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Adamyan's Celebrity Series Debut

Diana stands in front of a stone wall, holding her violin and looking at the camera. She has long, wavy brown hair, and she wears a white shirt with pink, gold, and green watercolor flowers on it.
Bauer Schmitz
Opus 3 Artists
Violinist and artist Diana Adamyan

Sunday, June 16, 2024
7:00 PM

On WCRB In Concert with Celebrity Series of Boston, Armenian violinist Diana Adamyan brings a warm lyricism and astonishing technique to works by Mozart, Sibelius, Baghdasaryan, and Saint-Saëns.

Diana Adamyan, violin
Renana Gutman, piano

MOZART Violin Sonata in B-flat, K. 378
SIBELIUS Five Pieces, Op. 81
SIBELIUS Humoresque No. 3 in E-flat, Op. 89
SAINT-SAËNS Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 75

Recorded at Pickman Hall at the Longy School of Music of Bard College on Dec. 7, 2023

See the full program notes and performer biographies.

For information about upcoming concerts, including the 2024-2025 season, visit Celebrity Series of Boston.

To hear a preview of the program with Diana Adamyan and CRB's Cathy Fuller, use the player above, and read the transcript below.


Cathy Fuller Well, the Armenian violinist Diana Adamyan won first prize at the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin International Competition. That is one of the world's most prestigious prizes for young violinists. She also went on to receive first prize in the 2020 Khachaturian Violin Competition—that one held online in the middle of the pandemic. And you may very well remember her from the summer of 2022, playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with the Boston Pops. Diana, thank you so much for your time.

Diana Adamyan Thank you so much for having me today.

Cathy Fuller Well, I saw you on an Instagram post, you posted a video of the sidewalk marker where Boston's Back Bay was underwater. Do you get a lot of time to get out and explore a city when you're traveling?

Diana Adamyan I love Boston. It's not my first time here. I used to come a lot when I was a child and to play here. And it's wonderful to be here. And, of course, when I have time, I try to go walk around and see things, meet friends. I have a lot of friends here, and I'm very, very happy to be here again.

Cathy Fuller I'm picturing you walking through the Boston Garden and probably practicing at the same time. I think people don't realize how important that is for a musician, isn't it?

Diana Adamyan It's very important, of course. The practice is not about only playing the instrument. It's also a lot of work just mentally and just realizing how important it is just to have the music in your head and just to have the image of how you want the music to be played. So, as I paint as well, I imagine, every time I play something, a painting of myself or I just paint in my head. So sometimes when I walk around or when I don't practice, when I'm not with my instrument, I just either hear something in my head as a phrase or as a music, or I just imagine a painting related to the music.

Cathy Fuller So there's that real visual sense.

Diana Adamyan Yes.

Cathy Fuller And is that true when you're performing as well?

Diana Adamyan Yes. I imagine colors every time I play.

Cathy Fuller Do you have perfect pitch?

Diana Adamyan Yes I do.

Cathy Fuller So that fascinates me because I think those of you who have that are living a very different life [Fuller and Adamyan chuckle] than the rest of us. I can imagine the Sibelius Violin Concerto, but you can bring it to life in your head. And I think that's something that people may not realize. Well, that is fantastic. And so I love that image of you. So, you grew up with lots of musicians. How many musicians are there in that family?

Diana Adamyan I was born in a very musical family. My parents play violin and my sister is also a violinist. My grandmothers were musicians. My aunts, my uncle, everyone in our family plays on an instrument and are professional musicians. So I was born there in this atmosphere, wonderful atmosphere. And it's a wonderful thing to have in life because there's support, and the feelings I get from my family—also in a professional way as well—it's something that I can't put into words.

Cathy Fuller Yeah. It's like having a whole second language to talk to everybody in—

Diana Adamyan Yes! Yes. That's true.

Cathy Fuller So you never considered mutiny and, like, becoming a doctor?

Diana Adamyan Not really. [laughs] It was decided, I think, already until I was born. So, it was a very natural thing for me to want to be a musician.

