mercredi 30 juillet 2014


Diran Alexanian, one of the world’s greatest virtuoso cellists, was born in Constantinople on April 12th, 1881.
He takes his first steps in music under the supervision his maternal uncle Hovannes Aznavour. Later on, he perfects his art with Guatelli, an Italian musician based in Constantinople.
At age 15, Diran decides to devote his life to music, despite his parents’ objections. They wanted him to embrace a diplomatic or legal career and follow in the footsteps of his Ambassador grandfather, or his father Hovannes Bey, President of the Commercial Court.


In spite of all that, Diran takes leave of his parents and his native city in 1895, and heads off to Germany. At the Conservatory of Dresden (Hochschule für Musik) he becomes a pupil of the famous cello teacher   Friedrich Wilhelm Grützmacher (1832-1903). Through him, Diran Alexanian meets Joseph Joachim (1831-1907) and especially Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), and begins to play in his orchestra.

Aged only 17, he is invited to perform as a soloist in the monumental symphonic poem for Cello and Orchestra "Don Quixote" by Richard Strauss, conducted by the composer. This shows the mastery of the    young Diran and marks the beginning of his ascent as a soloist. He is invited by the greatest conductors of his time, including Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922) and Gustav Mahler (1860-1911).



The artistic achievement of Diran Alexanian’s experience in Germany is unique: Having moved to Germany to study at an early age and left while in his twenties,  he not only had the good fortune to meet such a "Mohican" as Johannes Brahms, to play in his orchestra, receive advice and instructions from the great German Master,  but also, and throughout his training, to play music and perform in concerts with musicians such as Joseph Joachim, Richard Strauss, Arthur Nikisch and Gustav Mahler.


In 1901, now 20 and having completed his studies, Diran makes a brief visit to his family in Constantinople and then moves to Paris.
Diran Alexanian’s  Paris period spans from 1901 to 1937 and proved to be as intense and rewarding.  
Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Alfred Cortot (1877-1962), Jean Huré (1877-1930), Wanda Landowska (1879-1959), George Enesco (1881-1955), Lazar Levi (1882-1964), Alfredo Casella (1883-1947) – these are the musicians with whom Diran Alexanian worked, interacted and played music at that time.
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and other famous musicians who appreciated Diran Alexanian’s talent greatly often honored his concerts by their presence. 

As a trio, the Rumanian Enesco, violin, the Italian Casella, piano and Diran Alexanian, cello, perform throughout Europe.
Alfredo Casella
George Enesco
Alexanian and Enesco were also partners in the famous Johannes Brahms Double Concerto.
Considered one of the best interpreters of Enesco’s Sinfonia Concertante for Cello and Orchestra op. 8 in B minor, Alexanian performed the work in Paris with the composer conducting and in Spain with Pablo Casals conducting.

Poster for the April 18,
1920 concert
Jean Huré

 The first page of Jean Huré's
Third Sonata dedicated to
Diran Alexanian
Multiple proposals and invitations received by Diran Alexanian to participate in world premieres of works by composers of his time, are eloquent examples of his artistic maturity and the level of his game.
It’s in this context that we must assess the following world premieres.  Here are some of them :
—Georges Enesco’s Sonata for cello and piano in C major (op.26 / 2), at a Paris concert on March 4, 1936 with the author himself at the piano.
—Emanuel Moór’s (1863-1931) Suite for four cellos, op. 95, performed by André Hekking, Joseph Salmon, Pablo Casals and Diran Alexanian, on Juin 15, 1909, at the Salle Pleyel concert dedicated to the Hungarian composer.
—Jean Huré’s (1877-1930) Quintet for strings and piano created on 23 May 1912 with Georges Enesco (violin), Robert Krettly (violin), Drouet (alto), Diran Alexanian (cello) and Andrée Gellée (piano).
—At the April 18, 1920 concert, Diran Alexanian performs the Third sonata in F sharp major for cello and piano by
Jean Huré, with the composer at the piano. The sonata dedicated to the artist, is followed by Bach's Fourth cello suite and Georges Enesco's Sinfonia concertante for cello and orchestra, op. 8, with the author at the piano.

