Hailed as “a true heir of the mainstream of Russian pianism, like Horowitz” (CHOPIN Magazine, Japan), “a keyboard phenomenon that needs to be heard by everyone interested in pianists and the piano” (Fanfare Magazine, USA), “a formidable pianist with a commanding presence and rich interpretive gifts” (American Record Guide) and “a master of his art” (The Record Geijutsu Magazine, Japan), Raffi Besalyan has established an international reputation of a magnetic and passionate performer. Active as a recitalist, orchestral soloist, and chamber musician, Besalyan appears in many important music venues worldwide. Critics on both sides of the Atlantic have praised his performances for their virility, poetry, and extraordinary technical command.
Award-Winning pianist and recording artist, Raffi Besalyan has toured North and South America, Europe, Russia, and Asia performing in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall in New York City, Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Atlanta Symphony Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, Moscow Conservatory's Rachmaninoff Hall and Maly Zal, Izumi Hall, Phoenix Hall, Niigata Shimin Geijutsu Concert Hall in Japan among many others.. He dazzled his audiences appearing as a soloist with numerous prominent orchestras, including the Osaka Symphony Orchestra in Japan, the Orchestra Sinfonica Del Festival Di Chioggia in Venice, Italy, the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Yerevan Symphony Orchestra in Armenia, the Belgorod, Symphony in Russia, the Kharkov Symphony in Ukraine, the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, the Central Wisconsin Symphony, and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. Besalyan’s performances have also been heard on National Public Radio, WQXR and WNYC NY, WGBH Boston, WFMT Chicago, WABE Atlanta, CBC Public Radio Canada, and Tokyo FM Japan.
Besalyan’s debut solo album, “Dance, Drama, Decadence” (IMC Music, Japan), has earned international accolades since its release in June 2012. The album received the prestigious Jun-Tokusen Award from The Record Geijutsu, Japan’s leading classical music magazine, and was chosen as the “Classical Album of the Month” by Mainichi Shinbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers. “Dance, Drama, Decadence” was selected as the “Best New Release of the Month” by Tokyo FM Music Bird radio channel, where the CD premiered in its entirety. In addition, Ongaku no Tomo of Japan recommended and archived the CD as a study reference for music students and professors. Fanfare Magazine featured Besalyan in an extensive interview followed by rave reviews of the album, and another glowing review appeared in American Record Guide. Besalyan was also interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Norman Gilliland on The Midday, and Dance, Drama, Decadence was aired on WPR (Madison, WI) and KHPR (Honolulu, HI), and others. The album features virtuoso works by Rachmaninoff, Liszt, and Ravel and premiere recordings of colorful folkloristic pieces by Armenian composers Komitas and Baghdasarian.
In 2014, Besalyan signed with GRAMMY® Award-winning record label Sono Luminus. His first critically acclaimed recording of solo works by S. Rachmaninoff and A. Babajanian for the label entitled “The Return” was released in March of 2015 and is distributed by Naxos. “The Return” has been aired on National Public Radio and many other radio stations across the U.S. and Canada, such as the WGBH Boston, WRUV Vermont, the SiriusXM Washington D.C., Wisconsin Public Radio, The King FM Seattle, WFMT Chicago, The Grand FM Ontario and CBC Public Radio. WQXR, New York’s premiere classical radio station featured the album as the New and Noteworthy Release of September 2015, stating “Russia’s bid to get Rachmaninoff’s remains moved from a cemetery in Valhalla, NY to Moscow caused a stir this summer, after the composer’s family balked at the idea. That makes this nostalgia-laced recording by the U.S.-based Armenian pianist Raffi Besalyan particularly timely.”
Besalyan’s second release for Sono Luminus, “The Sound of Black & White” (2021) was featured on six different playlists by Apple Classical Music, it was aired on several NPR affiliate radio channels and received numerous rave reviews from prestigious publications internationally. "The Sound of Black & White" was a nominee for the Album of the Year - Solo Piano on Native DSD. The CD was selected from hundreds submitted by 80 record labels by highly qualified reviewers. "Besalyan is an exceptional pianist. His playing on Embraceable You, Rhapsody In Blue and Sabre Dance are highlights. But there are many more. A fine addition to the Sono Luminus catalog and the piano performances at NativeDSD. All in all, some spectacular playing. A great one, for sure. Super recording!"~Native DSD.
Besalyan is also featured on the “Bach-Busoni Edition, Vol.I” for Koch International Classics (E-1 Entertainment) with pianist Sara Davis Buechner..
Dr. Besalyan edited important piano music by composers from his native Armenia like Edvard Baghdasarian, for Muse Press of Tokyo, Japan.
Among Besalyan’s competition awards are top prizes received from the Josef Hofmann International Piano Competition, the Artists International Competition, the New York Frinna Awerbuch International Competition, and the MTNA National Piano Competition.
In 2019 Dr. Besalyan was the recipient of the Steinway & Sons coveted Top Teacher Award in recognition of his hard work and commitment to teaching and inspiring young people in their study of piano. He also received Georgia State University The College of the Arts 2020-2021 prestigious Outstanding Senior Faculty Award in Research/Creative Activity.
Besalyan studied at the Tchaikovsky Special Music School for Gifted Children and received his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory as a student of Sergey Barseghyan. He received an additional Master of Music degree from Rowan University under Veda Zuponcic and studied at the Manhattan School of Music with legendary American pianist Byron Janis and Sara Davis Buechner. His studies at the Moscow State Conservatory included classes with Alexei Nasedkin, Victor Merzhanov, and Naum Shtarkman.
Former Professor of Piano at Rowan University in New Jersey, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Georgia State University in Atlanta, where he also served as the keyboard area coordinator, Dr. Besalyan has been a frequent guest artist/teacher for the Cap Ferret International Music Festival in France, Festival Musica in Laguna in Venice, Italy, the International Music Festival at Rowan, the International Summer Music Performance Program at Anatolia College in Thessaloniki, Greece, and the Ibague International Music Festival in Colombia. Besalyan has been active as an adjudicator for PTNA and Osaka International Music Competitions in Japan, International Chopin Piano Competition in Asia, competitions in Italy, and for various chapters of MTNA. He is the co-director and the chair of the jury of the U.S. Regional Osaka International Music Competition.