At the age of 22 Narek Hakhnazaryan is an Armenian cellist who has performed globally, won first prize in the cello division at the International Tchaikovsky Competition, a classical music event in Russia.
Hakhnazaryan performed at the Fresno State Concert Hall Jan. 29 as a part of the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concert Series.
The concert was co-sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State and the Thomas A. Kooyumjian Family Foundation.
Hakhnazaryan has traveled and performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a number of symphony orchestras. In 2016 he debuted with the BBC Proms, a session of daily orchestral concerts in London.
Accompanying him at Fresno State was Julio Elizalde, a pianist and artistic director of the Olympic Music Festival near Seattle, Washington. Elizalde has performed alongside many well-known musicians and conductors such as Itzhak Perlman.
However, Hakhnazaryan and Elizalde were initially not scheduled to perform together. The original plan was for Hakhnazaryan to be accompanied by Noreen Polera, a different pianist.
“I found out about this concert a week ago,” Elizalde said. “Fortunately for everyone, I happened to be free which is usually not the case.”
The two musicians performed an eclectic collection of pieces from Romantic Era, 20th century and contemporary composers. The audience gave many standing ovations before and after the encore performance.
Together, Hakhnazaryan and Polera were to perform many of the same pieces offered during the concert with Elizalde. For the actual concert, the setlist had to be changed.
“There was a program that [Hakhnazaryan] already had that we had to change a lot actually because some of the pieces I didn’t know. We had to come to a decision that we were going to play something that was doable for me in the one week that was leading up,” Elizalde said.
Usually there is more time in advance for the performers to practice the pieces on the program and get accustomed to each other, so the changes to the program were necessary in order to ensure a good performance, he said.
Among the composers performed was John Williams, a contemporary composer best known for his work on film scores. Together, Hakhnazaryan and Elizalde performed the “Theme from Schindler’s List,” a work written by Williams.
The contemporary works mixed with the older compositions allowed for an entertaining experience for audience members.
“I thought the program was well put together. It was a balance of a lot of different styles and sounds, and it really displayed [Hakhnazaryan’s] virtuosity,” said Daniel Ruiz, a music major and graduate student.
Other students were happy to be able to see world-renowned performers in Fresno.
“Every year tons, of fantastic artists come,” said Nathan Nau, a fourth-year music composition major. “You don’t think of Fresno as the central hub for [the] arts; most people wouldn’t know about it, but here they are.”