Vagram Saradjian

Founder & General Director

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Vagram Saradjian gave his first public recital at age 9 and won his first prize at the Russian National Competition at age 18, which put him in the country’s national spotlight. International recognition of his prodigious talent came when he won awards at several major contests, including the Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1970 and the Geneva International Cello Competition in 1975. By the time he was twenty, Mr. Saradjian was being compared with such masters as Mstislav Rostropovich, his teacher of eight years at the Moscow Conservatory. As a recitalist, Mr. Saradjian has performed around the world in such concert halls as the Barbican Centre in London, Gaveau in Paris, La Scala in Milan, Victoria Hall in Geneva, Musikverein in Vienna, Tonhalle in Zurich, Auditorio Nacional in Madrid, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, and the Leningrad Philharmonic Hall.

In 2002, Mr. Saradjian founded the Schlern International Music Festival in the town of Voels am Schlern in South Tyrol, Italy. In 2015, the festival was renamed to Semper International Music Festival, of which Mr. Saradjian is the general director. The festival takes place each summer and welcomes distinguished guest artists and faculty each summer

His orchestral debut coincided with the conducting debut of his mentor, Mstislav Rostropovich, when in 1969, under the Maestro’s baton, young Saradjian triumphantly performed Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with the Kiev Philharmonic. He has since toured internationally with leading orchestras and has played with distinguished conductors, including Gergiev, Khachaturian, Kondrashin, Svetlanov, Rostropovich, Shostakovich, and Temirkanov.

Contemporary music has for many years been an important part of Mr. Saradjian’s repertoire. In recent seasons, he has premiered major works by internationally acclaimed composers, such as Alexander Tchaikovsky, Gia Kancheli, Karen Khachaturian, Arno Babadjanian, and Myroslav Skoryk. The highlights of the past seasons included Mr. Saradjian’s appearances at Valery Gergiev’s Stars of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg (Russia), the Shostakovich Festival in Houston, TX, extensive tour of Europe, where in addition to his solo performances Mr. Saradjian appeared in highly acclaimed new trio programs with violinist Maxim Vengerov and pianist Vag Papian. Mr. Saradjian’s extensive discography may be found on Melodya and Art & Electronics labels and includes Schumann and Honegger Cello Concertos with the Moscow Philharmonic (Valery Gergiev, Conductor), Saint-Saens Cello Concerto no. 1 and Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations with the Moscow RTV Orchestra (Vladimir Fedoseev, Conductor), Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic (Fuat Mansurov, Conductor). Among his recent releases is the world premiere recording of Ilya Zelenka Cello Concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic (Yuri Bashmet, Conductor).

Born in Yerevan, Armenia, Vagram Saradjian began his cello studies at age 7 with Alexander Chaushian at the Special School for Gifted Children of the Yerevan Conservatory. Later, he was invited by Mstislav Rostropovich to enter his studio at the Moscow Conservatory, where he earned his Masters and Doctorate degrees. In the United States Mr. Saradjian has taught at Oberlin Conservatory, Connecticut College, Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College (CUNY, NY), Purchase Conservatory (SUNY), and numerous festivals and masterclasses. Currently he is Professor of Violoncello at the University of Houston.


Sonya Matoussova

Executive Director

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A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, cellist Sonya Matoussova now resides in Houston where she is actively involved in the city’s music scene as both performer and educator. She regularly plays in the cello section of Mercury and is the assistant principal cellist of the Symphony of Southeast Texas.

Ms. Matoussova has won prizes at several competitions, most recently taking First Prize at the 2014 Schlern International Competition in Italy. Her passion for chamber music has taken her all over the world, with performances in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Italy, Poland, Romania, and the Netherlands.

In 2015, Ms. Matoussova was featured with the Symphony of Southeast Texas, performing the Vivaldi Double Concerto alongside principal cellist Thomas Schroeder. In 2008, Ms. Matoussova appeared with I Musici de Montreal as one of the soloists for the premiere of Paul Desenne's Dragoncello for six celli and string orchestra.

In addition to maintaining an active private studio, Ms. Matoussova teaches at the International Music Academy, where she recently founded a chamber music program. Ms. Matoussova is a Mercury Teaching Artist, as well as a Lead Teacher for the Coda Program; a Houston Youth Symphony initiative inspired by “El Sistema”.

Ms. Matoussova is an alumna of the Da Camera Young Artist Program. She holds degrees from the University of Montreal (class of Yuli Turovksy) and the University of Houston (class of Vagram Saradjian).