This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Rouben Gregorian (October 23, 1915)

Violinist and conductor Rouben Gregorian was a prolific name both in Iran and the United States, where he lived for the last half of his life. 

Rouben Grigorian was born to a family of musicians in Tiflis, Georgia, on October 23, 1915. His family moved to Iran a year later and settled in Tabriz. He studied at the Armenian Central School in Tabriz and then at the Tehran Conservatory, where he later became an instructor of violin. His studies also included classes in composition with celebrated composer Arthur Honegger in Paris and conducting at the Paris Conservatory. He was designated choirmaster of the Conservatory of Music in Tehran, where he founded the first Persian-language choir of the country. He was music director and conductor of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra and head of the music section of the Iranian National Committee of UNESCO from 1948 to 1951. 

In 1952 he settled in the United States, where he launched an impressive musical career. Soon after his arrival, he joined the faculty of the Boston Conservatory of Music. He was the founder of the Komitas String Quartet and the Komitas Choral Society, music director and conductor of the New England Symphony Orchestra and Portland (Maine) Symphony Orchestra (19581962), and the Boston Women‘s Symphony; guest conductor at Boston Esplanade Concert, Boston Pops Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Yerevan Philharmonic Orchestra, Tehran Symphony and National Iranian TV Orchestra, New Chamber Orchestra (London), Chamber Players, and Pasadena Symphony Orchestra.  

He was a pioneering collector of Iranian songs, which he published in two volumes. He also published two volumes of church hymns, and his recordings include Oratorio de Noel; Sharakans and Armenian folk songs; Tatragom’s Bride; Symphony No. 1; Three Orchestral Suites; Concerto for Horn; Armenian Heroic Ballads; Caprice for Violin; Scherzo for Piano, numerous solo and choral compositions, and many arrangements of Armenian folk songs. Gregorian was the recipient of numerous awards and commendations, including his proclamation of Man of the Year by the National Representative Assembly of the Eastern Prelacy in 1978.

He passed away in Boston on March 28, 1991. His younger brother Henry Gregorian (1924-2021) played violin for 43 years for the Minnesota Orchestra.