On Monday 24th May, renowned French cellist, Gautier Capuçon, will join the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) for a performance of late romantic and contemporary music, featuring works by Maltese composer Charles Camilleri, Gabriel Faure and Alexey Shor. Beginning with Camilleri’s Malta Suite, an exuberant and fascinating musical journey through scenes from the country’s rich cultural life, the MPO will then be joined by Capuçon for a performance of Alexey Shor’s Musical Pilgrimage Cello Concerto, a three-movement piece for cello and orchestra illustrating artfully the composer’s differing musical outlooks. The concert, taking place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC) will conclude with Gabriel Faure’s Elegy for Cello and Orchestra, an at times sombre piece evoking a longing quality perfectly matched to the cello’s sonorous tones. MPO Principal Conductor Sergey Smbatyan will direct the orchestra for this first performance of the much-anticipated Malta International Music Festival.
Born to a family of musicians, Sergey’s journey in the world of classical music started with violin studies first with his grandmother Tatiana Hayrapetyan, followed by the classes with violinists Bagrat Vardanyan, Zakhar Bron and Yuri Davtyan. A graduate of Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory and Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Smbatyan also graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London in 2012. He also holds a Ph.D. in Fine Arts from the Institute of Arts, a division of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences.
The conservatory undergraduate Sergey Smbatyan lay the foundation of the future Armenian State Symphony Orchestra in 2005, assembling like-minded young fellows into a youth orchestra that would champion classical music in Armenia and promote Armenian musical heritage worldwide. The future achievements awaiting the orchestra along its journey proved the visceral faith of its founder to be an infallible foresight. Throughout the 2020 concert tour with the renowned violin virtuoso and the orchestra’s artist-in-residence Maxim Vengerov brilliant performances were hosted on reputable stages around Europe - Berliner Philharmonie, Vienna's Musikverein, London's Barbican Center, Prague's Dvorak Hall, Salzburg's Grosses Festspielhaus, Moscow's Zaryadye Concert Hall and elsewhere.
Sergey Smbatyan also holds a rich record of conducting experience with foreign orchestras, including, among many others, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. A significant highlight in his international conducting career was the 2019 invitation he received to lead the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra as its Principal Conductor. Prior to this commitment too, the collaboration with the MPO had long been harvesting remarkable success throughout the MPO’s concert tours across the world - from Vienna’s Musikverein to New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Among Sergey Smbatyan’s most cherished and sustainable legacies of are his self-founded 4 music festivals (Armenian Composing Art Festival, Khachaturian International Festival, “Armenia” International Music Festival and “Contemporary Classics” Composers’ Festival), as well as the introduction of “Conducting” category in the annual Khachaturian International Competition, which is a member of the prestigious World Federation of International Musical Competitions (WFIMC). Other valuable enterprises include 5 exclusive orchestras formed in the framework of significant events, 7 special musical projects and concert series and 7 educational projects, the most massive and impactful of the letter being “DasA” (literally- “ClassA), launched in 2018. Targeting high school students in Armenia, this project’s mission focuses on the popularization of classical music and positive transformation in the young generation’s attitude towards classical music.
By virtue of his relentless and creative outlooks, Smbatyan always pursues new dimensions for innovative artistry and embarks on novel initiatives in the Armenian cultural context. In the framework of the “WCIT 2019”, the largest IT Congress for innovators and entrepreneurs hosted in 2019 by Armenia, an orchestra of 100 musicians from fifteen countries assembled under the Smbatyan’s baton to play the first ever AI real-time-composed music at the opening ceremony of the event as a symbolic demonstration of the ever-growing prospect of dialogue between traditional classical music performance and the technological advancements of the new era.
In 2015, Sergey Smbatyan received the title of Chevalier of the “Order of Arts and Letters”, awarded by the Minister of Culture and Communication of France. In 2017, the honorary title of “Worker in Arts of Armenia” was conferred on him for the great merit in rearing of creative generation. In 2019, a documentary was released by Mezzo TV, featuring Sergey Smbatyan and the history of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra.
“The conductor led the orchestra with an uncommon attention to detail, skillfully guiding the musicians through the whole performance. His hands were clear and precise; this was a performance of great dignity and nobility.
A highly successful and passionate performance!”.
