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Interview with Artistic director and Principal Conductor of Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra Eduard Topchyan.

-Mr. Topchyan, the biography of people who have gained achievments and have done great work is always interesting and didactic, especially yours, as you were born in the family of famous artists and speaking about your childhood and youth, naturally, we must also mention them – your grandfather Eduard Topchyan and your father Stepan Topchyan.

-I can’t tell much about my grandfather. Unfortunately I was a little boy when he died and I don’t remember much. But I’ve heard about literary critic Eduard Topchyan from his sons, friends, relatives, acquaintances. I am of the same name as my grandfather and it sometimes becomes a reason to remember him with love, respect, warmth and gratitude. My grandfather has directed the Writers’ Union for 30 years. I think we all inherit some traits of our character from our ancestors. The most striking trait of my maternal grandmother Arshaluys Babayan, a literary critic and professor, was righteousness. Up to this day her students remember how honest and incorruptible she was. That trait is also in my character. No power in the world can make me go against my conscience or justice.

-Almost all your family members were literary critics. How were you infatuated with music?

-My family loved art. We always listened to beautiful, high music; we were interested in painting and theatre. In a word, our life was percolated through art .I entered the college, later I also studied in the Conservatory of Yerevan. Chamber Orchestra was formed in those years. It was a young orchestra, the eldest member of it being 23 years old. I was invited to be a conductor. At first I was a violinist, but I tried and made it. I had successful concerts and journeys. I realized that conducting was my title. I am a successful musician, I’ve conducted in the best European orchestras since I was 26, I’ve had authoritative invitations and I’ve been honored with the highest marks by world – known specialists. I’ve conducted in more than 1800 concerts 1500 of which in Armenia. It’s not a trifle, if you take my age into consideration.

-Actually, you had left your fatherland and lived and worked in Zurich, and then you returned and undertook the work of the principal conductor of Philharmonic Orchestra.

-First of all I’ve never left fatherland. That’s true, I’ve worked in Zurich, but I have always been in contact with Armenia, I’ve always been in my fatherland, I’ve had concerts. When I learnt that Loris Chgnavoryan was leaving the country and a contest was announced for the vacancy of the principal conductor, I decided to participate. I don’t understand those people who leaving their country are entirely assimilated to European cultural life and don’t look back any more.

In the sense of music career, especially in the sense of finance, the performances held in Yerevan, are of course nothing. But there is another psychological and moral problem – the phenomenon of returning to the source, to the beginning. No matter how beautiful and high your flight is, you must return and stand on your land, taking strength, spirit, inspiration for new flights. All the great artists, who are in the international musical scene, live in this way – Sergey Khachatryan, Hasmik Papyan and so on.

-We are speaking about patriotism.

-I never speak about patriotism and I don’t understand the artists who make speeches looking smart and give advice. Moreover, I don’t understand the ominous pessimism of the dissatisfied and the protestants. Those who make patriotism a pose and an aim can’t be patriots. Giving things to your fatherland is neither benevolence nor duty of conscience; it’s like giving yourself. When I have concerts abroad and I see how my Armenian surname raises the word Armenia on people’s lips, my heart rejoices. When my musician friends from abroad begin to look for information about Armenia in encyclopedias and read books about Armenian culture, I feel inspired. When someone speaks badly about Armenia, I am filled with indignation, I quarrel, I feel hurt. Why? I don’t know. And there is no need to understand. I never tell my son that he must love his fatherland, his own birthplace, land, relatives, culture, customs…..but he is fascinated with Armenia and there could be no other way.

-What is the role of Armenian national musical culture in the European cultural inheritance?

-First of all I don’t understand well enough what you want to privatize inserting the word “national” in the expression “Armenian musical culture”. Khachatryan is a famous Armenian composer. I have never thought to what extent he is national and I don’t want to think of it. I can say the same about Bach, Mozart. I play the works of Mansuryan because he is a good composer and not because he is an Armenian. And if someone says that Mozart’s national belonging has any role in the essence and perception of that universal phenomenon, I won’t understand. I can’t understand those who say Khachatryan is greater than Brahms, as Khachatryan is Armenian. I don’t understand those who without knowing the scales and depths of the world culture speak about the exceptional place and role of Armenian culture in the inheritance and preserve the laurel of superiority for Armenia. This presumption hasn’t given and will not give us anything. Besides us other nations also create culture and frankly speaking no less than we do. We exist in the European musical culture in separate names. Our reality is very disposing, elevated. Remember the independence, the victory of the war of Artsakh, the origin of the National army. This ascending wave must have become a spur for culture. The country was liberated from the yoke of alien enslavement, it gained independence, and it began to live independently, autocratically. The Armenian man won the war, saving his lands at the cost of his blood and life. People raised an army. They raised a strong and a powerful army which preserved the achievements of war, guaranteed independent statehood and the victory of people. By the way I have had a chance to be in the army for a few days, to see how people seek to secure the power and the safety of the country. The glory and the honour are theirs. They do their work well. I wish the modern culture and the Armenian artist had as many achievements as the Armenian army and the Armenian soldier.

Category: #03 (919) 26.01.2012 – 01.02.2012, Spiritual-Cultural