Monday 8 June 2020

Cultural support and technological daring: the 16th Khachaturian International Competition launches, taking place entirely on-line

16th Khachturian International Competition
Press conference launching the
16th Khachturian International Competition
The 16th Khachaturian International Competition began on Saturday (6 June 2020), opening with a press conference with performances starting today and running until the final on 15 June. The competition has taken place each June in Yerevan, Armenia every year since 2003, alternating categories of cello, violin, piano and conducting. This year focuses on the violin, but this year is also somewhat different as the entire competition is taking place on line.

At the press conference the speakers in Yerevan, Armen Smbatyan (president of the board of trustees of the competition), Arayik Harutyunyan (Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of the Republic of Armenia), Eduard Tadevosyan (artistic director and first violin of the Komitas String Quartet and chairman of the jury), emphasised the importance of music in Armenian culture and the role the competition plays in this, particularly at the present time with the losses due to COVID19. But also the competition promotes the music of the Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) whose Violin Concerto (written in 1940) is a feature of this year's competition.

That the competition can take place on-line is due to a number of technological innovations, and all the speakers emphasised the challenges that had been overcome and the journey for both the competition and the competitors. The first two rounds are with piano, but the final round is with orchestra. A new mobile app has been developed which has enabled the competitors to create recordings and submit them, and the jury members (also distributed around the world) to listen to and watch the recordings. For the final round, there is a bigger technological challenge, how to synchronise each soloist's performance with the orchestra, and for this Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used.

By going on-line and relying so heavily on technological developments, the 16th Khachaturian International Competition is somewhat taking a leap in the dark, but so far all challenges have been overcome and there has been a warm response from the competitors. And by being daring, the competition is showing the way for others.

I should add a word of congratulations to Sargis Nalghranyan, who hosted the press conference, acting as moderator and translator, as well as deftly dealing with occasional gremlins.
The competition website has full details of the schedule, with a live stream of performances.

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