Malta International Music Festival


26 April — 10 May 2020

Valletta • Floriana

Sergey Smbatyan conductor


Driven by an unwavering belief in the power of music to heal, unite and inspire, Sergey Smbatyan is one of the most gifted conductors of our days. From classrooms to grand concert halls, Smbatyan’s remarkable career of musical achievements and successful enhancement of young people’s access to the art in Armenia and around the world demonstrates music’s extraordinary capacity to transform lives.

Sergey Smbatyan was born in Yerevan in 1987, to a family of musicians. A devout advocate of music education and social development through art, Sergey’s pursuits were largely propelled by his childhood experiences of studying the violin first with Tatiana Hayrapetyan, his grandmother,, followed by renowned violinists Bagrat Vardanyan and Zakhar Bron.

He started his early musical career of a violinist with participation in a number of international competitions, having performed with the Moscow and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras as a soloist. As a conductor, Sergey has been significantly influenced by the late Sir Colin Davis, Riccardo Muti and Valery Gergiev.

In 2009, Smbatyan graduated from Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory He then obtained a Ph.D. in Fine Arts from the Institute of Arts, a division of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences. In 2012, Sergey graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Career Highlights

As a token of his earnest commitment to both serve and champion the development of music in Armenia, the 18-year-old musician founded the State Youth Orchestra of Armenia, which later was granted the status of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra (ASSO) by the Government of Armenia. Sergey Smbatyan has been the Orchestra's Artistic Director and Principal Conductor since its formation.

The establishment of the orchestra became the starting point of a new ambitious and rewarding musical career, inspired by a dream, later to be transformed into a consuming mission, to change people’s lives through the power of music.

Throughout these years, the Orchestra was admired for its unmatched commitment to new music, diversity and inclusion, and the development of groundbreaking digital initiatives. Under the leadership of Sergey Smbatyan, not only did ASSO become one of the leading orchestras in Armenia, but it shortly also gained international recognition and fame.

The orchestra has been hosted by most reputable concert halls in the world, including Opera Garnier (Paris), Konzerthaus (Berlin), Dr. Anton Philipszaal (Hague), Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and Great Hall of Conservatory (Moscow), Palais des Beaux-Arts (Brussels),  Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg), Musikverein (Vienna), Madrid Royal Theatre and many others.

Participation in acclaimed international festivals and other musical events such as Moscow Easter Festival (Moscow, Russia), “Young Euro Classic” (Berlin, Germany), MIDEM in Cannes, “Kultursommer Nordhessen” (Cassel, Germany), “Young Classic Wratislavia” (Wrocław, Poland), Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival (Warsaw, Poland) are among the highlighted triumphs in the history of the Orchestra. 

By virtue of its exceptional talents, unique distinct sound profile and professionalism, the Orchestra is highly appreciated by a lrge number of renowned musicians of the world. Prominent artists like Valery Gergiev, Krzysztof Penderecki, Vladimir Spivakov, Maxim Vengerov, Denis Matsuev, Vadim Repin, Vag Papian, Boris Berezovsky, Zakhar Bron and many others are good friends of the team and cooperate with ASSO in the framework of diverse international musical projects. 

Under the baton of Sergey Smbatyan, the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra has been privileged to play as a resident orchestra at numerous international festivals and competitions, including Musica Riva International Festival (2013, Riva del Garda, Italy), the 9th Frederic Chopin International Competition for Young Pianists (2014, Foshan, China), Al Bustan International Festival (2014-2016, Beirut, Lebanon), Malta International Music Festival (2018, Malta), the annual Khachaturian International Competition (since 2007, Yerevan, Armenia), Armenian Composing Art Festival (since 2010, Yerevan, Armenia), Khachaturian International Festival (since 2013, Yerevan, Armenia), “Armenia” International Music Festival (since 2017, Yerevan, Armenia), “Contemporary Classics” Composers’ Festival (since 2017, Yerevan, Armenia).

A momentous point in Sergey Smbatyan's conducting career was his debut with the London Symphony Orchestra. In 2010, he conducted the joint Gala Concert with the distinguished artist Maxim Vengerov,  for HRH Prince Charles’ “Prince’s Trust” event at Buckingham Palace. The spectacular success of the concert earned it the right to be repeated at Buckingham Palace in 2011, with Smbatyan once again conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra.

One of the few classical musicians of Armenian origin to reach mainstream audiences while maintaining the highest musical integrity, Smbatyan has had opportunities to perform with the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, the DSO Berlin, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Munich Symphony Orchestra, the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Russian National Orchestra and with many others.

The European tour with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) in 2018 is among the conductor’s tremendous achievements. In the framework of the tour Sergey Smbatyan and the MPO performed at the Mediterranean Conference Hall, Valletta; Philharmonie Gasteig, Munich; Liederhalle, Beethoven Saal, Stuttgart, Kurhaus, Wiesbaden, Philharmonie, Berlin; Musikverein, Vienna. 

Later the same year, the tour continued in the USA, with performances at the Kimmel Center, Strathmore, Carnegie Hall, where the conductor was up the stage for the second time, as well as at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory and the Mariinsky Theatre in Russia.

Sergey Smbatyan’s successful collaboration with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra was consolidated with the invitation to lead the orchestra as the Principal Conductor of MPO. So, in September 2019 the audiences musical world witnessed yet another exceptional collaboration between Sergey Smbatyan and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Conductor’s career achievements and international success have been marked by well-established long-term productive collaboration and close relationships with world-renowned musicians, such as Maestro Krzysztof Penderecki, Sir Karl Jenkins, Giya Kanchelli, Tigran Mansuryan, John Malkovich and many other distinguished artists.

