Composer, Musicologist, Conductor

By Carmen Cecilia Piñero Gil


Argentine composer, orchestra conductor, and musicologist of Armenian descent Alicia Terzian was born in Córdoba, Argentina on July 1, 1934. She studied at the National Conservatory of Music and Performing Arts of Buenos Aires with Alberto Ginastera, Gilardo Gilardi, Roberto García Morillo, and Floro Ugarte, among others.


She graduated with degrees in piano (1954) and composition (1958) with the First Prize and Gold Medal (1959). In 1962 she traveled to Europe to study 4th to 12th-century Armenian medieval religious music with Father Leoncio Dayan at the Mekhitarist Monastery of Saint Lazaro, Venice. She completed her formation by studying orchestral conducting with Mariano Drago and later on studying electronic music.


Terzian has been awarded many composition prizes, including: the Municipal Prize in 1964; the National Fund for the Arts Prize (1979, 1982); the First National Prize of Music (1982); the “Francisco Solano” Award (1968); the Argentine Outstanding Young Musicians Prize (1970); the National Fund for the Arts Prize (1970); the First National Prize of Music (1982); and the Gomidas International Prize (1983). She was decorated with the Academic Palms Medal by the Government of France in 1987; the Saint Sahak and Saint Mesrop Medals given by Pope Vasken I of the Armenian Church (1992); the “Alberto de Castilla” Medal of Colombia (1994); and the Mozart Medal given by the International Music Council (1995). She was named an Honorary Member by secret vote at the General Assembly of the IMC/CIM in 2003, and was named an Honorary Member as a foreign citizen of the Swiss Canton de Vaud celebrations.


Terzian is an internationally renowned figure recognized through the different activities that form her musical history. Over her career she has been a composer, conductor, and musicologist specializing in Latin American music history. She has been an organizer of music institutions devoted to the diffusion of music in her country and abroad, as well as to her untiring task to spread the music of young Argentine performers and composers to the world.


She is a member of the National Academy of Fine Arts of Chile, Artistic Director of the Encuentros Internacionales de Música Contemporánea Foundation from 1968 on, member of the International Music Council of UNESCO, was President of the Argentine Music Council till 2005, and was Regional Executive Secretary of the Music Council for the Three Americas (COMTA-COM-UNESCO) till 2004.


Her activities as a composer, conductor, musicologist, and ambassador for contemporary music have contributed to her career both in her own country and abroad. Terzian has given classes at the Municipal Conservatory, the National Conservatory of Music and Performing Arts (1960, Musical Didactic, Pedagogic Training, Harmony, Counterpoint, Instrumentations, Orchestration, History, and Aesthetic of Music), the Superior School of Fine Art of the National University of La Plata (1967, History of Music), the Superior Institute of Arts of the Colón Opera House (1968, History of Opera), and in the program Introduction to Argentine Culture for the National Institute of Public Administration of the Argentine Republic Foreign Office (History of Argentine Music).


She has lectured in many countries across Europe, Asia, and North, Central, and South America. She has lectured on a wide range of subjects (including religious and folk Armenian music, music written by women, Argentine folk and academic music, Ibero American music, and 20th-century music) since 1967. She speaks and writes in five languages: Spanish, French, English, Italian, and Armenian.


Because of her studies in Armenian religious music, she has been involved with numerous tasks within the frame of Musicology, including attending meetings such as the Assembly of the International Society of Musicology in Ljubljana (1967) where she was included in the Consultative Committee as the secretary of the Executive Committee of the International Musicological Society, as well as lectures at the UNESCO (Paris) building, and more.


Terzian gives seminars, workshops, and radio lectures about Argentine and Latin American contemporary music at important conservatories and universities across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, as well as on European and American radio stations (she has given over 3,000 lectures since 1967).


Some of her works have been presented before different forums such as the University of Yale (1968) or published in the prestigious Revista Musical Chilena (Chilean Musical Magazine) among others.


In 1968, Terzian created the Encuentros Internacionales de Música Contemporánea (EIMC) Foundation. Taking into account Ginastera’s advise, she created this Foundation that soon would take the place of the Latin American Center for Latin American Musical Studies of the Di Tella Institute of Argentina.