Cathy Fuller Well, that's nice and that's lucky, I think, for you. You're performing with the pianist Renana Gutman, who we are lucky to have here in Boston. She teaches at the Longy School of Music at Bard College and has a fantastic career as a collaborative pianist. How quickly can you know, when you meet someone and you find out that you're going to be performing with them, that it's going to work?

Diana Adamyan I can say maybe from the first note we have played together, and sometimes the connection works perfectly with pianists and musicians I play with. And with Renata, it was the perfect match, let's say, because we just started to play music and it just flew by itself.

Cathy Fuller Fantastic. That's lucky too.

Diana Adamyan Yes.

Cathy Fuller So you're starting with Mozart. This is the 26th Violin Sonata. Although I know he called them sonatas for piano and violin. And I think it's very generous of you because the very first theme is for the piano.

Diana Adamyan Yes.

Cathy Fuller And then you come in afterwards. But it's a lovely way to begin. What are the challenges of Mozart?

Diana Adamyan Mozart is one of my favorite composers. And I used to play Mozart as I was a child a lot. And coming back to Mozart as an adult now is very, very fascinating and opens more colors for me in Mozart as well. And it's very, very nice to have the possibility to perform Mozart and to start the recital with this sonata, especially, because it's one of my favorites and I didn't have the chance to play it a lot when I was a child. So, it's wonderful to be performing here, this sonata, and to open up more possibilities and more colors and to be able to share these colors with the audience.

Cathy Fuller So it's in B-flat.

Diana Adamyan Yes.

Cathy Fuller You could say that you have synesthesia, basically, right? So does that have a color, B-flat? Or does it change for you?

Diana Adamyan It's more like blue colors for me, the B-flat. But of course, there are a lot of changes in terms of dark blue, or it just becoming sometimes greenish and then light blue... So it depends on the movement and depends on the mood, of course. And it depends on my mood as well, while I play. So it can be very different. Every time I play, I can just imagine different things. It will be in blue, "blue theme," let's say, but every time is different. And the painting, as I imagine it, are different every, every time.

Cathy Fuller What is the high point of this sonata? I always look forward to his slow movements. They're always so touching. But is there a part of this sonata that you love the most?

Diana Adamyan I love the second movement, actually. The beginning, also. The piano begins the second movement, but it has something very, very special in it. And while we were rehearsing with Renana the other day, we just discovered something very similar to Lacrimosa, because it also has this [Adamyan sings]. And it's very heartwarming to discover that because Lacrimosa is one of the pieces I would listen every day.

Cathy Fuller The Lacrimosa from the Reqiuem [by Mozart].

Diana Adamyan Yes, the Lacrimosa from the Requiem. And it has something similar to it, and it makes it much more special to to play the second moment and to just play it through and just to take it very deep into your heart.

Cathy Fuller Thank you for sharing that kind of secret, wonderful piece of knowledge. So Sibelius comes second and you've got a couple of things from him. He wrote these small pieces during the First World War. And I don't feel like a lot of people play them that much. But this first set of pieces, it's five pieces. The first piece, it's totally unlike the Mozart, right? You just start out with this, like, explosion, and then you go up to, what is that a high F or something? Is that hard?

Diana Adamyan Not really...

Cathy Fuller It's an A?

Diana Adamyan Yeah. It's very different from Mozart and it's completely a change of mood. So, you know, just playing Mozart—Mozart is very classy and you have to play it very right and as it's written. But Sibelius is something like a firework afterwards. So it's just say "G” [Adamyan sings]. And it's wonderful that you have this "wow" effect after Mozart. Of course the other movements for Sibelius: so they're Mazurka, Rondino, Valse, Aubade, and Menuetto. They're very different with the styling. They have, of course, something in common because they're one of five from Op. 81—

Cathy Fuller Sort of like a suite.

Diana Adamyan Yes, yes, but they are very nice. And they also can be played separately as a wonderful encore, let's say. But I used to play the first three of them, and I discovered them actually before the Sibelius Competition I was participating in in 2022. And that was an amazing discovery for me because everyone speaks about [the] wonderful symphonies of Sibelius and the Violin Concerto, but not always do musicians play these small pieces and it's very, very sad that they're not very much played. And then I discovered that he also has small pieces for piano and they are gorgeous. They're amazing.

