Sensational cellist returns to Malta | Narek Hakhnazaryan

Denise Azzopardi speaks to Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan prior to his solo performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor at the Manoel Theatre later this month. She learns how he fell in love with Malta, its people and its food during his first visit to Malta last year, and is delighted to hear his heartwarming messages for his audience-to-be this time around

Award-winning cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan is the soloist for the MPO’s Dvorak & Elgar concert on November 11 PHOTO: Marco Borggreve
Award-winning cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan is the soloist for the MPO’s Dvorak & Elgar concert on November 11 PHOTO: Marco Borggreve

Narek, have you ever performed this cello concerto before? 

Oh, I’ve performed it many times before. Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor is considered one of the most structurally beautiful concertos ever and it always goes down well with orchestras and audiences. So, of course, it is my utmost pleasure to play Dvorak and this concerto in particular.

Is this your first performance with Maestro Michalis Economou?

It is my first performance with him, but not my first meeting. We actually met for the first time last June in my homeland, Armenia. He was invited to an event that I was also invited to, and a month or two later, he sent me a message saying that we were going to play together in the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra’s Dvorak & Elgar concert. Neither of us knew at the time that this would be the case. What a coincidence that was!

What are your thoughts and feelings about Dvorak’s music and this concerto in particular?

I love Dvorak’s music in general – he has some of the most melodious compositions, and probably every second melody he wrote is a masterpiece. This concerto distinguishes itself from other concertos because the orchestra here is not an accompaniment for the soloist. The roles of the orchestra and soloist are equally important, and this piece is very symphonic, so the entire orchestra has a major part to play. 

Which is your most treasured passage within the concerto and why? 

I don’t really have one as all the beautiful melodies within the piece hold a special place in my heart. However, considering the amount of beauty that the slow, second movement contains, I could say that this is the one that gives me most chills! Then again, there also many beautiful passages in all the movements.

Are there any parts that you find more challenging than others to perform?

I don’t find any of the passages in this concerto to be very technically challenging. I think there are more technically challenging concertos than this. But, the biggest challenge here is the physical one rather than the musical – it’s a long concerto, written in a symphonic way, which means that the orchestration is very thick and substantial. All that requires the largest amount of energy and power possible from the cellist, from the very first note to the very last. It can be very challenging for the cellist to survive playing for the whole 40-minute-long concerto, while never giving up in capacity and musicality.

What is your key to successful playing?

The one key to successful playing with pretty much any instrument is this: if you feel that you are getting tired or your hands hurt, that means you’re doing something wrong. So you need to stop and analyse what you could be doing wrong. The important thing is to learn from experience and from your mistakes.

What do you aim to achieve with this upcoming performance in Malta?

My general goal in life is to introduce more and more people to such a wonderful instrument that is the cello, to its wonderful repertoire, and classical music in general. I know that many people attend such concerts and I’m sure Malta won’t be an exception. I’m sure there is always a percentage in the audience that has never been to a classical concert before or hasn’t done so in quite a while, and my goal is to make these people fall in love with classical music.

Would you like to pass on a message to your audience for the evening?

My message would be: I’m very excited to play for the Maltese audience because I fell in love a year ago when I first visited Malta. I hadn’t expected such a warm welcome and everything to be so perfect – the weather, the people, the food. It’s really a joy for me to be able to return to the island, and I’m hoping to come there as often as possible. I’m very happy to be playing alongside the MPO, and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy the concert.

The concert, Dvorak & Elgar, will take place at the Manoel Theatre, Valletta, on November 11 at 20:00. Tickets range from €10 to €30. For bookings, log on to, email [email protected] or phone on 2124 6389. For further information, visit