Born in Beirut, George Pehlivanian’s path in music began with piano and violin lessons at the age of three and six respectively. In 1975, he emigrated to Los Angeles with his family and went on to study conducting with Pierre Boulez, Lorin Maazel and Ferdinand Leitner. He spent two summers at the Academia Chigiana in Siena where he was awarded the Diploma di Merito. In 1991 he was awarded the Grand Prize at the Besançon Conducting Competition, the first American to receive the prize.
Since then he has conducted many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, Israel Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Orchestra Nazionale della RAI Torino, BBC Philharmonic, Bamberger Symphoniker, the Norddeutsche, Hessische and Südwetsdeutsche Runfunk Symphony Orchestras, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Bournemouth Symphony, Orquesta Nacional de España, Orquesta Radio Television de España, and Royal Scottish National Orchestra among others. In North America he has conducted the Montreal, Baltimore, Houston, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Paul, Vancouver and Toronto symphony orchestras. Elsewhere, he has worked with the Russian National Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic, Kirov Opera Orchestra, Sydney Symphony, Japan Virtuoso Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, NDR Hamburg and the Qatar Phiharmonic Orchestras.
He has collaborated with renowned artists such as Leonidas Kavakos, Vadim Repim, Sarah Chang, Joshua Bell, Janine Jansen, Misha Maisky, Gidon Kremer, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Arcadi Volodos, Emmanuel Ax, , Lynn Harrell, Maurice Andre, Evelyn Glennie, Mirella Freni, Ruggero Raimondi, Dimitri Hrostovsky, Leona Mitchel, Bernarda Fink, Marjana Lipovsek etc..
He has been Chief Conductor of the Slovenksa Filharmonika (2005-2008) and has held Principal Guest Conductor positions with the Residentie Orkest of The Hague (1996-1999), the Wiener Kammerorchester (1996-2000), the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz (2002-2012) and the Opera in Cagliari.
Regular Opera Conductor, he has performed titles such as La Traviata, Tosca, La Voix Humaine by Poulenc, Otello, Cavalleria Rusticana, Gianni Schicchi, La Damnation de Faust, Pique Dame, Andrea Chénier, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Ernani, Jenufa, Boris Godunov, etc. He has conducted at the most important Opera houses, such as the Kirov Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Ópera National of Bordeaux, Cité de la Musique of Paris, Teatro San Carlo of Naples, New Israeli Opera, Teatro Massimo di Palermo or the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, among others.
His name appears on the posters of the most important festivals: Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, White Nights of Saint Petersburg, Festival Bruckner of Linz, Verdi di Parma, Rávena, Aspen, Ravello, Ljubljana, Granada, etc.
His discography includes a double CD release on Virgin Classics/EMI with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, recordings for BMG with the London Philharmonic, the world premiere recording of music by Zhukov under CHANDOS with the Residentie Orchestra, works by Rodrigo with the Orquesta Nacional de España STUDIO SM, as well as Liszt’s complete works for piano and orchestra with Louis Lortie and the Residentie Orchestra for Chandos. This recording received special praise by Gramophone Magazine.
In 2011 George Pehlivanian founded the Touquet International Music Masters in France, a unique festival assembling the National Youth Orchestras of Europe. Since 2012 he is Professor at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris (CNSMDP) and in 2013 he started the conducting class at the Higher School of Music Education ‘Katarina Gurska’ in Madrid.