On Sergey Smbatyan’s initiative tribute concerts have been organized in Armenia for Maestro K.Penderecki (the 4th "Penderecki Music Days in Armenia" Concert Series dedicated to the 85th Jubilee of Maestro, 2018), G.Kanchelli (Giya Kanchelli Cultural Days in Yerevan, 2017), Tigran Mansuryan (Mansuryan Fest dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Maestro, 2019). Joint concerts have been organized with John Malkovich in Seoul, Moscow, Argentina and Armenia.

Sergey Smbatyan is the first Armenian conductor and the second Armenian musician to be featured in a Mezzo TV documentary. The 25-minute film dedicated to the work of the conductor and the history of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra. Released in 2019, the film has since been aired in 60 countries. The film will be hosted by Mezzo TV for the following five years, introducing the conductor’s portrait, his career path, vision and professional endeavors. 

Artistic And Humanitarian Initiatives

Sergey Smbatyan is one of the most decorated conductors of his generation. Constantly striving for innovation not only in the performance art of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra but also in his own profile as an artist and public figure, Sergey Smbatyan’s initiatives are large-scale, non-standard, bold and exceptional.

Sergey Smbatyan is the artistic director and the founder of 4 local and international festivals, 1 international music competition, 5 exclusive orchestras formed in the framework of significant events, 7 special musical projects and concert series, 7 educational projects. All of these initiatives were born around the idea that music unites and transforms lives.

Musical festivals founded by Smbatyan enjoy large popularity within the global musical community. Armenian Composing Art Festival, Khachaturian International Festival, “Armenia” International Music Festival, “Contemporary Classics” Composers’ Festival are unique celebrations of classical music that assemble the masterpieces of classical composers, artworks of contemporary artists and the best performers of our time from all over the world.

Khachaturian International Conducting Competition, a member of the prestigious musical family of World Federation of International Musical Competitions (WFIMC), aims to discover young talented conductors from across the world.

Special projects initiated by Sergey Smbatyan include large-scale concert series which stand out with innovative solutions and modern interpretations of famous musical works. Those concerts include and are not limited to the “Non-Stop” series, “Khachaturian and Jazz”, “A Travel to...”, “The Symphony Orchestra meets ...”, “Dolce Vitae” and several others.

Sergey Smbatyan is among the contemporary artists whose activity so frequently echoes to the realities of our times. On Smbatyan’s initiative, in the framework of various special events and celebrations, five exclusive orchestras have been formed: “24/04” World Orchestra, created in the framework of commemoration events of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide; the All-Armenian Choir and Orchestra “Generation of Independence”, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s independence; UNICEF Children’s Chamber Orchestra, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of a Child; Pan Armenian Symphony Orchestra, aiming to unite all Armenians around the world; WCIT World Orchestra, created in the framework of the 23rd World Congress of Information Technology, held in Armenia on October 6-9, 2019.  and with the aim to demonstrate and underline the importance of culture in the information technologies.

Over these years, Sergey Smbatyan’s creative initiatives and projects have galvanized enormous amounts of energy and enthusiasm of hundreds of musicians from across the world every corner of the planet. The international festivals and competition, that are among the most awaited musical events worldwide, unite most talented composers, performers and conductors.

Together with his team Sergey Smbatyan has been vastly contributing to the promotion of arts in Armenia. The musicians’ commitment to the development of cultural awareness and intelligence among the young generation is immense. Sharing a profound understanding of the role of quality education in the society’s progress and a social responsibility for the realization of this idea, they invest big energy, time and resources for the musical education of a whole generation.

Various educational programs implemented across Armenia have had visible success among pre-school children, high school and graduate students. The young generation is privileged with an exceptional opportunity to get acquainted with classical music and discover it in newer ways. Such programs are a big step forward to creating a progressive society.

“DasA” (“ClassA”) is one of the massive and most successful educational projects launched in 2018 for high school students in Armenia. The project’s mission is the popularization of classical music art and the transformation of the young generation’s attitude towards classical music. “DasA” has the ambition to propagate a new, highly qualified and educated society in Armenia.

Along with the educational programs for the general public, Sergey Smbatyan is also vigilant about the Armenian musicians’ continuous development. “The Master Creates Masters” is one of his outstanding educational projects. Carried out as series of master-classes conducted by world-known musicians, this project is a great contribution to the improvement of performing skills of the young Armenian musicians.

Other educational projects founded by Smbatyan aim at disseminating classical music among diverse target groups with a particular focus on the distant regions of Armenia. Together with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, Smbatyan supports the young musicians in the regions to acquire musical instruments, helping them on the path of their musical career.

Sergey also displays active participation in charity projects. With the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, he has performed in numerous charitable and humanitarian events, spreading music to nursing homes, orphanages and universities throughout Armenia.

Honours And Prizes

During his professional career as a conductor, Sergey Smbatyan has received numerous distinctions in Armenia, and has been equally honoured with special awards and prizes abroad. 

In recognition of his extraordinary service to music, his activities in music education and contributions to the musical community, all of which are the cornerstones of his work in Armenia and abroad, Sergey was awarded with the title of “Honored Artist of the Republic of Armenia” by the President of the Republic of Armenia in 2016, as well as with a Gold Medal by the Mayor of Yerevan in 2017.

In May 2016, Sergey won the first prize of the new International Concert Competition "Debut Berlin". The laureate concert took place on June 1, 2016  at the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonic Hall.

Sergey is the youngest receiver of the Worker in Arts title in Armenia (awarded at the age of 27) and the first Armenian to be awarded the highest award of the Government of France in the field of art: the title of Chevalier of the “Order of Arts and Letters”, granted by the Minister of Culture and Communication of France.

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