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Fall 1998

Research Magazine > ARCHIVE > Fall 98 > Article

From Russia, With Strings
By Dawn T. Pick

Much like a weaver carefully selects each fiber to create a fine tapestry, Levon Ambartsumian has handpicked his own signature ensemble to perform and interpret music like no other.

"Music flows from your first days of life. It is part of your heritage," said Ambartsumian, a Russian violinist and UGA's Franklin Professor of Music. "The best way [to interpret and perform music] is to get that perfect combination of your own personality and the ideal that comes from the music."

Ambartsumian, who has taught at both the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and the Indiana University School of Music, two of the world's top music schools, said that he wants to "bring the School of Music at UGA to the highest level - to make it the most famous school of music in America."

Ambartsumian's prescription for success?

Bring together an unusual blend of classically trained American and Russian students whose commonalties as well as differences combine to produce unique musical interpretations.

This group, called the ARCO Chamber Orchestra, is comprised of UGA students and faculty members, along with professionals from Moscow. Like other chamber orchestras, it is a string ensemble of fewer than 25 musicians. As ARCO's conductor and artistic director, Ambartsumian said he hopes to establish it as one of the nation's few and premier professional chamber orchestras.

"Some of the best interpreters of Russian music are Americans," Ambartsumian said. "Most Americans are descendants of immigrants, so they relate well to other cultures. Also, both Americans and Russians come from very spacious countries and very independent cultures. In this way, we have many commonalties."

Ambartsumian noted that these cultural commonalties as well as differences help to enrich his students' interpretations of music. Music is not simply what the composer has written on paper, but it is the performer's interpretation that gives life to the music, he said.

"You have to make your own discoveries - find that the music has its own logic and that it makes sense to you. You have to find the soul of the music," Ambartsumian said.

Ambartsumian's goal is to attract the best musicians from Georgia and around the world to UGA through his own performances as well as those of ARCO. ARCO - from the Italian word for bow - recently toured throughout Europe, Canada, South Korea and North America, receiving high critical praises and drawing enthusiastic audiences.

The chamber orchestra will perform throughout Georgia and the Southeast in the coming months. In addition, the orchestra's visiting artists will give master classes - where students perform individually for an instructor in front of an audience of other pupils, receiving advice and comments.

"UGA has a good combination of everything that I want in my life," Ambartsumian said. "Here I can achieve height in the three things that are most important in my life - my playing, my conducting and my teaching. I could only get this combination here at UGA, I couldn't get it anywhere else."

For more information, e-mail Levon Ambartsumian at levonamb@arches.uga.edu.


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Levon Ambartsumian