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Agaparon Sultanovich

Sofiya Mikhailovna

Young Konstantin playing piano


Born on July 29 in Armavir, Russia


Enrolled in prestigious Baku Conservatoire Musical School for gifted children


Father, Agaparon Sultanovich Orbelian arrested and executed during the Stalin’s political repressions.


Mother, Sofia Mikhailovna Atarbekova is arrested and sentenced to serve five years in a corrective labor camp.  Konstantin and his older brother Harry become social outcasts, the so-called “children of the enemies of the people”.


Konstantin is expelled from the Musical School and becomes a musical accompanist to gymnasts in a sporting society. Harry works as a teacher.


Harry Orbelian drafted into the Soviet Army.


World War II begins.


Konstantin works as a pianist and accordionist in a flying school jazz band.


Konstantin is “discovered” by the Armenian jazz musicians during the band’s tour in Yerevan, Armenia. Practically without any audition, he is invited to play in the Armenian State Pop Orchestra, conducted by Artemy Aivazyan,


Konstantin makes his first steps as a composer. He writes arrangements for the Armenian folk songs and composes his own songs, first of which is “The Lullaby”.  Konstantin becomes known as one of the best jazz musicians in the country.


Orbelian declines an invitation to play in the famous Leonid Utesov’s Jazz Band to become a conductor in the Armenian State Pop Orchestra. He is introduced to Aram Khachaturian, whom he adores as a composer.  He befriends the young and popular Armenian composers - Alexander Arutyunyan, Arno Babajanian, and Edward Mirzoyan.


Konstantin leaves the Orchestra and enrolls into the Musical College, class of Edward Mirzoyan.  He is also working at the Yerevan Opera and Ballet Theater.  There he creates three ballet miniatures: “Flying”, “The Monument”, and “We are for Peace”. The miniatures become very popular and are performed at the Opera and Ballet Theater for several years in a row.


Orbelian graduates from the Musical College and is admitted to the Conservatory. He also organizes an instrumental quintet.


Konstantin Orbelian and Arno Babajanian write the soundtrack for the movie “The Heart Sings”.  The songs become hits around the USSR


Very momentous year in Orbelian’s life. He finishes his String Quartet. The String Quartet is performed in Moscow by the musicians of the Komitas Quartet during the Armenian Literature Festival and is recognized as one of the greatest achievements of the Armenian chamber music.  Konstantin Orbelian receives the Grand Prix and the gold medal for the String Quartet at the 6th International Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow.

Konstantin is invited to lead the Armenian State Pop Orchestra. He renews orchestra’s style and invites new musicians.  In just four months, the Orchestra prepares a program that features new compositions by Arno Babajanian and Alexander Arutyunyan, as well as Orbelian’s own new creations “Dilijan” and “Concert Jazz-March”. These two compositions become the Orchestra’s trade mark and are always played at the beginning and at the end of each concert. Konstantin also makes jazz arrangements for Khachaturian’s song “Garun Yerevan” (“Spring Yerevan”) and his famous “Saber Dance” from the “Gayane” ballet.  The new program has triumphal  performances in Yerevan, Moscow, Tbilisi, and Baku.

Konstantin joins the USSR Union of Composers.


Konstantin finds out that his older brother, Harry, who was considered killed during World War II, is alive and lives in the United States with his family.


Orbelian takes a break from the Orchestra to finish his studies at the Conservatory.  He writes the First Symphony


Orbelian graduates from the Yerevan Conservatory and returns to the Pop Orchestra.


The First Symphony is recorded and performed in Moscow by the State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yuri Aranovich. The Symphony also receives the highest award at the All-Union Festival Competition of the Young Composers in Moscow.  The symphony is later performed in many countries around the globe.


Armenian State Pop Orchestra’s first concert overseas. The Orchestra performs in Czechoslovakia, as part of the Days of the Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia festival.


Orchestra’s Poland tour. Orbelian writes the “Polyphonic Prelude”. The new composition created in the new wave style, is included in repertoires of various Big Bands, including the famous Czech jazz band conducted by Karel Vlach.


Orbelian writes the  Celebration Overture for the Symphonic Orchestra that later receives an award at he All-Union Competition of Symphonic Compositions.


Orbelian writes the Immortality ballet, dedicated to the victims of the World War II.  The ballet is performed at the Spendiarov Opera and Ballet Theater in Yerevan.


The Orchestra gains enormous popularity in the USSR and abroad. It performs on the best stages of the world.


Orchestra’s sensational 6-hour performance in the Federal Republic of Germany during the Days of the Soviet Culture.


Armenian State Pop Orchestra’s United States tour. The Orchestra is the first Soviet jazz band to visit the United States. The musicians give 25 performances in major US cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Providence, Washington, D.C., concluding the tour in New York’s Lincoln Center. Orbelian’s Orchestra receives great reviews and is compared to the bands of Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, and to the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis orchestra. The United Nations holds a reception for the Soviet musicians.

The second production of the Immortality ballet in Yerevan, Leningrad and Moscow.  Ballet’s cast and creator are awarded the First Prize at the All-Union Competition of Musical Performances.


Armenian State Pop Orchestra’s Nice – Marseille – Lyon tour, concluding in Paris with 11  concerts in  Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and the La Plielle theater.


Orbelian’s Orchestra wins the Grand Prix at the Belgrade International Jazz Festival competing with the Jazz Band of Freddy Hubbard and George Duke.


“Immortality” ballet production by the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater.


Konstantin Orbelian awarded the People’s Artist of the USSR, the highest Soviet award that honored achievements in arts.


Olympic Games in Moscow. Orbelian writes his Olympic Moscow piece.


Orbelian is experimenting with various jazz styles. Writing the Sunrise on Sevan and Come to Zangezur, two compositions in Armenian jazz-rock style.


Orbelian writes The Dreams in the impressionist-jazz style and the Bebop Exercises in Vocalization, also known as Variation for Voice and Orchestra.


Style experiments continue with the Jet Engine piece, written in the American hot jazz style.


Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary celebration. Orbelian recreates from memory and adds to the Orchestra’s repertoire Artemy Aivazyan’s Armenian Rhapsody, the score for which was lost.  Orbelian himself performed Arno Babajanian’s famous Nocturne, which was wonderfully received by the audience.

In the 1970’s-80’s.

In addition to the United States and almost all of the European countries, the musicians tour Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Egypt, India, Kenya and Ethiopia.


Konstantin Orbelian moves to San Francisco, California. This decision is motivated by the difficult political and economical situation in Armenia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Late 1990s – Present

Konstantin Orbelian lives in Los Angeles, California. He continues to write music and release albums. To view his complete US discography, please visit the Music section of the website.  



© 2006 Konstantin Orbelian