Diran Alexanian & Pablo Casals, 1941
 Diran Alexanian and Pablo Casals were close friends for over half a century. This friendship began with a fortuitous and truly remarkable event:
Italian pianist and composer Alfredo Casella asked Diran Alexanian to revise the cello part of one of his works.  
Examining the score, Casals was pleasantly surprised by the extraordinary competence and professionalism of the work and expressed his desire to meet its author.
Concerning  Alexanian’s cello playing, Casals realized that the cellist’s new technique for his finger movements was very much in line with his own ideas.

Casals’s following statement about Alexanian shows the quality and strength of their relationship and speaks for itself:
«Alexanian is an exceptional man. He and I have discussed cello and interpretation issues for years.  
My conversations with him have always been a true inspiration for me».


       Sergei Lyapounov (center), Diran Alexanian (on the right)

Diran Alexanian also collaborated with Russian musicians. 

On 17 and 19 February 1923 in Barcelona, Diran Alexanian played in two concerts with Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1954). 

On 25 December of the same year Diran Alexanian participated in the concert of another Russian composer and pianist Sergei Lyapounov (1859-1924), playing the cello part in his Piano Sextet.



In the French and European media of the first thirty years of the twentieth century, there are numerous articles on
Alexanian’s concerts, celebrating him as a cellist as well as a conductor. All the articles point to the high quality of
his performance while highlighting the pure style and lack of gestural effects of his playing.
As well as being an erudite scholar, Diran Alexanian was a gifted writer. In Parisian periodicals of the time, such as «Le Monde Musical», we find numerous publications, including articles about Casals, controversial statements, concert reviews including the Furtwangler, Toscanini and the «Claude Debussy» obituary (April 1918) on the occasion of the composer's death.
His encounter with Henri Bergson (1859-1941), who was to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1927, and Alexanian's training through Bergson's classes and conferences have played a key role in the shaping of Diran's philosophical ideas.


Bulding at Nº 12 Faraday Street,
in Paris's 17th district, 
where Diran Alexanian lived 
in the 1920s and 30s.


Ecole Normale de Musique

Diran Alexanian’s academic and teaching activities during his Parisian period were mainly related to the Ecole Normale de Musique, where he was invited on the recommendation of Pablo Casals.
There, besides leading cello classes, Diran Alexanian directed the orchestra, as well as orchestral conducting and chamber music classes.


Theoretical and practical 
treatise of the violoncello
Six Suites for 
Unaccompanied Cello
At the age 29 Diran Alexanian drew up a new cello method, which took four years of painstaking work. In 1914, Diran Alexanian completed the extensive work that Pablo Casals used to call «Technical dictionary for cello».
Still very much used in teaching today, the French-English bilingual handbook «Theoretical and practical treatise of the violoncello»  prefaced by Pablo Casals was published in 1922 by the Parisian publishing house «Mathot», now «Salabert»
Another equally important work completed by Diran Alexanian is the analytical edition of the full version of the «Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello», by J.S. Bach (1929). 
This publication is unique as it contains the facsimile of the Six Suites, written by the hand of
Anna Magdalena Wilcke-Bach, the composer’s second wife, 
a copy of the document from the personal collection of Diran Alexanian.


Diran Alexanian’s first attempts at composing during the course of his studies in Germany were his choral works written for the choir of the Protestant church. As a composer, he is best known for writing a number of transcripts based on ancient songs - sacred or profane. His «Little Armenian Suite» (1919) composed for chamber orchestra, includes instrumental versions of the liturgical piece «Khorurt khorin» and profane chants «Oror», «Alaguiaz» and «Hovarek» («The Deep Mystery», «Lullaby», «Alaguiaz Mountain» and «Given the Freshness»). 
This Suite was performed for the first time at a gala in honor of the famous Armenian writer and journalist Arshak Chobanian at Paris’s Gaveau concert hall.
There are also well-known arrangements of popular pieces for strings, especially for the cello. 
His works include «Two Poems», by Camille Mauclair, for voice and piano, 1919, Paris, Mathot edition,
«Soir, les roses dans le coupe», after Albert Samain's poem, for voice and piano, 1918, Paris, Ricordi edition,
Qintet for piano and strings,
Two pieces, «Aria» and «Pastoral» for cello and piano from the «Christmas oratorio» by J.S. Bach, 1904, Paris,
«Lullaby»  for cello and piano, 1923, Paris.