Cathy Fuller People don't play those either.

Diana Adamyan No, unfortunately.

Cathy Fuller Maybe, but I think Mozart would have liked this. I mean, Mozart had that sort of giggling craziness, you know, stunned-them-out-of-their-chairs kind of thing. And then after you play those five pieces, then you're playing his Humoresque. This is in E-flat. What is that color for you?

Diana Adamyan Yellow. Yellowish.

Cathy Fuller Yellowish?

Diana Adamyan Orange/Yellow something.

Cathy Fuller It seems like we play every possible pitch that a violin can play in that piece. Is that true?

Diana Adamyan Yeah, I guess so. [Adamyan laughs]

Cathy Fuller It starts out really dark, right?

Diana Adamyan Yes.

Cathy Fuller Right in the low, low register? And what is this instrument that you're playing on?

Diana Adamyan This is a Nicolò Gagliano, generously on loan from the Henri Moerel Foundation. And I’ve played on this instrument since 2019.

Cathy Fuller So how does that work? I mean could you choose or was this was just handed to you and, "Enjoy this"?

Diana Adamyan I was playing a concert in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. And, I have now wonderful friends, but I didn't know them at that time. They were at a concert and they just came to me after the concert, Jantiene [T. Klein Roseboom] and Arnout [J. van der Veer], and they said that they have a violin [from] Nicolò Gagliano. And [they asked] if I would love to try it and to play on it.

Cathy Fuller And did you believe them? [laughs]

Diana Adamyan Of course, yes! They were so nice, and they are so nice and wonderful. And we just went the next day, went to Florian Leonhard where the violin was, and I just tried. I just played an Armenian piece [by] Komitas - “Krunk” - and that was the first thing I've played. And I just fell in love with the sound of the violin, with deepness. And it has a very deep sound. It just goes very, very, right into the heart.

Cathy Fuller So did they take pictures of your face as you were playing?

Diana Adamyan Yes! There is a video actually [Adamyan and Fuller laugh].

Cathy Fuller Oh there is? Ok, I will look that up.

Diana Adamyan There is a video of me playing Komitas on this violin for the first time. And then I just fell in love with this violin. And since then, I—

Cathy Fuller Those stories are just, they just bowl me over, you know? The stories about what people give you after a concert, the surprise guest who has something for you. Okay, well, as an Armenian violinist, I know that the voices of the great Armenian composers mean a huge amount to you.

Diana Adamyan Yes.

Cathy Fuller I remember reading that you played, with Pinchas Zukerman, the Bach Double [Violin] Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. What was that like?

Diana Adamyan That was a very, very special event for me, especially when I was realizing that I was doing something for my country. And I was a child, I mean, I was 15. And it was, of course, a great honor for me to play with Maestro Zukerman and to be there and represent Armenia and to speak up about the things that have happened and to try to tell the world that it's not the thing that has to happen again. So, I always say that in the situations like that, we just need to speak up through the music, because the music is the only thing that keeps people kind and emotional, and it can just change the person, like, totally. So being able to speak with people through the music is the best gift we could ever receive. So that was my opportunity to speak up and it was very special.

Cathy Fuller "Keeping people kind," that's a beautiful, beautiful way of putting it. So it must have been quite a feeling to finish that Bach Double [Violin] Concerto. And I'm sure you had an incredible response.

Diana Adamyan Yes, it was great. It was an amazing concert.

Cathy Fuller Well, so you're playing, after the Sibelius, it's Edward Baghdasaryan's "Rhapsody." I was listening to it. I love the opening. The pianist gets to these melting harmonies. It has such an atmosphere. How do you think of this piece, this "Rhapsody"?

Diana Adamyan This piece is originally written for violin and orchestra. And what we will play, this will be in an arrangement for violin and piano.

Cathy Fuller It's very well done.

