Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian was a guest of Berkeley Persian Center in the San Francisco Bay Area in March. A suite from his opera, Rostam and Sohrab, was to be performed by East Bay Symphony Orchestra on March 14th at the Paramount Theatre. The weekend before the performance I had the great fortune of meeting the Maestro at Darvag group’s play in Berkeley, where I tagged along with him and some other good friends to a restaurant in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto area. We had time for a brief chat, so I asked him what he would like to talk about, and he chose the subject of “love”! He also gave me the CD of his “Love Songs”, telling me stories about how he became inspired to write those melodies.
* DOWNLOAD: first track: There is no life without love
-- Conducting Shahram Nazeri and the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra in Iran in 2006 in a Kurdish melody
-- Othello ballet performed to Tjeknavorian's music with Vienna State Symphony, a ballet in two act (1) (2). Doesn't show him, just his music.
The dapper and handsome Loris Tjeknavorian is a world-class conductor and composer, born and raised in an Armenian family in Iran. He has conducted many of the most renowned international symphony and philharmonic orchestras to adoring audiences. Yet, after living in Armenia for many years following the Iranian revolution, he keeps returning to Iran. Each time, he stays longer saying he feels a primitive love for the place, very similar to the love one would feel for one’s parents.
I have had the good fortune of watching him onstage in Tehran, where the love affair between him and his Iranian audience is so palpable, where he is so reachable and so unpretentious on stage, that his interactions with his orchestra members and audience creates electric magic. In one performance I attended in Tehran, he and a member of his orchestra engaged in a joke in the middle of the performance which had the audience in stitches! [PHOTOS]
N: Is it difficult for you to work in Iran? Do you have any problems staging your performances?
LT: There are hardships everywhere, and you have to make do with what you have. The Iranian government, for the most part, leaves me alone, never interfering with my art. I can do as I wish. They have never stopped me from speaking my mind, and have never taken issue with my female soloists and my bow and tie. Iranian audiences are so warm. In my concerts I receive love and return love without inhibition. When I come on stage, they adore me and I adore them.
N: You mentioned you would like to talk about “love” tonight. What kind of love do you have in mind?
LT: From my youth to my old age, I have always been in love. The day I am not in love, I want to die. Love keeps us alive and able to do things. I think it’s better to die for love than to live without love. I wrote a song about that. Though love for a woman is the best kind of love, it doesn’t have to be all that love is about. I love God. I have a love relationship with God. This love doesn’t show up in religious books, it is of a very personal nature. Love connects all people and all humanity. I don’t follow any religious doctrine but this love. It is just a love to God, a relationship I have with God.
N: Can you tell me more about that “love for a woman?”
LT: Aah, love for a woman, the best kind of love! The most beautiful creation of God is a woman. He put her love in the man’s heart; the superb creation that woman is. A woman has many, many facets. You can look at a woman like a statue, like a painting. I don’t look at a woman like a sex object, because I regard her as the “perfect creation”; a form of art, but a living art, not a lifeless art. A woman’s character is really important; the relationship and the vibrations between a man and a woman are really important. Any woman can find a man, but the vibrations between her and a special man are really important. A perfect woman is a woman for all seasons, a woman with intellect, art, beauty, soul, and passion.
N: Sounds like you have a definitive idea of who and what a woman is. Can you tell me more about that?
LT: A woman can only be compared to one other thing in nature. I would compare her to the ocean. You can never conquer it, and you may drown and die in it. Like the ocean, a woman has depth, power and beautiful harmony. A woman, at the same time, could be a most dangerous creature, full of charm and kindness on one hand, and ferocious on the other. I like women who possess both qualities. I believe a woman holds inside herself all symbols of creation, that is why she is deep and inaccessible like the ocean. Even women have never discovered the depths of women, I believe. Women don’t spend much time trying to discover men; they spend most of their energies discovering other women, subjects about which many books have been written.
N: And what do you think about men?
LT: God created women like an orchestra with many, many songs. In order to bring out those songs, they will need a conductor. I believe that conductor to be man. A woman is the only driving force and purpose of life, at least in my life. I love women and thank God for creating them.
N: Do you have any general advice about life?
LT: Follow your heart. Never fear and go after your dreams, and don’t compromise, because life is a battlefield and it’s cruel. Follow your dreams and don’t worry.
* * * * *
I saw the maestro two more times before he left for Tehran. True, he is a world class conductor and composer, but having met him up close and personal, it is his endless charm, humor, and joy of life which continue to stay fresh in my mind. Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian is a very special Iranian indeed.
First published in Persian Cultural Center of San Diego's Peyk magazine.
Nazy Kaviani is a freelance writer and blogger who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. You may visit her blog: nazykaviani.blogspot.com.
Loris Tjeknavorian was born in 1937 in Borujerd, in the Southwestern Iranian province of Lorestan and in the 70 years since that date, he has celebrated a career rich with 100 recordings, over 75 written compositions and over 45 film mosaics. He Studied violin and piano at the Tehran Conservatory of Music, and later continued his studies with composition at the Vienna Music Academy, where in 1961 he graduated with honors. From 1961 to 1963 Tjeknavorian returned to the Tehran Conservatory of Music to teach music theory. 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, Professor Carl Orff granted him a scholarship which allowed him to reside in Salzburg and complete his opera "Rostam and Sohrab", based on the Shahnameh.
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 as 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. Upon his acceptance, 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, just to mention a few.
Tjeknavorian has conducted international orchestras throughout the world: in the UK, Austria, 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 of collaboration with the APO, his recordings for ORF (the Austrian radio and television station) and ASV (an English recording company) achieved world-wide recognition, frequently touring 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. [PHOTOS]
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