The concert was amazing, but that wasn’t why I decided to go backstage afterward. As the show ended, Yanni introduced his orchestra and I heard a name that drew my attention. I didn’t know the name itself, but I knew it was Armenian. My thoughts flew back to my ten-year-old search and a question left unanswered all that time.
There aren’t many great violinists in the world and you can count the great Armenian violinists with one hand. There I was, seeking one musician after a concert, hoping he might lead me to another. Backstage, I found Yanni himself. I asked if he knew anything about my long lost friend, and the name Karo worked magic. Minutes later, I first met Samvel Yervinyan. Samvel is the First Violin in Yanni’s orchestra and one of the best concert violinists in the world. This isn’t just my opinion or Yanni’s: here is a bit of a recent review.
“His virtuosity is unrivaled against any other violinist I’ve seen live. His agility and delicate approach to seventh-octave harmonics is spellbinding.”
When I asked if he knew Karo Airapetian and told him I was a friend, he became enthusiastic. He shared the painful news I had long suspected, that our mutual friend had passed years before. This introduction paved the way to a warm relationship that has endured since that night nine years ago. Now, I want to share that with you. Please make a little allowance for the translation into English. Samvel wrote me his responses in Russian, with his charming Armenian accent.
Hi Samvel, I’m so glad to have you here! I am absolutely impatient to ask you a question about the Storm. Whenever I listen to this masterpiece I am blown away. It’s wrath, and happiness, and the victory of unbridled nature! What can you tell us about this piece?
Of course, this is a genius masterpiece from the cycle of The Seasons of the Year by Vivaldi. Centuries have passed since he wrote it, yet it remains modern. The Storm is the third part of the concert Summer. The version that we play with Yanni begins with the phrase which is in the first part of the concert Summer. Instead of playing the third part in the original three quarters, we play in four. This was the idea of Yanni. I helped him as an instrumentalist. I think it turned out very well. Wherever we play it around the world, it gets huge applause.
When and how did you fall in love with music? Do you come from a musical family? How did your parents inspire you?
I owe many thanks to my parents. They are not musicians, but they love music. Our house has always been filled with good music. I still hear the voice of my maternal grandmother, who sang best of everybody. My mother sings beautifully too. She has impeccable intonation, crystal clear voice, and soul – without any musical education. I admire my parents for giving me a good upbringing and education.
Have you managed to pass your passion on to your children, Samvel?
I think so. To be honest with you, I am lucky with my marriage. My wife and I have known each other since we were 14. We studied together in the special music school in Yerevan named after Tchaikovsky. We have two sons. The senior goes to university and the youngest is in high school, both are excellent students. This is mostly due to their mother since I’m rarely at home.
Are there other instruments you considered growing up? Why did you choose violin?
My first instrument was a piano, I started playing it when I was 6 years old (1972) and from the age of seven, I went to the violin class of Armen Minasyan, a brilliant violinist and teacher, whom I consider my mentor. He’s the best teacher in the world and I’m very lucky to have been able to study under him.
I can’t help but speak of my second teacher, whom I studied at the Conservatory and in graduate school. He was a great musician and teacher, a wonderful person, one of the best students of David Oistrakh, Professor Edward Dayan.
Tell us about your favorite violin and why it is your favorite. Is there a story behind it?
My favorite violin, the one I always play, is more than three hundred years old. Its maker, even its country of origin, is unknown. Some violin makers say it has a French origin. There are musicians who compare its sound with a human voice.
When I am asked for my favorite writer, movie or artist, I can’t find an answer. I cannot limit to one name the wealth of the world talents. I want to name several, at least.
Now, I am asking you the same question: who is your favorite composer and what is your favorite composition? Feel free to list as many as you like.
And it’s hard for me as well to pick a favorite composer. There are a lot of them. My favorite concert for a violin is the Beethoven Violin Concerto.
Do you prefer violin solos or being a part of an orchestra?
Once during tough times for Armenia, in 1988, I spent some time in your hometown of Yerevan. I was impressed with the beauty of the city, culture and hospitality of the people.
When you compose, do you ever draw from your Armenian heritage and folk songs?
Of course, I rely on the heritage and culture of my people. I can tell you, in secret, I wrote my best works in Yerevan.
I promise you, Samvel, I’ll keep this a secret between you, me, and the World Wide Web.
When did you join Yanni and his renowned group?
Yanni and I began to collaborate in 2002. We make a very good team in all senses of the word.
This is not a surprise – Yanni draws on amazing music from around the world.
What does the connection with the audience mean to you when you play?
I always get positive energy from the audience. I think that this is from the fact that I really love my listener…
How do you select something new to play?
I play what I like … I play what touches my soul.
What other violinists or musicians do you appreciate?
My favorite classic violinist is David Oistrakh.
My thoughts returned to the search that ended when I first met Samvel. Would you like to say anything about our mutual friend Karo Airapetian, who is no longer with us?
About Karo Airapetyan you can talk a lot … I will say a little. He was a genius violinist, musician and a great innovator in violin history. Karo was very kind and a good man. We had an idea to make a recording with our two violins. Regrettably, he left us too early. In my younger years, I learned a lot from his notes…
When I still lived in Kishinev, many interesting friends were coming to my house. Once, one of them brought a new person – Karo, who had been invited from Armenia by Moldavian State Philharmonic to play in the famous folk group Lautary. He was a frequent visitor for the five years he was in town.
He never separated with his violin and willingly played when requested. If I asked him to play, I did so very cautiously, like I was afraid that something precious can be spilled by chance and not much of it will be left for later.
Do you think that you and Yanni’s orchestra are helping to make the world a better place?
Of course, yes, as they say, beauty will save the world!
What is coming up on your calendar?
Concerts with Yanni in Saudi Arabia are planned at the end of November. At the same time I am writing two discs, one classic in which will be the works of Mozart, Sarasate, Bach, Gluck, and Paganini. The second project will feature a variety of music including my works.
What Concert Halls were lucky to embrace your music?
Yanni’s orchestra and I have played in America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia … There is a list on the website. http://www.yanni.com/tour
How do you get your day started, Samvel? What does it look like?
I start with a cup of coffee and a conversation with my parents over Skype.If I’m not at concerts, I exercise to keep myself in shape – I live!
Your Internet biography talks about trying to get better every day. How do you measure that?
“Samvel is driven to be the best in his profession, being more and more perfectionist every day.”
I think that every person should always improve in his profession and life in general, especially spiritually.
Dear Samvel, I want to thank you so very much for visiting my blog and answering my questions. I have saved one more I like to end with. Do you have any final thoughts to share?
I want to add that for me the most important human quality is kindness. I think that beauty and kindness will save the world!
Web page http://samvelyervinyan.com/home/