Hailed as “a true heir of the mainstream of Russian pianism, like Horowitz” (Chopin Magazine, Japan), “a keyboard phenomenon that needs to be heard by everyone interested in pianists and the piano” (Fanfare Magazine, USA), “a formidable pianist with a commanding presence and rich interpretive gifts” (American Record Guide Magazine), ”a master of his art” (The Record Geijutsu Magazine, Japan), Raffi Besalyan has established an international reputation of a magnetic and passionate performer. Active as a recitalist, orchestral soloist, and chamber musician, Besalyan appears in many important music venues worldwide. Critics on both sides of the Atlantic have praised his performances for their virility, poetry and extraordinary technical command.
Armenian-born American pianist Besalyan made his formal New York debut in Carnegie Hall after winning the Artists International Competition, and was subsequently invited to perform at Merkin Concert Hall on the Artists International “Outstanding Alumni-Winners” series. New York Concert Review described him as “Technically brilliant… Besalyan played with a great deal of temperament, speed and power… audacious spirit and poetic substance, deeply felt tenderness…” Most recently Besalyan made his Chicago debut in famed Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center as the featured Guest Artist for the Chicago International Music Festival.
Among his other competition awards are top prizes received from the Josef Hofmann International Piano Competition, the New York Frinna Awerbuch International Competition, and the MTNA National Piano Competition.
In recent years, Besalyan has dazzled his audiences in North and South America, Europe, Russia and Asia, appearing as a soloist with the Osaka Symphony Orchestra (Japan), Orchestra Sinfonica Del Festival Di Chioggia in Venice (Italy), Yerevan Symphony Orchestra (Armenia), Belgorod, Symphony (Russia), Kharkov Symphony (Ukraine), New Jersey Festival Orchestra, Owensboro Symphony (KY) and Moscow Chamber Orchestra among others. The Armenian Reporter Int’l – New York stated “Standing ovation and cries of “Bravo” and “Encore” went to pianist Raffi Besalyan…mesmerized the audience with his gracious, delicate yet powerful presentation of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No.3.”
Since his highly successful tour of Japan in 2001, Besalyan visits the country on a yearly basis for concerts and master classes arranged by IMC Music in Tokyo, MAS management and Yamaha. Articles on Raffi Besalyan appeared in the Chopin magazine, Asahi, Sankei, Kobe, Nikkei and Yomiuri newspapers. After one of the recitals in Osaka, Sotokuan Press wrote that “The entire hall was devoured by Besalyan’s glorious touch and crystalline sound…Besalyan was not just playing the piano, he was creating wonderful art, and treated the piano with his love for the music.”
Some of the highlights also include recitals for “Keyboard Karma” series in Vancouver and “Overture Concerts” in Nelson, Canada; concert tours and master classes in Japan, including a performance of Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto with the Osaka Symphony, solo recitals in Izumi Hall and Phoenix Hall in Osaka, recitals and master classes in Tokyo and Kyoto, and a tour in celebration of Niigata Nippo newspaper’s 70th Anniversary; also, recitals in Rachmaninoff and Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in Russia, performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.; appearances with the Jasper Quartet for BFCM in New York and, with Metropolitan Opera tenor Jon Garrison; live broadcasts of solo recitals on WPR/NPR -”Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” and fundraising recital for Madison Symphony Orchestra in Madison (WI); solo/duo recitals for “Yamaha Pianos” presented by Yamaha Corporation of America in New York City.
Besalyan’s debut solo album entitled “Dance, Drama, Decadence” for IMC Music label (Japan) has earned him international accolades since its release in June 2012. Receiving the prestigious “Jun-Tokusen” Award from Japan’s leading classical music magazine, The Record Geijutsu, the album went on to be chosen as “Classical Album of the Month” by one of Japan’s largest newspapers, Mainichi Shinbun. It also premiered in its entirety on Tokyo FM “Music Bird” as the “Best New Release of the Month” selected by this prominent radio channel. In addition, Ongaku no Tomo Publication of Japan recommended and archived the CD as a study reference for music students and professors. Fanfare Magazine, one of the largest, oldest and most respected classical music magazines in the US, featured Besalyan in an extensive interview followed by rave reviews of the album. Another glowing review appeared in American Record Guide Magazine. Besalyan was also recently interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Norman Gilliland on “The Midday”. The CD was aired on WPR (Madison, WI) and KHPR (Honolulu, HI). “Dance, Drama, Decadence” consists of virtuoso works by Rachmaninoff, Liszt and Ravel, and includes premiere recordings of colorful folkloristic pieces by Armenian composers Komitas and Baghdassarian.
The CD recording, “The Bach-Busoni Edition” Vol. 1 with Sara Davis Buechner was released on Koch International Classics in September of 2008. Currently Besalyan is assistant consultant on several piano projects for Dover Publications.
Besalyan received his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory as a student of Sergey Barseghyan. He received an additional Master of Music degree from Rowan University under Veda Zuponcic, and studied at the Manhattan School of Music with legendary American pianist Byron Janis and Sara Davis Buechner. His studies at the Moscow State Conservatory included classes with Alexei Nasedkin, Victor Merzhanov and Naum Shtarkman.
In 2008 Dr. Besalyan joined the Faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he is Artist/Teacher-Associate Professor of Piano. Former faculty member of Rowan University in New Jersey from 1998-2008, he also served on the faculties of Festival Musica in Laguna in Venice, Italy, and the International Summer Music Festival at Rowan. Besalyan has been active as an adjudicator for PTNA and Osaka International Piano Competition in Japan, International Chopin Piano Competition in Asia, competitions in Italy, and for various chapters of MTNA.