A French-American conductor, born in Beirut, Lebanon, into a musical family of Armenian origin, Pehlivanian studied violin and piano from an early age. He emigrated to Los Angeles in 1975, and worked as a violinist before studying conducting with Pierre Boulez, Lorin Maazel, and Ferdinand Leitner. Pehlivanian also attended the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Italy.
In 1991 he became the first American to win the Grand Prize in the history of the Besançon International Conductors' Competition in France. From 2005 until 2008 he was the first foreign Chief Conductor of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, and in 2007 he became Principal Guest Conductor at the Opera Theatre of Cagliari in Sardinia, Italy. He remained Principal Guest Conductor of the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie RheinlandPfalz from 2002 - 2012. He also held Principal Guest conducting positions with the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. He enjoys a long-standing relationship with the Spanish National Orchestra since 1996, and recorded works by Rodrigo with the orchestra.
In June 2014, Pehlivanian was bestowed with the 'Golden Medal' from the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, the highest possible honor given to an Artist by the Armenian government. From 2012, Pehlivanian has accepted to become Professor of Orchestral Conducting at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Music et Danse de Paris, and was bestowed with the title of Honorary Director and Consultant of Music Education of the Communidad de Madrid. In 2010, he became Artistic Director and Founder of the Touquet International Music Masters Festival in Le Touquet, France, very successful and developing rapidly as one of the world's top festivals for young artists today.
George Pehlivanian has conducted many of the world's most famous orchestras, such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonia, Orchestra della Scala, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the NDR Hamburg Symphony, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Israel Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Orchestra di Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana, l'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, Spanish National Orchestra, the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Qatar Philharmonic, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. In North America, Mr. Pehlivanian has conducted all the major Canadian orchestras, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Houston, Toronto, Vancouver, Rochester, Buffalo, St. Paul Chamber Orchestras, amongst others. In Russia, the Mariinsky Theatre, Russian National Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic, Moscow Radio and Television Orchestras. and collaborated with world class soloists such as Leonidas Kavakos, Vadim Repin, Joshua Bell, Janine Jansen, Gidon Kremer, Gil Shaham, Sarah Chang, Jean Yves Thibaudet, Emanuel Ax, Arcadi Volodos, Andre Watts, Mischa Maisky, Lynn Harell, Maurice Andre, Hakan Hardenberger, Evelyn Glennie, Ferrucio Furlanetto, Mirella Freni, Ruggero Raimondi, Leo Nucci, Dmitry Hrovstovsky, Leona Mitchel, Denyce Graves, Mariana Lipovsek, Bernarda Fink, Vladimir Galuzin and many others.
Mr. Pehlivanian is at home in the operatic world as in the symphonic. His operatic debut began in Los Angeles conducting "Carmen" with the Long Beach opera, and immediately was invited by Valery Gergiev to conduct "La Traviata" at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersbourg, where he remained as one of Gergiev's first assistants in the early 1990s. Amongst his numerous notable opera productions include the Netherlands premier of "Riders to the Sea" of Vaughan Williams, Poulenc's "La Voix Humaine" at the Cite de la Musique in Paris, "Tosca" with the Theatre de Bordeaux, his Italian Lyrical Debut with "Otello" in the beautiful San Carlo Opera of Napoli, which led to numerous productions including "Cavalleria Rusticana", "Gianni Schicchi" and "La Damnation de Faust", "Pique Dame" and "Andrea Chenier" with the Cagliari Opera House in Sardenia, "La Damnation de Faust" in the Teatro Regio di Parma for the Verdi Festival, continuous numerous productions with the New Israeli Opera House including, "Barbiere di Siviglia", "Ernani" and "Jenufa", the World Premiere of " Le Jour des Meurtres de Hamlet" by Pierre Thilloy and recently a new production of "Boris Godunov" at Teatro di Massimo di Palermo. Mto. Pehlivanian also gave the Opera Premiere of a new production, "Sette Storie per Lasciare il Mondo", composed by Marco Betta and directed by Roberto Ando, at the Teatro Massimo de Palermo, with great critical acclaim.
Mr. Pehlivanian has conducted in many important Festivals including the closing concert of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Aix en Provence, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Ravenna, Ravello, Aspen, Ljubljana, Jeuness Musicale Vienna, Parma Verdi, Grenada, San Sebastien, Santander, El Escorial, Mito Milan, Lugano, Cannes MIDEM, Osaka, and many others...
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- "Competition Laureates (in French)" (PDF). Besançon Music Festival. Retrieved 24 July 2009.
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- William Wagner. "Interview: George Pehlivanian". Slovenia Life. Retrieved 2009-09-01.