“Meri Khojayan, a passionate interpreter played with extraordinary technical, interpretive and expressive skills. Together with Robert Poortinga, a strong chamber music partner, the very close duo played from the delicate nuances in Debussy to the dramatic, heady and intense sonority of Prokofiev.”
*Il Saviglianese (IT), 09/2020
Known for their unity in interpretation and musical and technical capabilities, the Duo Khojayan and Poortinga can be seen as ambassadors of the violin-piano repertoire. With recitals given in Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and the USA, they have built a repertoire that spans from the Baroque to the contemporary era.
“We form a certain musical unity that is extremely valuable to us.”
For the duo, it is very important that during the concert the audience gets a deep, lasting impression of their music. They create this through the diversity in their programs and a mutual, musical idea which they present on stage that has been developed through years of deep study and performing. Two of the great inspirations for their journey through music are Lukas Hagen, first violinist of the Hagen Quartet, and the pianist Enrico Pace with whom they have regular masterclasses.
“The opportunity to be around this calibre of performers has influenced us greatly. It has broadened our horizon and has shown us aspects of music that became the roots of our interpretation.”
Since 2015, the duo works solely together. They focus fully on the violin and piano repertoire. The background of the works is an important aspect of musical interpretation and informs their research. A recent project on the works of Pablo Sarasate resulted in a documentary-film.
The duo continues to search for a special type of sound that is idiosyncratic. Seeing the piano and violin parts as equal and understanding the musical meaning of each line makes it possible to create ‘one sound’ as when an orchestra performs a symphony.
“Realizing that the word ‘music’ has only a singular form in many languages and that it only exists at the present moment gives one the opportunity to create something very special during a performance that sets music apart from other forms of art.”
In 2019 they were prize-winners at the Luigi Nono chamber-music competition which is one of the most prestigious chamber-music competitions in Italy.
Meri Khojayan has been widely praised for her ‘old-school’ tone which is deep, rich and memorable. Her technical abilities are exquisite. She won numerous awards and prizes for her solo-playing. Among other she won the first prize in Baden-Württenbergs (Germany 2017) 'Musical Fireworks Competition, the first prize in the Henry Koch violin competition (Belgium 2014), special prize in the Third Yankelevich International Violin Competition' (Russia 2013), Music Awards Maastricht (Netherlands, 2012) and the second prize (first not awarded) during the Khachaturian violin-competition in Yerevan (Armenia 2008).
Having had her main education by Boris Belkin, Eduard Tadevosyan and masterclasses from Leonidas Kavakos, she switched her focus from solo playing to chamber-music in 2015. Always eager to educate herself and deepen her knowledge, she is currently working extensively with Lukas Hagen and Enrico Pace.
“From early childhood I knew that making music with other people would become the main things in my life. From the age of nine I played in a trio and worked for many years to build a repertoire that included all the major works for this particular repertoire. For the past five years I have done the same for the violin/piano sonatas, purely working with one pianist. I came to the conclusion that playing chamber-music is my destiny in life.”
From the beginning of her career, begun at the age of ten, she has toured extensively and received many accolades. She is especially proud of the ‘President’s prize’ that she received from the Republic of Armenia at the age of seventeen for her cultural achievements.
“Of course it is important to study hard, read a lot and be inspired by different musicians/artists. This is something which feeds one’s subconscious. The more you feed it, the better taste you develop. But, at the moment you perform, all those things become secondary because one has to show his own voice through music.”
During his studies at the Groningen Conservatory Robert Poortinga has decided to move to the USA where he completed his Bachelor-studies at the Long Island conservatory of music in New York, with the distinguished piano pedagogue Tamara Poddubnaya.
“I have always realised that every moment of my life is a chance to become better. I practiced day and night, in order to complete the big repertoire that Mrs. Poddubnaya demanded from me. When she was not satisfied with my daily progress, I had to play for her in the end of her working day again.”
Among many concerts and recitals that Poortinga gave, the ones he appreciates the most are his debut in WMP Concert Hall in Manhattan (NY), ‘Merkin Hall’ in (NY) and in the Steinway hall where he performed on Vladimir Horowitz’s piano.
During his studies Robert Poortinga has played lots of chamber music. His attention always pulled towards the duo repertoire, including cello sonatas of Rachmaninov, Beethoven, Grieg, clarinet sonatas of Brahms etc.
“The piano repertoire of almost any composer is only a small part of the whole picture. In order to understand the composer fully, one has to be familiar with his orchestral, choral works and chamber music.”
In 2014-2016 Robert Poortinga studied for his Master at the Maastricht Academy of Music, meanwhile he was taking lessons from maestro Konstantin Bogino in Bergamo (IT), at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia.
He wrote a thesis on the 10 violin sonatas of Beethoven. In the summer of 2016 Robert was invited to perform these sonatas integral at the ‘Music Without Borders’ festival in Maine (USA) with violinist Meri Khojayan which was the start of their partnership.
“Both Meri and I decided to put everything aside and focus fully on playing together. We started to search a common sound and soul in our playing. This we achieved by travelling and playing for many musicians.”