As the Artistic Director of the Encuentros Foundation, she has developed annual activities through this institution, organizing concerts, seminars, radio, and television programmes, and has organized the Argentine Tribune of Composers.


She has been promoting the music of Argentine composers over the past 50 years, presenting their works before the International Tribune of Composers (UNESCO, Paris) and at the annual World Music Day festivals organized by the ISCM. The Encuentros Festivals have since then become important forums of contemporary Latin American music

In 1979, Terzian created the Grupo Encuentros with the aim to promote the music of Latin American and Argentine composers throughout Argentina as well as abroad. It is the only permanent group of this sort in Latin America and one of the few that maintains a wide career in the field of contemporary music in the world.


The Grupo Encuentros – conducted by Terzian and formed of mezzo soprano voice, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and occasionally other instruments and actors or dancers depending on the works being performed – makes annual tournées performing Ibero-American music including the tango, as well as international contemporary music know all around the world.


As of March 2009, they have performed 33 international tournées in 5 continents, performing over 325 concerts and presenting many new works written by Argentine and Latin American composers.


From April 1979 to March 2009, the GRUPO ENCUENTROS has given annual concerts at important international festivals, including: Biennial of Zagreb; Radio France; Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon and Paris); Lille and Orleans Festivals; Antidogma Musica (Torino); Nuova Consonanza (Rome); Royal Festival Hall (London); Merkin Hall (New York); Chamber Theatre (Stuttgart); Diorama of Suisse-Romande Radio; Bösendorfer Concert Hall (Paris); Printemps Festival (Prague); Días de Música Contemporánea of Radio España, Concert Hall of the UNESCO (Paris); Monday Evening Concerts (Los Angeles); San Francisco Contemporary Music Players; Neue Musik of Austrian Radio; Midem Classique (Cannes); RTB Radio and Royal Conservatory (Brussels); Gaudeamus Foundation (Holland); Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); and Gomidas Hall (Yerevan).


They have performed around the globe, in locations including Montrèal; Toronto; Río de Janeiro; São Paulo; Quito; México; Santiago de Chile; Pittsburg; Syracuse; Boulder; Greeley; San José; Porto; Yverdon; Bolzano; Trento; Rovereto; Cagliari; Rotterdam; Utrecht; The Haye; Danmarks; Maastricht; the National Auditorium of Madrid; Irún; Gèneve; and Bogotá. They have appeared on German radio programs in Köln, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart, as well as on the BBC in England, RAI Radio in Torino and Rome, and Soviet Union Television.

They have performed on the principal theaters of Estonia, Seoul, Taiwan, Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla, Fribourg, twice across the United States, and at the Musée Paul Klee de Berne (Salzburg), Neue Musik Festival de Luzern (Switzerland), Musée de Beaux Arts et Salle Gomidas de Erevan (Armenia), Lausanne, Neuchatel, Bienne, Bologna, Orleans Concert Hall, Varsovie Radio Concert Hall, and more.


The GRUPO ENCUENTROS has 4 albums: Raíces Americanas (American roots), Las Vanguardias en Argentina (The avantgardes in Argentina), TANGOS Y ALGO MÁS (TANGOS...AND SOMETHING MORE), and Encuentros..... con el tango (Encounters .... with the tango). In December 2008 they presented the albums 30 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC and 30 Years With the Tango as well one DVD with the members of the Grupu Encuentros covering their 30 years devoted to contemporary music.


Terzian is a member of the National Academy of Fine Arts of Chile. Starting in 1979, she was in charge of the annual Argentine selection for the World Music Days organized by the International Society for Contemporary Music, and the International Rostrum of Composers organized by the International Music Council of the UNESCO.


