Armenian conductor Sergey Smbatyan is the Founding Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Armenian State Symphony Orchestra is a symphony orchestra performing internationally to great acclaim. Under Smbatyan’s artistic direction, its players are energetic, enthusiastic musicians with the shared objective of raising cultural awareness in Armenia and pursuing spiritual excellence through classical music.
Smbatyan has presented the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra and the Malta Philharmonic throughout Europe, Russia and the United States. Performances include Vienna’s Musikverein, the Berlin Philharmonie, Salzburg’s Großes Festspielhaus, London’s Barbican Centre, the Gasteig Munich, Rudolfinum in Prague, Grand Hall of the Moscow State Conservatory and New York’s Carnegie Hall where he made his debut at the age of 28.
Born in Yerevan, Smbatyan was first introduced to music by his grandmother, the violinist and teacher Tatyana Hayrapetyan, who gave him violin lessons from an early age. He later studied at the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan and the Moscow P.I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory, receiving lessons from Bagrat Vardanyan and Zakhar Bron. Whilst studying for a PhD in Fine Arts in Yerevan with Yuri Davtyan, Smbatyan developed his passion and conducting skills working with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra which he founded aged 18. As a conductor, Smbatyan has been significantly influenced by his lessons with Riccardo Muti and Sir Colin Davis which he undertook during his studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
A winner of multiple European conducting and violin competitions, Smbatyan has developed an international reputation that includes guest conducting engagements at the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, Sinfonia Varsovia, and many others.
In 2015, Smbatyan became the youngest recipient of the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. He was presented with the award by the French Minister of Culture attended by Krzysztof Penderecki and Charles Aznavour, among other guests of honour. Two years later, as commendation for his promotion of Armenian music and culture, the President of the Republic of Armenia presented Smbatyan with the title of Honoured Artist of the Republic of Armenia.
Smbatyan’s championing and commissioning living composers, promoting cultural heritage and developing new audiences are central to his artistic life and are reflected in his work as the Founder and Artistic Director of the Armenian Composing Art Festival; the “Contemporary Classics” Composers’ Festival; the “Armenia” International Music Festival; the Khachaturian International Festival. The latter has its distinct positioning in Smbatyan’s cultural activities as a calling card for the Armenian performing arts. These values also define his work as Artistic Director of the Khachaturian International Competition.
Smbatyan deeply believes that only culture can shape our future and unite everyone by spreading harmony and peace. This is the main message conveyed in the orchestras he has founded: 24/04 World Orchestra, the “Generation of Independence” All-Armenian Choir and Orchestra and the Pan-Armenian Symphony Orchestra. Smbatyan’s passionate advocacy for increasing the level of cultural education and engagement, and social responsibility among young people was fulfilled by founding the UNICEF Children’s Chamber Orchestra and DasA, an innovative high school-based project that offers students hands-on experience of making classical music.
A recognised pioneer in the uses of AI and other technologies in classical music, Smbatyan has developed multiple collaborations with leading institutions. As part of the 2019 World Congress of Information Technology he conducted the first-ever concert of music written live by AI. An audience of over 75,000 people watched the open-air concert performed by the WCIT World Orchestra, a specially created orchestra of players from the fifteen countries that had ever hosted the Congress.
A creative concert programmer, Smbatyan has worked with the world’s leading soloists and actors including John Malkovich who performed and toured with him several projects in Latin America, Asia and Armenia including narrating excerpts from The Book of Lamentations by Armenian poet Grigor Narekatsi.
Smbatyan’s discography is rich and includes many recordings for ArmSyphony Records including Khachaturian’s Symphony No.2, The Bell, which was made to celebrate the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra’s 15th anniversary. A particular focus of Smbatyan’s recording activities is contemporary music which he primarily records with the Armenian State Symphony and Malta Philharmonic orchestras, alongside other orchestras such as London Symphony Orchestra.
Future performances include concerts with both the Armenian State Symphony and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestras throughout the United Kingdom in the 2022-23 concert season.
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.
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.
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. His restoration of the score of Ignaz Brüll’s Violin Concerto and his subsequent recording of this work has also been received with acclaim.
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. These include a series of recording of works by British composers, and another series on Jewish composers. 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.