Hessisch Niedersächsische Allgemeine
Committed to exploring and expanding the cello repertoire, Capuçon performs an extensive array of works each season and regularly premieres new commissions. His current projects include performing the world premiere of Tabachnik’s cello concerto “Summer” and collaborations with Danny Elfman and Thierry Escaich.
In the 19/20 season Capuçon appears with, amongst others, the philharmonic orchestras of Los Angeles/Philippe Jordan, Czech Republic/Semyon Bychkov, and Rotterdam/Valery Gergiev; the symphony orchestras of St. Louis/Stephane Deneve, Singapore/Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Bavarian Radio/Gianandrea Noseda; and hr-Sinfonieorchester/Alain Altinoglu. He tours Europe and the USA with Leipzig Gewandhausorchester/Andris Nelsons and San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas, and is Artist-in-Residence at Lugano Musica.
As a chamber musician, this season he performs on tour with Yuja Wang in venues such as Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Vienna Konzerthaus, Barbican Centre London, and Philharmonie Paris, as well as with Renaud Capuçon, Frank Braley, Jérôme Ducros, and Leonidas Kavakos. Other regular recital partners include Nicholas Angelich, Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Lisa Batiashvili, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Artemis and Ébène quartets.
Recording exclusively for Erato (Warner Classics), Capuçon has won multiple awards and holds an extensive discography. His latest album - Chopin and Franck sonatas with Yuja Wang - was recorded live on tour last season. Earlier recordings include concertos by Shostakovich (Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev) and Saint-Saëns (Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Lionel Bringuier); the complete Beethoven Sonatas with Frank Braley; Schubert’s String Quintet with the Ébène Quartet; an album of encores recorded with Paris Chamber Orchestra/Douglas Boyd and Jérôme Ducros (entitled Intuition); and, most recently, an album of Schumann works, recorded live with Martha Argerich, Renaud Capuçon and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Bernard Haitink.
Capuçon has been featured on DVD in live performances with the Berliner Philharmoniker/Gustavo Dudamel (Haydn Cello Concerto No.1) and with Lisa Batiashvili, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden and Christian Thielemann (Brahm’s Concerto for Violin and Cello). A household name in his native France, he also appears on screen and online in shows such as Prodiges, Now Hear This, and The Artist Academy, and is a guest presenter on Radio Classique in the show Les Carnets de Gautier Capuçon.
Born in Chambéry, Capuçon began playing the cello at the age of five. He studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris with Philippe Muller and Annie Cochet-Zakine, and later with Heinrich Schiff in Vienna. Now, he performs with world leading orchestras, works with conductors such as Lionel Bringuier, Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin; and collaborates with contemporary composers including Lera Auerbach, Karol Beffa, Esteban Benzecry, Nicola Campogrande, Qigang Chen, Bryce Dessner, Jérôme Ducros, Henry Dutilleux, Thierry Escaich, Philippe Manoury, Bruno Mantovani, Krzysztof Penderecki, Wolfgang Rihm, and Jörg Widmann.
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra
Joseph Sammut, the C-in-C’s last conductor, was the orchestra’s first conductor, remaining at the helm until 1992. Since then, the orchestra has also been under the direction of Joseph Vella, Michael Laus, and Brian Schembri.
This season, the MPO has appointed Raoul Lay as its Artistic Director, together with Sergey Smbatyan as Principal Conductor and Michael Laus as Resident Conductor. The MPO also works with local and international guest conductors and soloists including Lawrence Renes, Michalis Economou, Guy Braunstein and Enrico Dindo.
As Malta’s only professional orchestra, the MPO averages more than one performance a week including symphonic concerts, opera productions in Malta and Gozo, community outreach and educational initiatives, as well as various concerts of a lighter nature.
The orchestra has performed in leading venues across the globe, including in the USA, Russia, Germany, Austria, China, Italy, and Belgium. Presently it embarks on at least one international tour each concert season.
The MPO is a keen exponent of Maltese composers, regularly performing their works in Malta and overseas, as well as frequently premiering and commissioning new compositions.
Through the MPO Academy and the Malta Youth Orchestra, which itself regularly gives concerts around Malta, the MPO is also responsible for the training and professional development of the next generation of Maltese musicians.
Cello Concerto "Musical Pilgrimage"
Elegy for Cello and Orchestra