Violinist Mikhail Simonyan Launches Beethoven Not Bullets Initiative in Afghanistan

Debuts with the New York Philharmonic Performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Bramwell Tovey, conductor

“the poise, perfection, and inner-burning fire of a master like David Oistrakh” –The Miami Herald

Violinist Mikhail Simonyan, hailed as having “a flawless, liquid line and ravishing tone,” by The Washington Post, will make his debut as soloist with the New York Philharmonic in concerts on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 29 and 30, at 7:30pm at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall as part of the Orchestra’s Summertime Classics; and on Saturday, July 3 at 8pm at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (200 Hurd Road, Bethel, NY) as part of an Independence Day celebratory concert. Bramwell Tovey will conduct and host.

Mr. Simonyan will perform Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto during all three concerts. At Lincoln Center, the concerts – entitled From Russia With Love – will also include Prokofiev’s March and Scherzo from The Love for Three Oranges, selections from Act III of Glazunov’s Raymonda, and Tchaikovsky’s Marche slave. At Bethel Woods, the concert celebrates Independence Day with American music and includes Dragon’s arrangement of Memories of America, Gershwin’s An American in Paris, and Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever March.

Still in his early 20s, Mikhail Simonyan is already recognized as one of the most celebrated talents of his generation. He last appeared in New York in his December 2009 recital debut at Lincoln Center, after which Time Out New York’s music blog, “The Volume,” posted, “With a shayna punim, immaculately groomed hair and perhaps the most expressive eyebrows in the classical-music industry, violinist Mikhail Simonyan is the kind of boy you’d want to take home to meet your mother. . . He navigated the aural landscape with the mannerisms of a classical Jimi Hendrix, reminding us that classical musicians were once rock stars in their own right.”

Most recently, Mr. Simonyan has launched a private initiative called Beethoven Not Bullets to assist the newly founded Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul. Mr. Simonyan is working to raise funds to sponsor students at the Institute, which is the war-torn country’s only music school. ANIM’s mission is to educate a new generation of musicians, regardless of ethnicity or gender, revitalizing music in Afghanistan and restoring it as a strong cultural voice. The college is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan and Monash University, Australia. Dr Ahmad Sarmast, a musician and native of Afghanistan educated at Monash University, Australia and Moscow State Conservatory has led this initiative since 2007. Mr. Simonyan’s immediate goal is to sponsor 25 of the school’s 50 current music students for one year, at a cost of $360 per student. Future plans include a recital in New York City to benefit ANIM’s students and a trip to Kabul to visit the school to meet, coach, and perform for students.

“I, too, was born at the wrong time when a regime that had dominated my country for 70 years collapsed almost overnight, bringing down with it the entire infrastructure that had supported and nurtured young musicians,” said Mr. Simonyan. “My brother fought in Chechnya, so I also know the devastating effect of war on young people. Music has healing powers.”

As part of the first generation of artists to forge careers in an era with substantially decreased government support, Mr. Simonyan blazed a trail for young musicians in Russia. In 1999, at 13, Mr. Simonyan made his acclaimed New York debut at Lincoln Center with the American Russian Young Artists Orchestra (ARYO) and his debut in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Mariinsky (Kirov) Theatre in ARYO's joint concert with the Mariinsky Youth Orchestra, performing the Szymanowski Violin Concerto No. 1 (which he had just learned for the occasion).


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