Peter Oundjian is one of a growing number of highly successful instrumentalists who largely abandon their chosen instrument in favor of a conducting career. In Oundjian's case the change was necessitated by a repetitive motion injury. He began as a violinist, a high-profile one at that, serving as the first violinist with the famed Tokyo String Quartet. From 1995, he turned his focus to the baton and soon was guest-conducting performances with some of the leading American orchestras, including the Saint Louis (1998) and Houston Symphony (1999). As the music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since 2004, he is among the leading Canadian conductors. On the podium his repertory has been broad, encompassing works by composers from Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler to Rachmaninov, Ravel, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and the moderns. As a member of the Tokyo String Quartet he played a similarly broad range of works, including the complete quartets of Beethoven and Brahms. Oundjian's many recordings are available from RCA, Vox, DG, EMI, and Harmonia Mundi.
Peter Oundjian was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1955. From age seven, he studied violin with Manoug Parikian in England, where he received his general education. He had later studies there with Béla Katona, and following work on several recordings with Benjamin Britten, Oundjian developed an interest in conducting. Nevertheless, he kept his focus on the violin and enrolled at London's Royal College of Music earning a gold medal for most distinguished student. He had further studies at Juilliard with Itzhak Perlman, Dorothy Delay, and Ivan Galamian.
In 1980 Oundjian won the Vina Del Mar International Violin Competition in Chile. The following year he joined the Tokyo String Quartet and served as the first violinist until 1995, when his injury forced a change. In 1995 he debuted at the Caramoor Festival leading the Orchestra of St. Luke's. From 1998-2003 Oundjian served as artistic director of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta (initially known as the Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam).
After assuming duties in Toronto in 2004, Oundjian was instrumental in helping resolve the orchestra's existing financial woes. Oundjian was appointed principal guest conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2006. The following year he and the Toronto Symphony management signed an agreement extending his contract to 2012, then to 2017. He also became music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in 2012. Among Oundjian's more acclaimed recordings is a 2002 BIS CD of arrangements of Beethoven's Grosse Fuge and Op. 131 Quartet, with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta.