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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Q&A | 20 Questions for Nurhan Arman

By Michael Vincent on December 18, 2014

Sinfonia Toronto conductor, Nurhan Arman
Sinfonia Toronto conductor, Nurhan Arman

Every so often, MT poses 60 questions to a local or visiting artist in Toronto who has made our classical music community that much more interesting. They pick and choose. The minimum response is 20 answers. A kind of Rorschach personality test, if you will.

As the founding music director of Sinfonia Toronto, Maestro Nurhan Arman heads one of Canada’s premier chamber orchestras. Made up of a core of 13 string players, Sinfonia Toronto perform repertoire ranging from the Baroque to the 20th-Century. The dynamic Armenian-born maestro has enjoyed a busy career conducting throughout Europe and North America, as has also taught conducting locally at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He has collaborated with an extraordinary number of  well-known performers, including André Laplante, Alexander Ghindin, Maria Kliegel, Measha Bruegergosman, Anton Kuerti, Janina Fialkowska, Lara St. John, Yuli Turovsky, and Andrea Bacchetti.


The first three things that you do every morning?

Feed my cat; make a strong French press coffee; check the news

Name your favourite concert hall/venue in Toronto.

I think the George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts is my preferred venue in Toronto. I love the warm acoustics on stage and from the audience. It has a well-balanced sound and easy to play there as one can hear everything.

Name your favourite concert hall/venue anywhere.

Difficult to choose as I have been fortunate enough to conduct in some great venues. I would have to say the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow. Acoustically is not the greatest hall but its history and its particular atmosphere is exceptional. It is a large hall yet very warm and cozy so that the performers can have an immediate connection to the audience. It was easy to engage the audience as part of the performance so that within the first few bars the audience was contributing to our music making.

The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years?

At age 13, I read Dostoyevski’s ‘The Gambler’ which made me fall immediately in love with his writing. I continued with the rest of his books and by the time I was 23 I had read everything he wrote along with other Russian greats. Dostoyevski’s amazing psychological evaluation of his characters was very impressive for me. But to choose just three books, I have to say Dostoyevski’s ‘The Gambler’, a poetry book by Bedros Tourian which taught me beauty and melancholy, a poetry book by Nazim Hikmet that showed me the importance of the arts in fighting for social justice.

Where was the last place you traveled to for work or pleasure?

This past October I was conducting in Poland where Chopin is always in the air.

Your three favourite films?

Roman Polanski’s ‘Chinatown’; Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove’; Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘Battleship Potemkin’.

The historical personalities, both good and bad, that fascinate you the most?

If it was possible, I would really love to be able to talk few hours in person with Beethoven or Dostoyevski or Gandhi.

What is the best thing about your work?

The ability and the potential to contribute towards a better world.

What is the worst thing about your work?

The isolation. Conducting requires considerable amount of solitude in learning and assimilating scores. This is not very easy for those who love to be with people all the time.

What is the game that you’re best at?


The thing that makes you the happiest?

Any positive change in the society.

The thing that makes you the angriest?

Any form of social injustice.

The best way to die?

At work and quickly.

The different career path that you could have gone on?

Film making.

If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you?

Rome, Italy but I would not mind it if the plane is forced to land in Paris.

Your first three record store purchases?

Bach’s Two Violin Concerto with Devy Erlich and Raimond Barchet (in my opinion still one of the finest recordings of this work); Beethoven Violin Concerto with Leonid Kogan; Prokofiev 1st and Khachaturian violin concertos with David Oistrakh.

Three things of no monetary value that you own and will keep dearly until you die?

A paper-cutter my father had given me while I was a teenager; also from teenage years, a two-volume Milton Cross Encyclopedia of Great Composers which he had bought in a used book store as a new-year present during an economically critical period in our family’s life; and a set of cufflinks.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions?

Nothing really, music is too overpowering for me. I can not write or think or do anything else if there is classical music running in the background.

Your favourite word?


Your least favourite word?


Michael Vincent
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