Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian
The world premiere of The King Cyrus Symphonic Suite: From Birth to the Proclamation of Human Rights will be held for August 10, 2013 in San Francisco. Composed and conducted by Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian and performed by the San Francisco Philharmonic Orchestra, a specially assembled 77-piece orchestra, the symphonic suite will feature performances by soprano Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai, pianist Tara Kamangar, with narration performed by Houshang Touzie. The San Francisco Philharmonic Orchestra is comprised of the best musicians from the Bay Area's most elite performing institutions including symphony, opera, and ballet organizations.
Maestro Tjeknavorian composed the first version of the King Cyrus Symphonic suite in 1972 for the 2,500 anniversary celebration of the Iranian empire. It was performed in the presence of kings, queens and heads of state from across the world at the ancient Persian city of Persepolis. A few years ago, he revised and expanded the composition into a symphonic suite in three movements portraying important episodes in the life of Cyrus the Great based on the writings of Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon.
Here is a short interview of Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian conducted by the soprano Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai.
Q: What are you trying to inspire in to your audience by this performance?
I wanted to create a tribute to a great man and a king of many countries who was a democratic ruler and the founder of the Iranian empire. Cyrus was a forward thinker; he was a great king because he freed so many people from slavery and he was unique because he respected his subjects' belief systems--he didn't force people to think the way he wanted to and for this he was an iconoclast of his time.
Q: Can you tell us about the expansions that you added to the composition to reflect particular episodes in King Cyrus' life?
The first version was written 35 years ago to celebrate the 2,500 year anniversary of the Iranian Empire featuring aspects of Cyrus and the history of Persepolis. This work focuses solely on Cyrus. With the assistance of the Greek historians Herodotous and Xenophon I expanded the work into a proper symphonic suite. The narration is also a new element and is written in the first person. The character of Cyrus addresses his audience directly about his destiny including early segments from his young life where his grandfather was trying to kill him. By a miracle he survived to come to power and fulfill his destiny as a great ruler.
Q: Did you find it challenging to create a musical vision that conveys the magnitude of King Cyrus' influence?
Over the years I've read many books about Cyrus and I visited Persepolis but I knew that I always wanted to compose something and one day recently I felt like I was ready and so I did. I hope I have done justice by it, but the audience will decide.
Q: Are there specific segments of the symphonic piece that you are most excited about?
There are 16 episodes in this suite and in one I incorporate an ancient Jewish Passover melody and I like that part very much. But this question is like asking a father or mother which child you like best, even if they have an answer, they would never reveal it.
Q: Do you find that this piece will require a stylistic difference in how you will go about conducting the symphony?
I believe the entire symphony is in my own style. I compose the music and then I conduct. In this case I'm now the conductor and in this music there are many parts ranging from dramatic to romantic so I have the challenge of embodying many different moods.
Loris Tjeknavorian was born in Iran in 1937. After he had studied violin and piano at the Tehran Conservatory of Music, he studied composition at the Vienna Music Academy where, in 1961, he graduated with honors. Shortly after his graduation four of his piano compositions and his ballet Fantastique for tree pianos, Celeste and percussion were published by Doeblinger in Vienna. From 1961 to 1963 Tjeknavorian taught music theory at the Tehran Conservatory of Music. At the same time, he was appointed director of the National Music Archives in Tehran and was in charge of collecting and researching traditional Iranian folk -music and national instruments. In 1963, back in Austria, Prof. Carl Orff granted him a scholarship, which allowed him to reside in Salzburg and to complete his opera "Rostam and Sohrab".
In 1965, Tjeknavorian began to study conducting at the University of Michigan, From 1966 to 1967 he was appointed composer in residence at the Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and from 1966 to 1970 head of the instrumental and Opera Departments at the Moorhead University in Minnesota.
In 1970, the Iranian Cultural Minister offered Tjeknavorian a "position as composer in residence" including principal conductor to the Rudaki Opera House Orchestra in Tehran. He then conducted a number of major operas including his own works, such as his Fairytale opera "Pardis and Parisa" and the Dance drama "Simorgh". In 1975 Tjeknavorian signed an "Exclusive Conducting" contract, with the RCA recording company and made many successful recordings with leading orchestras, such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, etc.
Tjeknavorian has conducted international orchestras throughout the world: in Austria, UK, USA, Canada, Hungary, Copenhagen, Iran, Finland, USSR, Armenia, Thailand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Denmark, Israel, etc. His own compositions have been performed by major orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Halle Orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestra Helsinki, the American Symphony Orchestra in New York, the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra, the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, the Mexico Symphony Orchestra, the London Percussion Virtuosies, the Strasbourg Percussion Ensemble and English Chamber Orchestra, etc.