From 1985 to 2005 she was the President of the Argentine Music Council of the UNESCO; conductor of the “Ensemble Casella” of Torino in the official winter session (1987); Vice President of the International Music Council of the Unesco (1990); Regional Secretary of the International Music Council (IMC-UNESCO-Paris) for the Three Americas (COMTA) until 2004; delegate before the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris (IMC-UNESCO-Paris) (1979 - 2006); Director of the National Fund for the Arts until 1989; Artistic Director of Cablevision (an Argentine private arts channel); Vice President of the Women International Council of the Unesco; Vicesecretary of the Argentine Union of Composers; Permanent General Secretary of the Argentina Society of Musicology; founder of the Argentine Branch of the International Federation of “Musical Youths”; and founder of the Latin American Council of Music.


She has been a member of national and municipal juries of composition and musicology competitions, including: many contests organized by the National Superior Conservatory of Paris (1983); the Festival of Ibagué, Colombia; the Composition National Competitions of Colombia, (1998); the 2nd Ibero American Prize in Oporto, Portugal (1998); the Sacred Music Festival of Fribourg (1995); the International Competition of Orleans (2002, 2004, 2006); and the Composition Competition in Taiwan (2002).


As the Regional Secretary of the International Music Council (UNESCO) from 1985 to 2005, Terzian successfully proposed the formation of the National Councils of the IMC-UNESCO in México, Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Uruguay, and gave new life to the Councils of Cuba, Chile, and Costa Rica.


After being in Mexico and Buenos Aires, when she was in Cuba in March 2000 she was able to assemble three important meetings of the Presidents of all Latin American and Caribbean countries with the IMC DEx Com, in order to promote more efficient musical action across the American continent.


As a composer Terzian has received many commissions from sources including: Gulbenkian Foundation of Lisbon, London Ices Festival, Festival of Zagreb, Aspekte Salzburg Festival, Banco Mayo Foundation, Grenoble Orchestra, Radio France, Dutch pianist Marcel Worms, Argentine organist Adelma Gómez, Ensemble Contemporánea of Denmark, Dutch bass clarinetist Harry Sparnaay, and Simón Bolívar Orchestra of Venezuela.


She has written works more than 80 works for different genres, including: chamber, orchestra, soloist and orchestra, choir, mixed media, ballet, musical theatre, and more. Her repertoire is performed annually at prominent concert seasons in 5 continents.


Concerning her career as a composer, Terzian herself states that there were three stages: the first would span from 1954, when she began writing, to 1964 with her Movimientos Contrastantes. In this stage she wrote works such as Toccata for piano and Danza criolla.


The polytonality and microtonalism are definitive features of this stage. Terzian uses her knowledge about microtonalism as a result of her musicology studies in Venice about medieval religious Armenian music.


The microtonalism makes its appearance in works such as Concert for violin and orchestra (1954/55) and Three Pieces for string quartet (1954). In this period, Terzian showed an outstanding mastery of academic techniques, which were the fruit of a solid musical formation.


The second period, her "Cosmic" period, was open to atonalism through microtonalism. In this period were some of her important works: Cuaderno de imágenes for organ, Shantiniketan for flute and speaker or dance), Carmen criaturalis for french horn, string orchestra, and percussion; Voces for mezzo, piano, flute, clarinet, violin, violoncelo, and tape


The third period started in 1980, and was her "Space” period, with works like Off the edge for baritone and string orchestra, Yagua Ya Yuca for solo percussion, Oda a Vahan for piano and tape, and Ofrenda a Bach for organ. This was a free microtonal period for Terzian, and included works like Canto a mí misma, where Terzian developed the sound in real time with electronic equipement and a sound "coupole" with speakers around the public that receive the orchestral sound transformed by the equipment.


Terzian is composer of our time but always developing new sounds and expressions of emotion.


Many musicologists have researched Terzian’s musical works, especially in Europe and the United States.


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Alicia Terzian's lectures at the Gulbenkian Auditorium No. 2 confirm once again her important personality and her talent as a composer. Newspaper, Lisbon, Portugal.


We listen to the work of Alicia Terzian in her lecture, proving that, in addition to her eloquence, she has a great talent as a composer. El Excelsior – Mexico.


"Shantiniketan" is a kind of ceremony that envelops the audience and shows the dialogue between the flute, the lights, the movements, the sound and an ethereal choreography. L.F. - Paese Sera - Rome


Alicia Terzian is a great composer. G.F. Ghedini - Rome.


