Brahms and Schönberg
Maria Balbi was born into a family of musicians, in Lima, Peru. She began piano lessons at the age of three and violin at five. She attended the National Conservatory of Lyon in France, where she graduated with the Gold Medal in Violin. She later studied at the National Conservatory of Music in Paris with Jacques Ghestem, Alain Meunier and Christian Ivaldi, receiving first prizes in violin and chamber music. Afterwards she studied with Phillip Hirshorn and Viktor Liberman at the Hochschule von dem Kunsten in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and with Tibor Varga at the École des Archets in Sion, Switzerland.
As a soloist, she has played with the Orchestre d'Aubagne on a tour in France and with the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon. She regularly performs in Europe, Asia and the United States, including music festivals, where she has played with the Amsterdam Chamber Music Ensemble, the Moscow Piano Quartet and the Gulbenkian Orchestra Soloists.
In addition to her activities as a classical violinist, Maria Balbi founded the fado group Trinados, with which she toured in Portugal, Morocco, Spain, Brazil and the United States of America. She is a member of the Moscow Piano Quartet and first violin of the Gulbenkian Orchestra since 1999.
Miguel Simões began his musical studies at Centro de Cultura Musical and later at Escola Profissional Artística do Vale do Ave - Artave, with Professor Ana Cristina Mikus. At the age of 15, he was admitted to the Young Music Department at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, in the class of Professor Joyce Tan, working simultaneously with violinist Ilya Grubert. At the age of 16, in 2002, he won 1st Prize in violin at the competition Prémio Jovens Músicos – RDP. He has also received the merit award for his results and international projection from Escola Secundária Alberto Sampaio.
In 2008, he completed his degree at Conservatorium van Amsterdam, in Professor Ilya Grubert's violin class, and was later admitted to the Master of Music in Performance, in the same class, which he completed in 2011. He was a scholarship holder from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation between 2002 and 2008.
Miguel Simões performs regularly in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Austria and the Netherlands in solo and chamber music recitals. He has been a guest musician at the Gulbenkian Orchestra since 2015.
He premiered three dedicated works by composer Joaquim Santos, Arioso for solo violin, Capriccio for violin and piano, and Trio Concertante for violin, clarinet and piano, in Rome.
Miguel Simões is the founder and artistic director of the Com.Cordas Ensemble, which already has numerous concerts held in the country. In 2020, in an initiative by Suonart – Associação Cultural, in partnership with Braga City Council, he started the project Temporadas de Música de Câmara-Braga, being its artistic director.
Parallel to his artistic activity, he develops a specialized teaching project for young talents, with his students being praised and awarded by various personalities in the field and in national and international competitions. He is currently a Guest Professor at the University of Minho. He is a PhD student in Ciências da Cultura at University of Minho and is currently undertaking a postgraduate degree in Music Neurosciences at Universidade Católica Portuguesa.
He performs in concert on a Pierre Hell violin, which belonged to the Romanian composer George Enescu, and a Charles Espey bow.
Born in Lisbon, Alexandra Mendes began her musical studies at the age of six at the Academia de Santa Cecília. She finished the Curso Complementar de Violino do Conservatório Nacional under the guidance of Alberto Nunes. At 16, with a scholarship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, she continued her studies with Alberto Lysy at the Menuhin Academy in Gstaad, Switzerland, where she remained for two years. She was a member of the Camerata Lysy, with which she toured in Europe and South America, performing as a violin and viola soloist. She returned to Portugal in 1981 and joined the Gulbenkian Orchestra, where she is currently the leader of the second violins. She has performed solo with the Orquestra da RDP, the Nova Filarmonia Portuguesa and the Gulbenkian Orchestra.
She particularly identifies with the chamber music repertoire, a field in which she has been very active. Since 1986, she has been the First Violin of the Quarteto de Cordas de Lisboa, with which she has performed in many concerts in Portugal and Europe, and also recorded an album with the two Quartets by Joly Braga Santos. She also played on the recording of the full edition of the chamber music works of the composer António Victorino d'Almeida. She has been a teacher at the Lisbon Conservatory since 1997.
Leonor Braga Santos studied at the Conservatório Nacional de Música, where she finished the Advanced Violin Course with Leonor Prado as her teacher. She went to Gstaad on a scholarship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, where he studied with Alberto Lysy. Two years later, she opted for the viola and returned to Lisbon. Under the guidance of François Bross, she prepared for the admission audition for the Cologne Hochschule für Musik, from which she graduated in 1987 with high marks. There, she was a student of Rainer Moog in viola and the Quarteto Amadeus quartet in chamber music.
During the Pommersfelden Festival, she gave the first performance in Germany of Aria a Tre with Variazioni, by Joly Braga Santos, having previously premièred the piece in Lisbon. She participated in the Sion Festival, under the direction of Tibor Varga, and has travelled to various European countries with the Ensemble Cologne, of which she was a member until returning permanently to Portugal.
In her first performance as a soloist with the Gulbenkian Orchestra, she performed the Concerto for Viola in G Major by G. P. Telemann. She has made a CD recording of the Sexteto para Cordas (String Sextet) and the Quarteto com Piano (Piano Quartet) by Joly Braga Santos. She is often asked to play with chamber music ensembles. She has been a member of the Gulbenkian Orchestra since 1988.
