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80th Birthday of Avet Terteryan

The music of the Armenian composer Avet Terteryan, whose birthday we commemorate on 29 July 2009, is reaching an ever wider public. The celebrated production of his tragic opera “The Earthquake” at the Munich Gärtnerplatz Theatre was repeated each year until 2007 since its premiere on 15 March 2003. “When the earth quakes,” wrote the specialist journal “Opernwelt” about the premiere of the work in Munich, “then bright light dazzles the spectators in the rows, the music swells up a quintuple forte before a sudden moment of silence follows and, afterwards, the lament of the people forges ahead before an ever-increasing downpour of rain from the tape machine above the ostinato of the tympani. (…)

Avet Terteryan often allows the music to circle minimalistically within itself and around the sound continuum of the tonally centred, widely spread-out strings, composes an umpteen-time repeated chromatic motif for the horns until the choir in third and tritone passages simply explodes …” The opera is based on the novel “The Earthquake in Chile” by Heinrich von Kleist. The subject is the destruction of the city of Santiago de Chile in 1647, before the background of which a dramatic and tragically ending love story unfolds. The production of the work at the Gärtnerplatz Theatre was undertaken by Claus Guth with musical direction by Ekkehard Klemm.

Avet Terteryan (baptized as Alfred Rubenovich Terteryan) was born on 29 July 1929 in Baku, Azerbaijan. His father, Ruben Terteryan, was a renowned physician in Baku. Avet’s brother Herman became an opera conductor and his son Ruben a musicologist and author of the book “Avet Terteryan,” published in Yerevan in 1989. Terteryan’s wife, Irina Tigranova-Terteryan, is professor of musicology in Yerevan. In 1948 Vet Terteryan entered the Music Academy in Baku. He continued his studies at the Roman Melikjan Music Academy, which he entered in 1951. From 1952 onwards he studied composition with Eduard Mirsoyan at the state Komitas Conservatory in Yerevan. Avet Terteryan occupied a series of offices in Armenian cultural life administration. From 1960 to 1963 he occupied the post of Executive Secretary of the Armenian Composers’ Union, of which he was named Vice President from 1963 to 1965. From 1970 to 1974 Avet Terteryan functioned as Chairman of the Music Department in the Cultural Ministry of Armenia. At the same time he worked as an editor. From 1985 he was active as Professor at the Conservatory in Yerevan and in the years 1993 to 1994 he gave master classes at the Ural Conservatory in Ekaterinenburg. In order to work undisturbed on his own compositions, he withdrew at regular intervals to the guesthouse of Dilishan, replaced by his own house on Sevan Lake starting in 1989. In 1992 Avet Terteryan was named President of the Austrian-Armenian Society of Friends. In 1994 he received a stipend from the Province of Brandenburg and worked for six months in Wiepersdorf. He was promised a one-year stipend of the German Academic Exchange Service for the year 1995, but Avet Terteryan died on 11 December 1994 in Ekaterinenburg, where he wanted to participate at a festival dedicated to him. He was cremated on 19 December at the Pantheon in Yerevan.

On the occasion of the 80th birthday of Avet Terteryan, Sikorski Music Publishers are publishing a score of Terteryan’s Symphony No. 8 as a printed edition.


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