This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Jean Ter-Merguerian (October 5, 1935)

French-Armenian virtuoso violinist and violin educator Jean Ter-Merguerian was a talented young musician who earned the first prize for violin at the Marseille Conservatoire in 1946, at the age of eleven. In the same year, he had his first recital, where he performed Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor and Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E minor with conductor André Audoli. He emigrated to Soviet Armenia in 1947 with his family and continued his musical studies in Yerevan with Professor Karp Dombaev from 1954-1958 and in the Moscow Conservatory, graduating in 1960. Then he continued post-graduate studies in the same conservatory with famous violinist David Oistrakh. He was a prizewinner of international violin competitions, such as the Prague Spring (1956), the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, and the Queen Elisabeth in Brussels (1963). He also obtained the first Grand Prix at the Long-Thibaud Competition in Paris (1961). He taught at the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory since 1964 and became a soloist of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra in 1966.
He offered concerts in the former Soviet Union, Western Europe, Lebanon, the United States, Canada, and South America. The story goes that in 1975, he played the violin concerto by Brahms in Boston during his American tour. At the conclusion of the concert, the conductor Arthur Fiedler, who was very hard to please, embraced the young violinist on the stage and wished him success, endorsing his talent in his very first performance in the United States.
Ter-Merguerian obtained the title of People’s Artist of the Armenian SSR and was a laureate of the State Prize of Armenia. He moved back to his birthplace of Marseille in 1981.
His solo performances were accompanied by orchestras of different countries conducted by famous conductors, including Aram Khachaturian conducting his own violin concerto. Jean Ter-Merguerian was also jury member of international competitions, such as “Paganini” in Genoa (Italy), “Sarasate” in Pamplona (Spain), “Tchaikovsky” in Moscow and “Khachaturian” in Yerevan.
Unfortunately, there are no official recordings of concerts by Jean Ter-Merguerian. Only two CD-Rs of live and archive broadcast material have been released, while the 1966 Armenian Radio broadcast recording of Bach Double Concerto is part of a 2CDs compilation dedicated to his colleague, the violinist Anahit Tsitsikian. In 1999 Ter-Merguerian recorded his only commercial release, Gérard Gasparian’s Violin Sonata (1990), with the composer himself at the piano. Many of his recordings, yet unexplored, are reportedly at the Armenian Radio TV archives.
Ter-Merguerian died of cancer at his home in Marseilles, on September 29, 2015, and was buried in Yerevan.
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