Drake University Ferguson event to host legendary pianist, Sergei Babayan

Drake University proudly presents world-renowned pianist Sergei Babayan as the 2019 Edwin Earle Ferguson event artist. The solo concert will take place Friday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in Sheslow Auditorium. Admission is free. The concert program features the following works, all by Frederic Chopin:

Polonaise in C-sharp minor, Op. 26 No. 1
Valse in C-sharp minor, Op. 64 No. 2
Barcarolle in F-sharp minor, Op. 60
Valse in B minor, Op. 69 No. 2
Nocturne in B Major, Op. 9 No. 3
Polonaise-fantaisie in A-flat Major, Op.61
Valse in A-flat major, Op. 64 No. 3
Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat Major, Op. 29
Prelude in A-flat Major, B.86
Valse in A-flat Major, Op. 34 No 1
Mazurka in C-sharp minor, Op. 6 No. 2
Mazurka in C-sharp minor, Op. 63 No. 3
Mazurka in F minor, Op. 63 No. 2
Mazurka in F minor Op. 7 No. 3
Mazurka in B-flat minor, Op. 24 No. 4
Mazurka in B-flat Major, Op. 7 No. 1
Mazurka in G minor, Op. 67 No.2
Mazurka in C Major, Op. 67 No.3
Mazurka in A minor, Op. 67 No.4
Mazurka in A minor, Op. 68 No 2
Mazurka in F Major, Op. 67 No.3
Mazurka in B-flat Major, Op. Posth.
Mazurka in E-flat minor, Op. 6 No.4
Mazurka in A-flat Major, Op. 41. No.4
Mazurka in C minor, Op. 30 No.1
Mazurka in B minor, Op. 30 No.2
Mazurka in B minor, Op. 33 No.4
Mazurka in C Major, Op. 56 No.2
Valse in F Major, Op. 34 No.3    

This concert is made possible through the generosity of the late Edwin Earle Ferguson, who earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from Drake while working as a pianist at Hotel Fort Des Moines, Younkers Tea Room, and WHO Radio during the Great Depression. His love for music continued throughout his distinguished legal career, which included 17 years as deputy general counsel of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Sergei Babayan is one of the leading pianists of our time. Hailed for his emotional intensity, bold energy and remarkable levels of color, Sergei Babayan brings a deep understanding and insight to an exceptionally diverse repertoire. Le Figaro has praised his “unequaled touch, perfectly harmonious phrasing and breathtaking virtuosity.” Le Devoir from Montreal put it simply: “Sergei Babayan is a genius. Period.”

Sergei Babayan has collaborated with such conductors as David Robertson, Neeme Järvi, Yuri Temirkanov, Thomas Dausgaard, Tugan Sokhiev, and Dima Slobodeniouk, among others. Over the years, Babayan has performed with Valery Gergiev numerous times to great critical acclaim, including appearances at the International Festival “Stars of  the White Nights”, the Moscow Easter Festival, the Barbican Centre with Mo. Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, in St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Théâtre des Champs-Elyseés in Paris, at the Salzburg Festival, and at the Rotterdam Philharmonic-Gergiev Festival where Babayan was artist-in-residence.

In the 2018/19 season, Mr. Babayan’s schedule includes concert performances with the Lucerne Festival Strings, Dusseldorf Symphony, Antwerp Symphony, Cameristi del Teatro alla Scala, the Mariinsky Orchestra, and the Verbier Festival Orchestra. Sergei Babayan also performs at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Vienna Konzerthaus and Munich Prinzregententheater, the Maison de la Radio in Paris, at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie and Frankfurt Alte Oper, and the Zurich Tonhalle. He will also appear at major festivals including La Roque d’Anthéron, Piano aux Jacobins in Toulouse, and Verbier Festival. Mr. Babayan performs with the world’s foremost orchestras, including the London Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, Warsaw Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lille, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the New World Symphony.

His engagements and tours have brought him to preeminent international concert venues including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Warsaw Philharmony, Severance Hall in Cleveland, Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Herkulessaal in Munich, Liederhalle in Stuttgart, Meistersingerhalle in Nuremberg, Konzerthaus Berlin, Beethovenhalle Bonn, Rudolfinum-Dvorak Hall in Prague, Victora Hall in Geneva and many others.

Sergei Babayan is a Deutsche Grammophon exclusive artist; his latest release of his own transcriptions for two pianos of works by Sergei Prokofiev, with Martha Argerich as his partner (‘Prokofiev for Two’; DG 2018), was praised by reviewers as ‘the CD one has waited for’ (Le Devoir), an ‘electrifying duo that leaves the listener in consternation’ (Pianiste), taking ‘the piano duo to a new level: If all music was like this, there would be no sorrow in the world.’ (Norman Lebrecht, MyScena).

Mr. Babayan’s performances have been broadcast by Radio France, Polish Radio and Television, BBC-TV and BBC Radio 3, NHK Satellite Television and Medici TV.

Born in Armenia into a musical family, Babayan began his studies there with Georgy Saradjev and continued at the Moscow Conservatory with Mikhail Pletnev, Vera Gornostayeva and Lev Naumov. Following his first trip outside of the USSR in 1989, he won consecutive first prizes in several major international competitions 

including the Cleveland International Piano Competition, the Hamamatsu Piano Competition, and the Scottish International Piano Competition. An American citizen, he lives in New York City.

Mr. Babayan is represented in North America by Opus 3 Artists.

Critical acclaim for Sergei Babayan:

“Babayan exuded the gravity of a monumental sculpture in bronze, as he teased out the beauties of this more ruminative work.” – The Independent

“Babayan favors a playing style that speaks to the senses, to the range of his love for the music, which is unsurpassed. An enthusiastic multi-instrumentalist, tirelessly studying the works of his predecessors as if they were his contemporaries, he does not hide himself from this nearly obsessive research of a spiritual music, which comes close to magic.” – L’Actualité

“Sergei Babayan brought consummate technique and insight to the cryptic Fifth Concerto, another work in which Prokofiev’s Neo-Classical approach is rendered Modernist, even baffling, through fragmentation and harmonic strangeness. The intrepid audience awarded hearty ovations to every pianist. Hopefully it won’t take another marathon to hear the overlooked, underrated concertos.” – The New York Times

“Prokofiev’s symphonic battleships on two pianos – could 176 keys cope with them? Absolutely, if they are played by Martha Argerich and Sergei Babayan. The two not only bring out the rhythmic quality of this music, but also let previously unseen colors shine. An addictive album.” – Peter Korfmacher, Märkische Allgemeine, April 23, 2018

“UNSURPASSABLE UNITY – The two pianists merge to unsurpassable unity at the two pianos. The duo Argerich-Babayan is a blessing in terms of artistic agreement and complementarity.” – Alexander Dick, Badische Zeitung, April 14, 2018 – Germany

“The pianism of these two great personalities of the concert world is basically flawless. One must admire, not only the beauty of the transcriptions but also the extraordinary partnership between two perfectly harmonious artists.” — ClassicVoice – Italy

“Here now is another, most beautiful chamber music example for two pianos thanks to Sergei Babayan’s Prokofiev transcriptions.” – Brescia Oggi, May 1st, 2018

For information about Sergei Babayan’s concert at Drake, contact Nicholas Roth, professor of piano, nicholas.roth@drake.edu or 515-321-5947.