The brilliant pianist and conductor Constantine Orbelian is the first American ever to become music director of an ensemble in Russia. His appointment in 1991 as Music Director of the celebrated Moscow Chamber Orchestra was a breakthrough event, and came in the midst of Orbelian's successful career as a concert pianist.
Born in San Francisco to Russian and Armenian emigré parents, Orbelian made his debut as a pianist with the San Francisco Symphony at the age of 11. In his early teens he went to the Soviet Union on a musical scholarship; at the age of 18, after graduating from Juilliard in New York, Orbelian embarked on a solo career that typically involved 85-90 concerts per year. His solo appearances with orchestra have included the Symphony Orchestras of Boston, Detroit, San Francisco, and St. Petersburg, the Moscow Philharmonic, Scottish National and Russian State Symphony Orchestras, the Moscow Virtuosi, the Budapest Chamber Orchestra among many others. His piano recordings include concertos of Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Khachaturian, the latter winning "Best Concerto of the Year" award in the United Kingdom.
One of the world's great chamber orchestras, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra was created in 1956 by renowned conductor and violist Rudolph Barshai, and has been an inspiration to important Russian composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich, who entrusted the first performance of his 14th Symphony to the orchestra.
The appointment of Constantine Orbelian as Music Director of the MCO in 1991 brought the orchestra into a new era of international activity and acclaim. Under Orbelian's direction, the MCO performed at the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the United Nations in San Francisco and has made extensive international tours in France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Finland, Sweden, Korea, Japan, South Africa, South America, Canada and the United States. Maestro Orbelian and the MCO now perform more than 120 concerts per year, including three Carnegie Hall appearances in 1998 and 1999, and a sold-out subscription series in the Great Hall of Moscow's famed Tchaikovsky Conservatory. It is also under Orbelian's leadership that the orchestra was accorded the honor of "Academic" in its official Russian title (Russian State Academic Chamber Orchestra).
It has often been noted that the Moscow Chamber Orchestra under Orbelian's direction has a special "luminous" sound and that they play "with one voice." As London's The Daily Telegraph put it, "The musicians channel all of their emotion into the music and give performances of such passion and musicality... producing music making of both subtlety and verve."
Maestro Orbelian's ambitious new series of recordings on Delos with the MCO includes the Tchaikovsky Serenade and The Seasons (DE 3255); Shostakovich Waltzes (DE 3257); Russian Soul (DE 3244); Piazzolla Tangos, with Italian saxophonist Federico Mondelci (DE 3252); and Mozart Adagios (DE 3243).
Rachmaninoff's one-act opera, Aleko, with baritone Vassily Gerello in the title role and soprano Olga Guryakova as Zemfira, is an August, 2000 release on Delos (DE 3270). The opera was performed live with the same cast at the Palaces of St. Petersburg Festival in June, 2000. Also in June, 2000, Orbelian and Gerello appeared together with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in an all-Verdi program.
The release of Orbelian's new recording of Handel arias with the remarkable Polish soprano Ewa Podles (DE 3253) coincides with their return together to Carnegie Hall in January, 2001, in a program featuring Handel and other Baroque arias.
Constantine Orbelian is Founder and Music Director of the annual Palaces of St. Petersburg International Festival, a three-week event featuring concerts in many of St. Petersburg's magnificent, lavishly restored palaces. He also founded Moscow's unique concert series, "Musical Treasures at the Museums of the Kremlin."