Armenian composer Vartan Melkonian has been on a remarkable journey that has spanned continents and musical genres, from 50s American pop through Western classical music to Middle Eastern folk.
Vartan has risen from humble beginnings on the streets of Beirut, where he taught his child peers to recite Elvis songs with him, before being discovered by a local talent scout. Three decades later, he started conducting his own compositions in the world’s most prestigious concert halls.
His most recent work Amwaj – Water Symphony was written for the BMG Foundation’s Our Water Our Life initiative, in aid of the global water scarcity crisis. It was premiered by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Central Hall, Westminster, last month
In the first instalment of a two part interview, Vartan talks about his early experiences with music, from the Danish missionary songs he learned in a Lebanese orphanage to the Western pop he picked up from the radio, his first brush with Beethoven and finally, his days as a club singer in the north of England.
Tomorrow, Vartan will discuss his move into classical composition, and his marriage of Western and Middle Eastern musical structures.
For more in our classical composers series read M at The Proms: Insider’s View