The work "Voices" by Alicia Terzian has a great dramatic power, an intense humanity that enveloped the audience, who applauded the work in a continuous way. Napoleón Cabrera - Clarín - Buenos Aires.


"Carmen criaturalis" by Alicia Terzian is an intelligent music, with something of wild and primitive, of intense power that convinces and mysterious energy. C. Magrini - El Cronista - Buenos Aires.


The "Visual Symphony" by Alicia Terzian gave strength to the visual images penetrating the most secret knowledge of sounds. His work leads a new meaning in music. L'Unitá - Rome.


"Atmospheres" for two pianos by Alicia Terzian eloquently expresses the immense creative capacity of the Argentine composer. Newspaper - Lisbon.


Alicia Terzian directed the Chamber Orchestra of Aosta. The Terzian, the instrumentalists of the orchestra and Oscar Alessi duly motivated gave life to an excellent performance perfectly in spirit with the work. Listening it is almost difficult to sit in your seat because the temptation is to get up and start dancing. P.Gall - La Stampa - Italy.


Alicia Terzian has a double vocation as a composer and director, with such a talent for which she is recognized today as one of the most dynamic personalities of avant-garde contemporary music. Louise Vallin - Femme - Switzerland


Alicia Terzian is affirmed, with "Voces II" as a composer of ardent and delicate talent. Daniel Robellaz - Switzerland.


Alicia Terzian in "Voces" generated constant changes and emphasis in her music. Meirion Bowen - The Guardian - England.


At the head of her group Alicia Terzian directs with precise and indefatigable attention. With it contemporary Argentine music has a cheerleader of equivalent Latino value of our Diego Mason or Paul Mefanó. His concert was one of the most captivating manifestations of the festival. M.M. - Le Nouvelle d'Orléans - France.



Photo: Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti


In 1979, Alicia Terzian created the Grupo Encuentros with an aim to promote the new music of Latin American and Argentine composers. As of 2019, they have completed 32 international tours across 5 continents, performing over 325 concerts at prestigious festivals and concert halls. These include: the Biennial of Zagreb; Radio France; the Gulbenkian Foundation; the Lille and Orleans Festivals; Antidogma Musica (Torino); Nuova Consonanza (Rome); Royal Festival Hall (London); Merkin Hall (New York); Chamber Theatre (Stuttgart); Diorama of Suisse-Romande Radio; Días de Música Contemporánea of Radio España; Monday Evening Concerts (Los Angeles); San Francisco Contemporary Music Players; Neue Musik of Austrian Radio; Spring of Prague Festival; Midem Classique (Cannes); RTB Radio and Royal Conservatory (Brussels); Gaudeamus Foundation (Holland), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); Gomidas Hall and Filarmonia Theater (Yerevan); and in many cities across Canada, China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and all the countries of South America.


Photo: Bottom row left to right: Carlos Nozzi (cello), Marta Blanco (mezzo), Sergio Polizzi (violin), Alicia Terzian. Top row from left to right: Matias Tchicourel (clarinet), Claudio Espector (piano), Fabio Mazzitelli (flute).

Daniel Binelli (bandeon). Photo: Peter Schaaf



“Last Sunday a concert around the texts of the greatest Argentine poet, Borges, became a surreal trip back and forth with several faces. [Alicia Terzian’s piece] started with a female voice while a piano reverberated from afar and conversations seemed to emerge from the walls. The tango emerged in different ways. The interpretation of the Grupo Encuentros was passionate... an intriguing journey of passion.” — René van Peer, Eindhovens Dagblad (Netherlands)


“The Grupo Encuentros were directed precisely Alicia Terzian... poetic and lively."

— Daniel Robellaz, Daily Tribune de Geneve (Switzerland)


"The Argentine musicians brought the Argentina Buenos Aires... not [with an] exotic folk air, but with... total [modernist] contemporary tango music. The Grupo Encuentros [performed with colorful and expressive interpretation].”

— Politiken (Copenhagen)

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