Acclaimed as a cultural leader in his native Armenia and increasingly in demand on the international stage, Sergey Smbatyan is founder, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra. In September 2019 he became Principal Conductor of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra following highly successful tours of Germany, Austria and the United States, including performances at the Berlin Philharmonie, Vienna’s Musikverein and Carnegie Hall.
Music’s power to unite, heal and inspire has driven and sustained Smbatyan since childhood. His mature artistic vision combines lessons learned from the best traditions of Russian music-making and a profound personal commitment to transforming lives through the shared experience of performing and listening. The charismatic conductor’s reputation with fellow musicians and critics alike flows from his technical command, the intensity with which he shapes and communicates musical ideas, the intelligence of his programming, and the spiritual richness and depth of his interpretations.
Sergey Smbatyan was eighteen when he founded the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra in 2006. He has overseen its transformation since from youth ensemble into one of Armenia’s finest professional orchestras. They began 2020 with a landmark European tour, complete with debut appearances at Vienna’s Musikverein, the Berlin Philharmonie, Salzburg’s Großes Festspielhaus, the Barbican Hall in London, Moscow’s Zaryadye Concert Hall, the Gasteig Munich, Stuttgart’s Beethoven Hall and Prague’s Rudolfinum.
Smbatyan’s guest conducting career has flourished in recent seasons, leading to concerts with Sinfonia Varsovia, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and, among others, the Orchestra of the Komische Oper Berlin. He returns to the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra during the 2021-22 season for a European tour comprising concerts at Wiesbaden’s Kurhaus and the Vienna Musikverein. His schedule also includes dates with the Malta Philharmonic, Russian National, Jerusalem Symphony and Royal Philharmonic orchestras as part of the 2021 InClassica International Music Festival. Smbatyan will conduct the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra on its first UK tour in 2022/2023 season, presenting ten concerts at leading venues in company with Maxim Vengerov as soloist.
Known for his imaginative programming, Smbatyan is a determined champion of new music and supporter of emerging talent. He is founder and artistic director of four music festivals in Armenia, Artistic Director of the Aram Khachaturian International Competition and, in October 2019, conducted the WTIC World Orchestra in the first ever concert of music composed by artificial intelligence (AI). His repertoire embraces everything from masterworks of the western symphonic literature to compelling scores by Armenian and other Eastern European composers, many of them commissioned by or specially written for him.
Born in Yerevan in 1987, Sergey Smbatyan showed exceptional musical promise as a child. He received his first violin lessons from his grandmother, Tatiana Hayrapetyan, and continued his training at the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan, the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and with Zakhar Bron. He refined his conducting skills while studying for a PhD in fine arts at the Institute of Arts of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences and as a postgraduate student at London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he gained invaluable insights into the conductor’s art from Sir Colin Davis.
Sergey Smbatyan’s list of awards and prizes includes the title of Honoured Artist of the Republic of Armenia, presented by the President of the Republic of Armenia in recognition for his promotion of Armenian music and culture. In 2014 he became the youngest ever worker in the field of the arts and the first Armenian to be appointed Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture.
Michael Laus graduated in piano, harpsichord, composition, and conducting at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi of Milan in 1982. He later participated in master classes in conducting given by George Manahan in the United States and Vladimir Delman in Bologna.
Principal Conductor of Malta’s national orchestra for twenty-five years and now its Resident Conductor, he has conducted the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in symphonic concerts both in Malta’s main concert venues and on tour in Belgium and Italy. He has conducted several opera productions which include the Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy, Die Zauberflöte, L’Elisir d’amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Rigoletto, La Traviata, Otello, Falstaff, La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Gianni Schicchi, Roméo et Juliette, Werther, Pagliacci and L’amico Fritz, as well as lesser-known titles such as Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto and Nino Rota’s La note di un nevrastenico. His performed repertoire includes the major symphonies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Handel’s Messiah, the Mozart and Verdi Requiems, Jenkins’ Mass for Peace and other works from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries with several first performances of works by contemporary composers.
In July, 2016, he conducted the first European performance of Arvo Pärt’s Greater Antiphons, in the composer’s presence, and in November 2016 he conducted a highly acclaimed performance of Verdi’s Requiem. He opened the first edition of the Valletta International Baroque Festival in 2013 with Vivaldi’s Quattro stagioni together with Carmine Lauri, and the second edition with Handel’s Messiah. Other soloists with whom he has collaborated include Katia Ricciarelli, Cecilia Gasdia, Joseph Calleja, Brigitte Engerer and Andrea Griminelli, while he also works regularly with his wife, the soprano Miriam Gauci.
Michael Laus has guest-conducted prestigious orchestras such as the Bournemouth Symphony, the Slovak Philharmonic, the New Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Belgrade Philharmonic, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Asturias, the Berne Symphony Orchestra, L’Orchestra Sinfonica di Pesaro, the Sibiu Philharmonic Orchestra, the Moldavian Symphony Orchestra and the Croatian Chamber Orchestra. He has appeared as music director in operatic productions at the Berne State Theatre and in Oviedo.
He regularly appears in the double role of pianist/harpsichordist and conductor in a concerto repertoire ranging from baroque to twentieth-century works. In this double role, he has won international critical acclaim for his recording of Cyril Scott’s Harpsichord Concerto.
Michael Laus has recorded works for the piano and orchestra as well as orchestral music on CD, which have been released on Discover International, Unicorn-Khanchana and Cameo Classics labels. He has appeared on Rai 3, France 3 and Mezzo television channels. He is Associate Professor in Music Studies at the University of Malta. He was the founder and first music director of the Malta Youth Orchestra, and also the founder and director of the Goldberg Ensemble, a choral and instrumental group specializing in the performance of baroque music.