Armenian pianist Kariné Poghosyan dazzles with a riveting selection of vibrantly passionate piano music based on folk motifs of five different cultures on FOLK THEMES. Despite the composers’ respective idiosyncrasies, all pieces share the same inherent tenderness, fire, and zest for life: and Poghosyan isn’t shy to show it, both in the profundity of fragile sentiment and in fireworks of exuberant virtuosity.
Today, Kariné is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about her passion for journaling, and how she approaches music the way an actor handles a film script…
What inspires you to perform?
I believe something truly extraordinary happens during a live concert! On the surface, it all may seem so trivial, just some waves and vibrations that pass through the air and disappear! There is no hard copy of a painting or a book to hold on to! Just an hour or so and it is all over! And so why do it? Really what is the point of doing something that will flee away before you know it? Well, I do it because when I play, when those fleeting vibrations and waves come out from under my fingers and into the big golden belly of the magic beast that is the piano and flow out to my listeners, I know to my core they carry a miraculous power — an actual energy source — through them! They can not only uplift but transform everyone present! Though invisible, they carry a palpable magic balm to the soul that heals and invigorates. I am convinced that music is one of the superpowers that has kept our world alive amidst so much struggle. It genuinely makes the world a better place, and I play to keep it that way for as long as I shall live!
What advice do you have for young musicians?
Be strong! Work on your mental and spiritual strength almost as much as you work on the development of your technique and your artistic growth! To be a musician is not for the faint of the heart, but it is so deeply rewarding if you remember to ultimately take on every single artistic endeavor for the one person whose approval and inner joy matter most — you! Like all creative fields, ours too is filled with the all-powerful “gatekeepers” whose positive opinions and good reviews can change the very trajectory of our lives. However, first and foremost you must genuinely ask yourself if what you are creating fills you up with joy. And if the answer is “yes,” you are on the right track, keep going and keep believing! Make sure your soul is fulfilled by what you create, and you have a smile on your face when you hear the magical notes you are playing or singing! That is when the rest of the world will join in and smile along with you!
How do you prepare for a performance?
I always approach a piece of music the way an actor approaches a film script. I dig as much as I possibly can into the story of the composer — his letters, various biographical details, other works written at the same time as the given work I am learning. It is my goal to make certain that by the time I come on stage to bring this piece to life, I have looked at it from every angle and not only mastered its technical demands, but that I also am very clear on the message that this piece conveys to the audience. Every single piece carries a message to the listener and I have the grand responsibility as the performer to make sure that message is conveyed in the most convincing and powerful way possible.
Where and when are you at your most creative?
One of my favorite “escapes” is carving some time with my journal in a quaint little cafe! At heart, I am a massive introvert and since my line of work by nature comes with a lot of socializing and mingling with audiences, concert presenters, stage managers, and of course, my colleagues, I always have to balance it all out with some quality “alone” time to think, brainstorm on my next program, or reflect on what I would like to focus on for say the rehearsal or recording session later that day. Some of my proudest artistic achievements have been born from such caffeinated brainstorm sessions in solitude! It is a bit peculiar, but I am grateful to say the people that are closest to me have fully accepted and embraced this quirk of mine, and actually vehemently guard these sacred times for me to be left alone for a bit — to go journal and have a cup of coffee by myself.
What was the first performance you remember seeing?
In my early teens, my parents showed me a video of Van Cliburn, and I can safely say my life was never the same! I remember pointing at the TV and saying “I want to do that!” It was poetry in motion, the way his fingers just danced through the finale and the way he was so effortlessly immersed in his music-making. I had the good fortune to meet my Idol in 2002 after a rehearsal with the New West Symphony and Maestro Boris Brott. I had performed with them earlier, so I shyly asked Maestro Brott if I may pay a quick visit backstage. Not only was Van Cliburn happy to say hello, he kindly asked me about my own performance and we took a photo. As my father and I left to drive home, we were both so bewildered that we actually ran a red light. As the officer approached our window, we both started feverishly babbling something along the lines of “officer, you don’t understand! We just got to meet….VAN CLIBURN!!” After bearing with our over-excited confusing fan-girling, he waved us off to “go on, get out of here,” and we drove off, grinning all the way home.
Do you have any specific hopes about what this album will mean to listeners?
The Armenian master Komitas said, “the greatest creators are the people, go and learn from them.” In Armenian, the word used in this quote is a bit tricky to translate: “Zhoghovurd” (Ժողովուրդ). It in a way falls in between “people,” “common folk,” and “nation.” Thus, Komitas is asking us all to strip away the fanciful aristocratic veneers and to humbly go back to our roots to truly understand the magic of creativity. This is a universal concept that listeners from all over the world connect to and are inspired by. Ultimately, at our core, we are all one big “Zhoghovurd” — that is why we can enjoy folk music even if we do not understand the context. A great example of this for me is the stunning Oscar-winning theme music by Ludwig Goransson for the film Black Panther. Though I do not understand the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal’s words, his fervent vocalizations and the distinct sound of the African “talking drums” make something within me come to life that was otherwise dormant! Folk music carries that unique power that connects us all. I hope so much to create that beautiful unifying experience for my listeners with this album!
Explore Kariné Poghosyan’s Latest Release
FOLK THEMES is available now from Navona Records. Click here to visit the catalog page and explore this album.