Acclaimed for the immediacy, sensitivity and depth of his interpretations, Sergei Babayan’s performances reveal an emotional intensity and bold energy, equipping him to explore stylistically diverse repertoire. He is known for his innovative programming, often including modern works by composers such as Lutosławski, Ligeti and Arvo Pärt, and extending the boundaries of mainstream repertoire for which he continues to be acclaimed, excelling in Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann as much as the Russian heritage of Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Prokofiev.
A student of such legendary teachers and musicians as Gornostayeva, Naumov, Pletnev and Vlasenko at the Moscow Conservatory, he was not permitted to leave the country and be free to compete and study in the West. He was the first pianist from the former USSR who was able to compete without government sponsorship after the collapse of the system. Immediately after his first trip outside of the USSR, Mr. Babayan won consecutive first prizes in several major international competitions including the 1990 Robert Casadesus International Piano Competition (now the Cleveland International Piano Competition; 1990 Palm Beach International Piano Competition; 1991 Hamamatsu Piano Competition; and 1992 Scottish International Piano Competition. He is also a Laureate of the Queen Elizabeth International Piano Competition, the Busoni International Piano Competition and the Esther Honens International Competition in Calgary, Canada.
Since that time, Mr. Babayan has had major engagements and concert tours throughout Europe, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, South America, China and the U.S. His New York recitals at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall, performances with The Cleveland Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony and Detroit Symphony have been met with huge critical acclaim, as have his many subsequent recital and concerto performances throughout all the major cities in the U.S.
His recordings of Scarlatti, Ligeti, Messiaen, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Ravel, Schubert, Liszt, Vine, Respighi and Prokofiev have garnered high acclaim, including a "Critic's Choice" in The New York Times praising his "extraordinary technique and ability to play densely harmonized works with illuminating transparency and a daunting measure of control." American Record Guide joined in the accolades, praising his "phenomenal level of color and imagination." Of the recording of Scarlatti sonatas, American Guide said: "It can stand proudly beside that of Horowitz ..."
Mr. Babayan has appeared with many major orchestras throughout the world, including The Cleveland Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Nationale de Lille and the New World Symphony. His performances with the Detroit and Baltimore Symphonies were received with great enthusiasm by audiences and critics alike. Mr. Babayan has collaborated with such conductors as Michael Christi, Valery Gergiev, Hans Graf, Neeme Järvi, Kazimierz Kord, Theodore Kuchar, David Robertson and Yuri Temirkanov. His concerto repertoire is constantly growing; at this point he has performed 51 concertos. Mr. Babayan is an enthusiastic advocate of new music and has an immense repertoire. His unusual and imaginative recital programming has always elicited interest and praise. Deep interest and love for the music of Bach has led him to study more recently with Helmuth Rilling.
Mr. Babayan was appointed to the CIM faculty in 1992. An acclaimed teacher and sought after teacher, his students have won major competitions throughout the world. His student Daniil Trifonov was the recent winner of the recent Rubinstein Competition and the Tchiakowsky Competition.