Amici’s Levant project was truly a labor of love for me. Being born in Beirut, Lebanon, of Armenian parents, the sounds , the rhythms, the melodies and harmonies of  folk music from the Levant (the geographical region known today as the Middle East) had always played a crucial role in my musical upbringing, and the idea of making a recording entirely dedicated to “classical” music inspired by, or created in my birthplace, was intriguing.

The catalyst came in the form of a concert dedicated to the solo and chamber works of composer Osvaldo Golijov,  organized by Soundstreams in Toronto. One of the works I performed was a solo piano piece called “Levante” , a virtuoso transcription of  one of the chorus movements of Golijov’s “Saint Mark’s Passion”, which brilliantly combines Cuban rhythms, Argentinean Tango and African-American influences .  Obviously, the connection here, to the Middle East was historical rather than musical. But the performance of this work inspired me to find solo and chamber music pieces with a more direct “Levantine” musical influence. The results of my research even surprised me: In addition to works by great composers such as Prokofiev (Overture on Hebrew Themes) and Glazunov (Reverie Orientale), there were equally precious gems by lesser known composers from Armenia, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon such as Gayane Tchepodarian, Solhi Al-Wadi, Rabih Abou-Khalil or George Gurdjieff. The Amici concert we did with this program was a big success and it was obvious that the project constituted a meeting point of the the musical worlds of East and West.

However creative  and clever the concept behind a project, what makes a recording stand out, is first and foremost, the musicians involved in it. Joaquin, David and I were joined by three excellent guest musicians, violinists Benjamin Bowman, Stephen Sitarski, and violist Steven Dann. Alongside artistry at the highest level and superb technical prowess, there was always meticulous care shown towards the interpretation of each piece,  truly making it our own. I should also not forget our amazing recording producer Johanne Goyette and the whole team of ATMA Classique, and Ruben Malayan, the designer of the stunning cover art.

The Juno win in Amici’s 25th anniversary season was very special and a proud accomplishment for the three of us. But the fact, that it was the project so close to my heart which was awarded the Juno, doubled my joy!