August 7, 2020

CIM Artist-in-Residence Sergei Babayan Releases His First Solo Album for Deutsche Grammophon

Sergei Babayan
Sergei Babayan (Photo by Marco Borggreve)

Sergei Babayan, member of the CIM piano faculty and Artist-in-Residence since 1992, says his first solo disc on the legendary Deutsche Grammophon (DG) label simply had to contain repertoire from Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Aptly titled “Rachmaninoff,” the album – released today – is a love letter from Babayan to his inspiration, the composer, conductor and virtuoso pianist who influenced the Armenian-born Babayan from an early age.

“Rachmaninoff is one of my gods,” said Babayan, adding that this recording is very important to him because the music of Rachmaninoff “was the reason why I became a pianist.”

He also has dedicated the album to his beloved teacher – Georgiy Saradjev – who assigned to Babayan his first Rachmaninoff pieces.

“I remember him choosing for me Études-Tableaux from opuses 33 and 39,” Babayan said. “Later on he accompanied me, playing the orchestral reduction of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto in my graduation exam from the Tchaikovsky Special Music School in Armenia where I studied with him during those years.”

The album presents a selection of works including Études-Tableaux, Preludes, Moments Musicaux and song transcriptions. Babayan explained that when he played these pieces years ago, he certainly didn’t have a CD project in mind, but the narrative sequence and structure of the program took shape through repeated performances on stage.

“Repertoire selection is a long, sometimes painful, but very creative and gratifying process,” he said. “Some composers stay with you for the rest of your life. It is like finding your friends for a lifetime. The music of Rachmaninoff is going to be with me until my last days. It is enlightening to look back and observe how my life and source of inspiration for the given moment could mean so much for the choice of repertoire. I never get tired of it. This music has remained for me a source of eternal spring – some kind of force of renewal and hope.”

Deutsche Grammophon, arguably the oldest and most renowned classical record label in the world, lauds Babayan’s solo DG debut as “a heartfelt dedication of love for Rachmaninoff’s music in all its many colors and moods.”

Born into a musical family, Babayan began his studies in Armenia with Saradjev and Luiza Markaryan, and continued at the Moscow Conservatory with Mikhail Pletnev, Vera Gornostayeva and Lev Naumov. Following his first trip outside the former Soviet Union in 1989, he won consecutive first prizes in several major competitions, including the Cleveland International Piano Competition, the Hamamatsu Piano Competition and the Scottish International Piano Competition.

Babayan’s engagements and tours have taken him to such prominent international concert venues as Carnegie Hall, Severance Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin, the Théâtre des Champs-Elyseés in Paris, Herkulessaal in Munich, Barbican and Wigmore Halls in London, Rudolfinum-Dvorak Hall in Prague, and Victoria Hall in Geneva. He appeared at the Salzburg Fesival, Verbier Festival, and Festival International de Piano de La Roque d’Anthéron, among others.

He also has appeared with many of the world’s leading orchestras, among them the London Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Gewandhaus orchestra in Leipzig, Bamberg Symphony, the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Rotterdam Philharmonic and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester in Hamburg.

Babayan performed two Prokofiev concertos at BBC Proms with Valery Gergiev and London Symphony Orchestra in Royal Albert Hall in 2015.

Babayan signed an exclusive recording contract with DG in July 2018. His first album for the label – “Prokofiev for Two,” released in March 2018 – is a duo partnership with the legendary Martha Argerich, and is comprised of Babayan’s own transcriptions for two pianos of movements from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and other works.

In November 2019 Babayan was a curating artist at Konzerthaus Dortmund, where he presented a festival of performances with close musical friends, including Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky, Sergey Khachatryan and CIM alumnus and his former student Daniil Trifonov (AC ’13, AD ’15).

For purchase, streaming or download information of “Rachmaninoff,” visit DG’s website.