Varoujan Bartikian was born in Armenia and began his studies at the Tchaikovsky Special Music School under the guidance of Alexander Tchauchian. From 1978 to 1983, he attended the Komitas Conservatory of Music in Yerevan. In 1977 he won the Transcaucasian Cello Competition in Tbilisi, and in 1981 he participated in the Tbilisi Soviet Republic Competition, winning 3rd Prize and a special prize for his performance of the 24 Preludes by the Georgian composer Sulkan Tsintsadze. After graduating in 1983, he continued his education, obtaining a Master's Degree in Cello and in Music Sciences, in the areas of Theory of Interpretation and Teaching Methodology.
Varoujan Bartikian is a founding member of the Yerevan String Quartet, formed in 1982. This quartet won the 1983 Borodin Competition. In 1988 he began to teach cello at the Komitas Conservatory, a position he held until he moved to Portugal in 1989, when he joined the Gulbenkian Orchestra, with which he has also played as a soloist. He has played with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of John Nelson, and recorded for RDP - Antena 2.
In 1991, he formed the Bartikian Trio, with pianist Michel Gal and clarinettist Esther Gerogie. In 2013, he founded Trio Aeternus with violinist Alexander Stewart and pianist Lucjan Luc. He has recorded several works by António Victorino d'Almeida for the Numérica label.
Varoujan Bartikian is 1st Cello Soloist of the Gulbenkian Orchestra and teaches cello at Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa.
Hugo Paiva began his musical studies at the Vale do Ave Artistic Professional School, in the cello class of Professor Petia Samardjieva. He had the opportunity to work with cellists such as Paulo Gaio Lima, Jed Barahal, Anatoli Krastev, Márcio Carneiro, Ilia Laporev, Pieter Wispelwey, Xavier Gagnepain, Maria de Macedo, Xavier Philips, Daniel Grosgurin, Jeroen Reuling, Nobuko Yamazaki, Eric-Maria Couturier, Gary Hoffman, Frans Helmerson, Marc Coppey, Claudio Bohórquez, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, among others.
In 2013, he completed his bachelor's degree at the National Superior Academy of Orchestra in the class of Paulo Gaio Lima, and later joined the MasterConcert at the Haute École de Musique de Genève in the class of Daniel Grosgurin/Ophélie Gaillard and chamber music class with Gábor Takács-Nagy.
In June 2014, he won the 3rd prize at the St. Cecilia Competition in Porto. In September 2015, he won the 3rd prize at the "Prémio jovens Músicos - Antena 2 / nível superior de violoncelo" competition. In the same year, he recorded for Ophélie Gaillard's album "Alvorada". In 2015, he joined the International Menuhin Music Academy (IMMA) under the direction of Maxim Vengerov, in the cello class of Pablo de Naveran, and was part of the Ensemble Menuhin Academy Soloists.
Hugo Paiva has performed at various festivals and important venues, such as the Istanbul Music Festival, Ohrid Festival, Gstaad Menuhin Festival, Pietra Santa in Concerto Festival, Festival du Printemps du Violon PARIS, Ensemble de Violoncelos de Santa Cristina, Crans Montana Classics, Lockenhaus Festival, KKL – Luzern (Switzerland), Mozarteum – Salzburg (Austria), Victoria Hall – Genève (Switzerland), BFM - Genève (Switzerland), Église Saneen – Saneen/Gstaad (Switzerland), Zorlu Center – Istanbul (Turkey), Kirchner Cultural Center – Buenos Aires (Argentina), Teatro El Circulo – Rosario (Argentina), Teatro Las Condes – Santiago (Chile), Casa de la Música – Quito (Ecuador), Rosey Concert Hall – Rolle (Switzerland), Burg Lockenhaus Castle - Lockenhaus (Austria), Oxford and Cambridge Club – London, Zentrum Paul Klee – Berne (Switzerland), CCB – Lisbon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Auditorium – Lisbon, Casa da Música – Porto, Philharmonie de Paris, Palau de La Música (Barcelona), etc.
In 2018, together with pianist Mrika Sefa, he founded the Duo Litanei. In 2022, he completed his Master's degree in Chamber Music at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater 'Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy' Leipzig.
Hugo Paiva resides in Leipzig, where he regularly participates in chamber music projects and contemporary music ensembles.
Verklärte Nacht, op. 4
String Sextet No. 1, in B-flat major, op. 18
1. Allegro ma non troppo
2. Andante ma moderato
3. Scherzo: Allegro molto
4. Rondo: Poco allegretto e grazioso
The Gulbenkian Orchestra consists of professional musicians of great technical and artistic quality. Throughout the season, they also perform in free chamber music concerts, thus emerging from the anonymity of their roles within the orchestra. While making themselves much more visible, they also make a considerable contribution to a greater appreciation of chamber music as a whole, from the standard repertoire to the premieres of new works.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation reserves the right to collect and keep records of images, sounds and voice for the diffusion and preservation of the memory of its cultural and artistic activity. For further information, please contact us through the Information Request form.
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