Diana Adamyan Oh, yeah. It's wonderful. And it doesn't seem that it's written for an orchestra. So if you hear the piano version, you can think, "Yeah, that's the original one". So it's very well done. And, it's a wonderful piece because Baghdasaryan was one of the biggest figures in Armenian culture, Armenian music, and he wrote this rhapsody. It's one of the biggest Armenian pieces for violin written, one of the most wonderful. And it has everything in it. It has aspects of Armenian culture, Armenian music. And you can feel the Armenian nature, Armenian spirit, love and you can feel everything in this piece.

Cathy Fuller So he died like 13 years before you were born. You must wish you could have met him. He was from the same place.

Diana Adamyan Yes!

Cathy Fuller Yerevan.

Diana Adamyan Yes.

Cathy Fuller Then after that beautiful Rhapsody, Saint-Saëns, that First Violin Sonata. Is that a piece that all violinists are given in general?

Diana Adamyan I don't think so, because this sonata is not very often played.

Cathy Fuller Okay.

Diana Adamyan And I didn't know about this sonata until I was 18. And I remember, I chose this sonata, with the help of my professor when I was studying in Munich, Ana Chumachenco. And I really wanted to play Richard Strauss's Violin Sonata, and she said, "Why don't you play some Saint-Saëns? He has two Violin Sonatas and why don't you play the first one? It's wonderful and it has a lot of technique, a lot of gorgeous music in it." So I thought, why not? We can try.

Cathy Fuller I guess we should point out that the second theme in there is the one that Marcel Proust was so turned on by, right? And so in, in his book "À la recherche du temps perdu," "In Search of Lost Time," he makes up this composer, Vinteuil, and says that he wrote the sonata, but it's actually that sonata, right? So you learned it and it made you forget about the Strauss?

Diana Adamyan It did for four years. [Adamyan and Fuller laugh] Only for four years. But I just fell in love with the sonata. It was very interesting for me to open it from different sides. And it has a lot of beautiful melodies which are not very... You can't see them from the first time you play. So you just keep looking for new melodies, new beautiful harmonies, and sometimes the harmonies are in piano parts. So you have to know that piano part. And it's amazing. It's wonderful to play it. I've played it a lot since 2019. It was the only sonata that I was playing in every single recital I was playing. I was playing another sonata and Saint-Saëns. So it was an obligatory for me.

Cathy Fuller I'm glad because I think Saint-Saëns is a little bit underrated. I don't think people think of him as much as they should. So what's the best part of this sonata? Is there a goosebump moment for you?

Diana Adamyan I love the third movement. It's actually two movements, but they're stuck together, so one, two, three, four. And I love the beginning of the official second movement, but it's basically the third movement and the second movement, so the Adagio.

Cathy Fuller The slow one.

Diana Adamyan The slow is gorgeous. It has a lot of small notes and it's adagio. It's very melodic, but it has these small pearls in it [Adamyan sings], very nice. So they just, you know, give the shine to the movement. It's gorgeous. Everything is wonderful. In the fourth movement, it's just, you know, you're just a firework. Just wow. And in the fourth movement there are only scales, scales and arpeggios. And you can think that, "Oh, that's an exercise." It's very good to have to practice. But if you find the music in those exercises, it can become a really nice piece to play. And it's very—

Cathy Fuller It's what separates the whatever from the whatever, right?

Diana Adamyan Yes!

Cathy Fuller If you can make music in your scales. So it probably gets a big ovation at the end, and do you usually do encores after the Saint-Saëns?

Diana Adamyan Yes. I love to play Armenian music as an encore.

Cathy Fuller Oh, great.

Diana Adamyan And I hope that we will do something at the concert. And also, I have some small surprises, Sibelius but it's not Sibelius, it's from Kreisler. I love the small Viennese pieces, and I play them a lot, and it's just a pure joy to play them, to perform them.

Cathy Fuller Well, Diana Adamyan, we are just so happy to know that you're wandering our city and that you're here to play with the Celebrity Series. Thank you. And I hope you come back every year.

Diana Adamyan Thank you so much.