In 1989, Tjeknavorian was appointed Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra (APO). During his eleven years collaboration with the APO, his recordings for ORF (the Austrian radio and television station) and ASV (an English recording company) achieved world-wide recognition, they frequently toured Europe, the United States, Canada, Iran and Lebanon. In three successive years, from 1991 to 1993, the APO was the resident orchestra in the ORF benefit program "Licht ins Dunkel" in Vienna.
In 2000, Tjeknavorian resigned from this position in order to be able to devote more time to composing and conducting other orchestras.
In the course of his career, Tjeknavorian has made about 100 recordings (with RCA, Philips, EMI, ASV, etc.) and written more than 75 compositions (symphonies, operas, a requiem, chamber music, concerto for piano, violin, guitar, cello and bipa (Chinese lute), ballet music, choral works and an oratorio. And over 45 Film musics.
Tjeknavorian's immediate plans, as a conductor, include a concert as Composer and Conductor with Vienna Symphony Orchestra, performances at the San Francisco Opera House, at the Contemporary Music Festival and the Vienna Music Festival in Hong Kong and Bangkok; and Austrian premiere of his opera "Rostam and Sohrab" in the Festspielhaus in St. Poelten , etc.
Persian mezzo-soprano Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai has received critical acclaim for her "warm sound" and her "charismatic stage presence".
Recently she was featured as a Soloist with Monterey Opera Orchestra, Orchestra Nova, Symphony Silicon Valley, Festival del Sol, and premiered the role of The Widow in Michel Bosc's Assyrian OperaQateeni at Modesto State Theatre and Elizabeth Schumatoff in Kenneth Wells' The First Lady at UCLA in Los Angeles. Future engagements include Siebel (Faust) with Center Stage Opera and Flora (La Traviata) with West Bay Opera and Rogue Opera.
Operatic credits include Poppea and Ottavia (L'incoronazione di Poppea), Rosina (Il Trionfo dell Onore), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro), Dorabella (Cosi fan tutte), Suzuki(Madama Butterfly), Lola (Cavalleria Rusticana), Hansel (Hansel and Gretel), Polina (Pique Dame), Mrs. Page (Merry Wives of Windsor), Nancy (Albert Herring), Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors), Dinah (Trouble in Tahiti); and the title roles in Carmen, Iolanthe and La Perichole.
She has worked with San Francisco Opera Center, North Bay Opera, Eldorado Opera, Livermore Opera, Oakland Opera theatre, Bear Valley Music Festival, Mendocino Music Festival, and made her European debut singing the title role in Carmen at Opera Brasov in Romania.
Ms Shehabi-Yaghmai's concert solo work includes Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Mozart'sCoronation Mass, Bach's Magnificat, Haydn's Mass for Prince Nicolai, and Lord Nelson Mass.
Equally active in both opera and recital performances, Ms Shehabi-Yaghmai is much sought after for her expressive and well balance recital programs. She has been featured in a multitude of recital series. Among others, Salinas College, Brand Library, Iranian Women Scholarship Foundation, California State University of Northridge Alumni Performances, San Francisco Conservatory of Music Faculty Performances and Ensemble Parallele.
An avid interpreter of Persian folksong and melodies, Ms. Shehabi-Yaghmai started the "Persian Melody Project" and has done extensive research on the genre. In 2007 PMP started collaborating with composer David Garner and in 2008 it was awarded a generous grant from the "Unique Zan Foundation". Ms. Shehabi-Yaghmai's recital at Brand Library Music Series in Glendale, CA marked the debut of a number of these song settings for piano and voice. Other performances in this genre include featured soloist for the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Monterey Symphony, International Sharif University Reunions in San Diego, Heidelberg (Germany), and Santa Clara, fundraiser gala for Iranian-American district supervisor of San Francisco Ross Mirkarimi, and The Iranian Women Scholarship Foundation in Berkeley.
In summer of 2005 Ms. Shehabi-Yaghmai established her first Summer Opera Workshop Company TANEEN OPERA in San Francisco, training aspiring beginning level opera singers who wish to gain experience in performing arts. She maintains an active vocal studio in San Francisco.
Ms. Shehabi-Yaghmai recently was chosen as a semi finalist for the New York Lyric Opera Competition. She was the winner of the 1999 CSUN annual concerto competition as well as a finalist for the prestigious Merola auditions where after she was hired as a resident artist with the San Francisco Opera Center. Additional awards include: Beulah Allen and John Vaznaian voice scholarships, the 1999 Outstanding Iranian Student Award, and The Outstanding Bachelor's Degree Graduate in Music at California State University of Northridge.
Ms. Shehabi-Yaghmai holds a Bachelor of Music, Magna Cum Laude, from California State University of Northridge, and a Master of Music and a Post Graduate Artist's Diploma from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
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