Pro Musica Brings You the 'Next Big Thing' in Classical Music

If 88 stellar years of Pro Musica of Detroit history can be trusted, then the local debut of pianist Raffi Besalyan will be a recital concert to remember.


And there is no reason not to trust a risk-taking organization that has introduced composers and artists like Béla Bartók, Maurice Ravel, Sergei Prokofiev, Aaron Copland, Henry Cowell, Nadia Boulanger, Francis Poulenc, George Crumb, Ned Rorem to the Detroit community.

Pro Musica president John van der Griendt says that when the then-fledgling group invited Bartók - the Hungarian composer who brought disparate threads of folk and ethnic traditions into his classical compositions - he's certain that many in the audience in the late 1920s were unsure what to make of the performance.

"But just as many likely appreciated something new and exciting," van der Griendt says. "History has recognized Bartók as one of the 20th century's most important composers, and we can say that Pro Musica made his appearance before a Detroit audience possible."

On Friday, Oct. 10 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, Pro Musica opens its 88th season with a performance by Armenian-American pianist and educator Raffi Besalyan. Proficient in the Russian school of piano composition and performance, Dr. Besalyan also will conduct a Master Class for students at Detroit School of Arts during his visit to Michigan.

The program for Pro Musica includes works by Eduard Bagdasarian, Arno Babjanian, Sergei Rachmaninoff, George Gershwin, Nikolai Kapustin, Frederic Chopin, and Franz Liszt. The concert begins at 8:30 p.m.

An artist search committee was conducted, van der Griendt says, and Besalyan stood out from other candidates to open the new season. "He is a very accomplished pianist and educator," van der Griendt says. "He's performed with Yo-Yo Ma and other outstanding contemporary artists."

Besalyan is not only a recitalist, but also an orchestral soloist and chamber musician. He is known as a charismatic and passionate artist. Chopinmagazine of Japan has compared his playing to that of Vladimir Horowitz. Fanfare magazine called him "a keyboard phenomenon that needs to be heard by everyone interested in pianists and the piano." The Armenian-born Besalyan is assistant professor of piano performance at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Individual tickets are $45 for cabaret seating and $25 for theatre seating. Tickets are $10 for students (theatre seating). Tickets are available by calling the Max M. Fisher Box Office, 313-576-5111. Student tickets can be reserved by calling 313-882-7775. All tickets include an after-concert reception with the artists in the Orchestra Hall Atrium at The Max M. Fisher Music Center.

Besalyan will assist Pro Musica and its Education-Outreach work during his visit to Detroit by conducting a Master Class program at Detroit School of the Arts on Friday, Oct. 10, from 10 a.m. to noon.

Pro Musica of Detroit has a strong interest in reaching out to younger people and attracting them to concerts at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, says president van der Griendt.

"We want to appeal to young music lovers and welcome them to our series," he says. "Working with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has been fruitful. They have the same desire as we do to expand our audience, to expose new people to classical music."

To purchase tickets for this concert, to see the entire Pro Musica of Detroit schedule or to get more information about the series go here. The Max M. Fisher Music Center is at 3711 Woodward Ave. in Detroit's Midtown.

By Walter Wasacz