About Alexanian's pianistic skils, his pupil David Blum writes the following, on page 166 of his book «The Art of Quartet playing» :
— «He could play almost any opera score on the piano from memory».


To a US invitation sent out in the 20s, which included a proposal to create a cello school in the United States, Diran Alexanian was unable to respond until 1937.
At the end of the Summer of 1937, on the occasion of Diran Alexanian’s departure for the United States, the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris gave a Chamber Music concert in his honor.  G. Fauré’s second Quartet, Schubert’s Quintet with 2 cellos  and Schumann’s string Quartet were beautifully executed by MM. Palenicek, the Figueroa brothers, Blanpain Reculard and Noordhof. 

Alfred Cortot

      Page dedicated to Alexanian
      «Le Monde Musicale»
       June-July 1937
In a highly acclaimed speech Mr. Alfred Cortot highlighted the high value of such a master’s teaching, his high degree of culture and the recognition owed by a whole generation of young musicians. 
Here is the text.
«The moment when we have to take leave of Alexanian, even temporarily, in this school he founded and where his great musical teachings has shone with extraordinary brilliance, is a moment of true regret for us all.
I realize it would not be truly loving him to ask him not to accept the flattering offer the United States have just made him and that will take him away from us.
I know that our attachment would have looked like selfishness had we insisted on keeping him with us, when, in the name of France whose teaching trends he so worthily represents, when he is about to lead our national methods to excellence through his method, in a friendly country  where his reputation is already well established and where he is assured of a resounding success. 
So, before he leaves a house that will remain filled with his influence, on behalf of his cello class students, as well as the students of the orchestra and chamber music classes, on behalf of his friends from school and myself, who owe him so many hours of priceless collaboration, I want to tell him that none of those I have just mentioned will forget the great artist that has showed such affection and devotion for nearly twenty years.

What his teaching here was - what his patient research into the psychological and physiological factors affecting the beauty of music has brought to light out of his long experience, the following lines that summarize the important work he has achieved, will define its meaning and its quality.
Blessed are the young American musicians who will know how to benefit from such a discipline.  
Thanks to it, and with the noblest awareness of what their art demands, they will find the most effective way to uncover its moving and miraculous secret».


Peabody Institute
Manhattan School of Music
Unfortunately, we do not have enough information about 
Diran Alexanian’s
17 years of activity in the U.S., especially when it comes to his educational activities at the «Peabody Institute» in Baltimore and at the «Manhattan School of Music» in New York.

We are still waiting for an answer concerning our requests in the archives of these institutions about his teaching and concert activities during his American life period. 


Diran Alexanian died in France in 1954, at the age of 73, during his European tour. 

He is buried in Chamonix, in the French Alps.

With Antonio Janigro

With Henry Honegger
Chamonix, 1927

Picture showing his commitment to Chamonix from the very start of his life in France. 
He enjoyed going on holidays there, far from Paris, at the foot of the Mont Blanc, during periods of the year when he wasn’t overwhelmed with educational activities. 


A partial list of world-renowned musicians who have studied or received advice from the famous cellist, conductor and eminent pedagogue Diran Alexanian.

Eisenberg Maurice (1900-1972) 
Willem van den Burg (1901-1992) 
Emanuel Feuermann (1902-1942)
Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976)
Henry Honegger (1904-1992) 
Herbert de Castro (1905-1969) 
Metzmacher Rudolf (1906-2004)
Pierre Fournier (1906-1986)  
Raya Garbousova (1906-1997)
Eva Heinitz (1907-2001) 
Ljerko Spiller (1908–2008)
Harvey Shapiro (1911–2007) 
Fritz Magg (1914-1997)
Bernard Greenhouse (1916-2011) 
Hidayat Inayat Khan (1917)
Antonio Janigro (1918-1989)
David Soyer (1923-2010) 
George Ricci (1923-2010) 
Oliver Colbentson (1927-2013) 
John Sant’Ambrogio (1932)
David Blum (1935-1998)

Article from New York Times, 
July 4, 1954, on the death of Diran Alexanian.

English version thanks to

Aucun commentaire:

Publier un commentaire