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) and “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. The 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.” Besalyan made his Chicago debut in the famed Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center as the featured guest artist for the Chicago International Music Festival. Among his 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), the Orchestra Sinfonica Del Festival Di Chioggia in Venice (Italy), the Yerevan Symphony Orchestra (Armenia), the Belgorod Symphony (Russia), the Kharkov Symphony (Ukraine), the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, the Owensboro Symphony (Kentucky), and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, among others. The Armenian Reporter Int’l (New York) stated that a “standing ovation and cries of ‘Bravo’ and ‘Encore’ went to pianist Raffi Besalyan . . . [he] 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 and MAS Management. Articles about Raffi Besalyan have appeared in the CHOPIN Magazine, Asahi, Sankei, Kobe, Nikkei, and Yomiuri newspapers. After a recital in Osaka, Sotokuan Press wrote, “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 Distinguished Artist’ Concert Series in Santa Cruz, CA, Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society in Ontario, Canada, Pianoforte Foundation of Chicago, including a live broadcast on WFMT Chicago, Pro Musica of Detroit; The Embassy Series in Washington, D.C.; the “Keyboard Karma” series of Vancouver; “Overture Concerts” in Nelson, Canada; a concert tour 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; a recital tour in celebration of Niigata Nippo newspaper’s 70th Anniversary; recitals in Rachmaninoff Hall and Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in Russia; a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; appearances in New York with the Jasper Quartet for Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music and with Metropolitan Opera tenor Jon Garrison; live broadcasts of solo recitals on WPR’s Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen; a fundraising recital for the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Madison (Wisconsin); and recitals at the Yamaha salon in New York City.
Besalyan’s debut solo album, Dance, Drama, Decadence (IMC Music, Japan), has earned international accolades since its release in June 2012. The album received the prestigious Jun-Tokusen Award from The Record Geijutsu, Japan’s leading classical music magazine, and was chosen as “Classical Album of the Month” by Mainichi Shinbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers. Dance, Drama, Decadence was selected as the “Best New Release of the Month” by Tokyo FM Music Bird, a prominent radio channel, where the CD premiered in its entirety. In addition, Ongaku no Tomo of Japan recommended and archived the CD as a study reference for music students and professors. Fanfare Magazine featured Besalyan in an extensive interview followed by rave reviews of the album, and another glowing review appeared in American Record Guide. Besalyan was also interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Norman Gilliland on The Midday, and Dance, Drama, Decadence was aired on WPR (Madison, WI) and KHPR (Honolulu, HI). The album features virtuoso works by Rachmaninoff, Liszt, and Ravel and premiere recordings of colorful folkloristic pieces by Armenian composers Komitas and Baghdassarian.
In 2014, Besalyan signed with GRAMMY® Award-winning record label Sono Luminus. His first critically acclaimed recording of solo works by S. Rachmaninoff and A. Babajanian for the label entitled “The Return” was released in March of 2015 and is distributed by Naxos. “The Return” has been aired on National Public Radio and many other radio stations across the U.S. and Canada, such as the WGBH Boston, WRUV Vermont, the SiriusXM Washington D.C., Wisconsin Public Radio, The King FM Seattle, WFMT Chicago, The Grand FM Ontario and CBC Public Radio. WQXR, New York’s premiere classical radio station featured the album as the New and Noteworthy Release of September 2015, stating “Russia’s bid to get Rachmaninoff’s remains moved from a cemetery in Valhalla, NY to Moscow caused a stir this summer, after the composer’s family balked at the idea. That makes this nostalgia-laced recording by the U.S.-based Armenian pianist Raffi Besalyan particularly timely.”
Besalyan has also recorded The Bach-Busoni Edition Vol.1 with Sara Davis Buechner, which was released by Koch International Classics in September 2008.
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. His studies at the Moscow State Conservatory included classes with Alexei Nasedkin, Victor Merzhanov, and Naum Shtarkman.
In 2014, Dr. Raffi Besalyan joined the faculty of Georgia State University in Atlanta where he is currently Associate Professor of Piano. A former professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Rowan University in New Jersey, he has also been a guest artist/teacher of the Festival Musica in Laguna in Venice, Italy, the International Summer Music Festival at Rowan, the Cap Ferret International Music Festival in France, and the Summer Music Performance Program at Anatolia College in Thessaloniki, Greece. Besalyan has been active as an adjudicator for PTNA and Osaka International Music Competition in Japan, International Chopin Piano Competition in Asia, competitions in Italy, and for various chapters of MTNA.