestra, London Percussion Virtuosi, Strasbourg Percussion Ensemble and English Chamber Orchestra. He has made some 100 recordings with RCA, Philips, EMI, ASV, and others.
Born in Borujerd, Iran in 1937 to immigrant Armenian parents, Tjeknavorian's early life was succinctly chronicled in the London magazine Gramophone in 1976:
"His father came from Eastern Armenia and his mother had fled from Western Armenia during the 1915 Armenian Genocide…Influenced by three cultures, Armenian, Iranian and Western he benefited from a cosmopolitan upbringing. His grandfather, a doctor, liked to play the violin and as a boy Loris enjoyed listening to professional string-players (Russian, Armenian or Polish immigrants) in local cafés. Although not themselves musical, his parents wanted all three children (one boy, two girls) to play musical instruments. Eight-year-old Loris was given a violin. Despite the lack of a teacher, the boy began to study in earnest; before long he had composed a number of piano pieces, with no formal instruction whatsoever. At 16 he formed a four-part choir and organized and conducted his own orchestra in Teheran. A year later he was ready to leave for the Vienna Academy of Music as a violin and composition student. While there, he wrote a violin concerto, which received the ultimate endorsement from his teacher, Hans-Joachim Drevo, who was the soloist in the work's première. Tjeknavorian graduated with honours." (Gramophone, November 1976)
Shortly after his graduation, the Austrian music publisher Doblinger published four of his piano compositions as well as his Ballet Fantastique for three pianos, celeste and percussion in Vienna.
Following this fruitful period of education, Tjeknavorian went back to Iran in 1961, where he taught music theory at the Tehran Conservatory of Music. At the same time, he was appointed director of Tehran's Music Archives and put in charge of collecting and researching traditional and modern Iranian folk music and instruments. He mounted the first Archives exhibition to great success, and began work on an opera based on the epic poem of Rostam and Sohrab.
Tjeknavorian returned to Austria in 1963 to further his studies in Salzburg at the Mozarteum. There, he met the renowned composer Carl Orff, who was to become the young musician's mentor and enthusiastic supporter. On hearing Tjeknavorian play sections of his opera Rostam and Sohrab, Orff offered him a full one-year scholarship to stay in Salzburg to complete the first draft of the opera. In addition, Orff commissioned Tjeknavorian to compose piano music based on Armenian music 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 called Kaleidoscope for Piano, portions of which were also published by Schott as Bilder Aus Armenia (Pictures from Armenia).
Tjeknavorian moved to the United States in 1965, where he began to study conducting at the University of Michigan. From 1966 to 1967 he was appointed composer-in-residence at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and from 1966 to 1970 head of the instrumental and opera departments at Moorhead University in Minnesota.