Sergei Babayan, hailed for his charismatic and emotionally charged artistry, has signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon. The new relationship was announced on 19 July 2018 at the Verbier Festival. Last March saw the release on the yellow label of Prokofiev for Two, an album of Babayan’s transcriptions of a dozen pieces from Romeo and Juliet and of excerpts from other works by the Russian composer, recorded in partnership with Martha Argerich. Now the 57-year-old Armenian-American pianist is set to expand his DG discography with a groundbreaking project that will pair Mozart piano sonatas with a variety of pieces from different periods. Future recordings will explore works by other composers essential to Sergei Babayan’s musical identity, Bach and Rachmaninov among them. The pianist’s plans will also reflect his profound knowledge of rarely heard repertoire, commitment to works by contemporary composers and skills as composer and arranger.
“I was first introduced to Deutsche Grammophon when I was fourteen,” comments Sergei Babayan, “through Martha Argerich’s recording of Chopin’s E minor Concerto. That formed me as a musician and to this day continues to be one of my guiding lights. This label represents the world and works of the artists I’ve admired most deeply throughout my life. Other recordings deeply etched in my mind from those early years are by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Vladimir Horowitz. To be a Deutsche Grammophon artist myself today is, for me, the highest possible privilege. I am deeply grateful to my destiny for giving me such a great honour.”
Babayan has been a regular guest at the Verbier Festival for years. Last year, in company with the young players of the Verbier Festival Orchestra, he gave a sensational performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.25 in C major. This summer, the breadth and depth of his repertoire are once again mirrored in his programmes, which span everything from music by Louis Couperin and Rameau to Pärt and Shostakovich. He will also join a galaxy of classical stars, Martha Argerich and his pupil Daniil Trifonov among them, for the Festival’s 25th-anniversary gala concert on 25 July.
Critical acclaim has followed Sergei Babayan since his victory in the 1989 Cleveland International Piano Competition. Le Figaro recently praised his “unequalled touch, perfectly harmonious phrasing and breathtaking virtuosity”, while Montreal’s Le Devoir declared that “Sergei Babayan is a genius. Period.” He began piano lessons in his native Armenia as a child and went on to study at the Moscow Conservatory, where his teachers included Mikhail Pletnev, Vera Gornostayeva and Lev Naumov. Following his move to the United States, he joined the Cleveland Institute of Music as artist-in-residence in 1992.
Babayan has built a distinguished career as concerto soloist, chamber musician and recitalist. He has appeared as soloist with many of the world’s leading orchestras, among them the London Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In 2015 he joined the LSO and Valery Gergiev at the BBC Proms for a day-long survey of Prokofiev’s five piano concertos.
“Dazzling virtuosity, the utmost expressive honesty and exquisite eloquence belong to the essential ingredients that make Sergei Babayan’s playing so unique,” observes Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “His creativity stems from both his virtuosic mastery of his instrument and his in-depth understanding of music and intellectual history. Away from the keyboard, Sergei is an incredibly inspiring communicator, a teacher who imparts knowledge with enormous energy and intelligence. His duo partnerships with Martha Argerich and Daniil Trifonov on Prokofiev for Two and Chopin Evocations underlined what we already knew about his musicianship, revealing the incredible depth of his passion and compassion as an artist. These qualities will also be a feature of his solo albums. We welcome him to the yellow label and are determined to share his artistic insights with the widest possible audience.”