AND CREATIVE WORK.
BIOGRAPHY [flash version]
Khachaturian is a talented composer, whose compositions became
part of the music classics of the 20-th century. His name is
recognized throughout the world, and the compositions are performed
worldwide, on the best theater stages, concert platforms, as
well as the most distant places. Today, the music of Khachaturian
is played on the radio, TV and cinema. The UNESCO places the
name of Khachaturian among the most renowned composers of the
20-th century, and his “Sabre Dance” of the well-known ballet
“Gayaneh” takes one of the first places in the list of the most
popular compositions of our age.
Aram Khachaturian was born in Kodzhori (now Tbilisi), suburb
of Tiflis, on June 6, 1903, in the Armenian family of a bookbinder.
He wrote later: “Old Tiflis is a city of sounds, a city of music.
It took a stroll along the streets and lanes away from the center,
to plunge into the musical atmosphere which was created by all
the various sources…”
It is also important, that at the time, there was a division
of RMC (Russian Musical Society) in Tbilisi, as well as a musical
school and an Italian Opera Theatre. This place was visited
by famous cultural representatives, among which were: Fyodor
Shalyapin, Sergei Rakhmaninov, Konstantin Igumnov. Ultimately,
there lived famous musicians, who played an important role in
the formation of Georgian and Armenian composer schools.
All of this constituted the basis for the early musical impressions
of Aram Khachaturian. The original multi-national “alloy” of
the intonation was an integral part of his acoustical experience.
Years later, this very “alloy” became the pledge of Khachaturian’s
music, so that it was never limited by the frames of nationality,
and was always appealing to a wide-range of audiences. It is
worth mentioning that Khachaturian was always devoid of any
demonstration of national hidebound. He had a profound respect
and a live interest in the music of various nations. Internationalism
is one of the characteristic features and peculiarities of the
world perception, and is part of the creative work of Khachaturian.
Despite his early demonstrated musical abilities, Aram Khachaturian
became acquainted with the music literacy for the first time
at the age of 19 in 1922, when he arrived in Moscow and got
enrolled in a cello class at Gnesin Music School. Simultaneously,
the composer got a degree in biology from the Department of
Physics and Mathematics at Moscow State University.
The musical development of Khachaturian proceeded at a fast
pace. Within a short period, not only did he catch up on his
classwork, but he also became one of the best students, obtaining
the right to perform at students’ concerts in the Small and
Grand Halls of Moscow Conservatory.
FORMATION OF THE COMPOSER
fate as a composer was eventually defined in 1925, when they
opened a composition class at the school. After obtaining initial
skills of composition there, in 1929, he was admitted to Moscow
National Conservatory, where lead by Nikolai Yakovlevich Myaskovsky
he was formed as a composer.
Aram Khachaturian was indelibly impressed by the visit of Myaskovsky’s
class by Sergey Prokofiev in 1933. The creative work of a genius
composer captured the young musician more and more. In its turn,
Khachaturian’s compositions amazed Prokofiev so greatly, that
he took them with him to Paris, where they were immediately
The first published composition of Khachaturian, “Dance” for
violin and piano, already embraces some of the characteristic
features of the composer’s stylistics: improvisation, diversity
of variation techniques, as well as imitation of timbre effects
widely spread in Eastern instrumental music, in particular the
famous “Khachaturian’s seconds”, rhythmic ostinato. The composer
himself noted: “These seconds come from the numerous sounds
of folk instruments which I heard as a child: sazandartar, qyamancha
and drum. My organ-point predilection comes from the Eastern
Gradually, Khachaturian switched from little forms to more expanded
ones, from the “arrangement” of folk songs and dances up to
its “development”. In 1932, the Suite for piano was created;
its first piece “Toccata” was widely recognized and included
in the repertoire of many pianists. It has stood the test of
time. Created by Khachaturian in his youth, “Toccata” has preserved
its fascination and power of influence up till now. Rodion Shedrin
wrote: “Many years have passed since the day of appearance of
that dynamic wonderful play, but even now, its performance whets
enthusiasm of the public. There is no professional, who would
not but have it memorized, and who would not cherish it with
In 1933, a new composition “Dance Suite” for symphonic orchestra
was performed. The composer Dmitriy Kobalevskiy wrote: “The
first performance of this composition, which emitted sunlight,
joy of life and spiritual power, was a great success to the
young composer, still a student, and he was immediately ranked
among the top positions of Soviet composers”.
Here many new things came to happen. The young composer showed
his outstanding orchestral skills and affinity for symphonic
thinking. In a festive and elegant score of the “Dance Suite”
the contours of bright individual orchestral style of Khachaturian
stood out clearly.
In 1935, in the Hall of Moscow Conservatorium, the orchestra
directed by E. Senkara performed the First Symphony introduced
by composer-graduate as the final project for graduation from
the conservatory. It finalized the most productive period of
studying and, at the same time, started a new period of life
and creative work of the composer, who entered maturity stage.
The audience, press, colleagues and friends noted the high artistic
value of the new composition, the originality and public importance
of its content, the richness of melodies, the generosity of
harmonic and orchestra colors, and in particular, the bright
national coloring of music.
THE SUMMIT OF FAME
maturity approached, Khachaturyan started to give more priority
to composing the music for drama plays in his creative work.
The most significant compositions of this genre are: music to
Lope de Vega’s “The Valencian Widow” (1940), Lermontov’s “Masquerade”
(1941). Symphonic suites, created on the basis of music to plays,
gained their independent concert life.
Khachaturian also paid a duly attention to cinematography, by
showing excellent feeling of its specific rules, understanding
efficient role of music in discovering the essence of the synthetic
whole. Among various films, in which his music sounds, “Pepo”
and “Zangezour” occupy special place.
The brightest talent of Aram Khachaturian was revealed in his
symphonic compositions. Both the Piano Concerto (1936) and Violin
Concerto and orchestra (1940) were a great success, and very
soon gained the sympathy of listeners.
In these compositions, the tendencies, which first surfaced
in “Dance Suite” and “First Symphony”, found further development,
but they also added quite a few new elements. First of all,
this was a sign of the composer’s acquisition of concerto style,
which later became one of the characteristic features of his
own style. The composer turned to the concerto genre several
times, and made a number of interesting and bold discoveries
Just as the composer was recognized one of the most famous and
talented musicians, the Great Patriotic War began in 1941. However,
even during those hard times, many of Khachaturian’s compositions
were performed, which motivated him to in the pursue of
In 1942, the score of the ballet “Gayaneh” featuring the libretto
of K. Derzhavin was finished. In this composition, the composer
skillfully synthesized the tradition of the classic ballet with
the folklore national music and choreographic art. The ballet
“Gayaneh” was included as a solid part of the repertoire of
native and foreign theaters. Three symphonic suites, composed
by Khachaturian from the music to “Gayaneh”, also gained widespread
In 1943, the Second symphony of Khachaturian was completed.
New, extraordinary sides of his creative works were revealed
in this composition of the war years, in which the music was
enriched with new colors of heroics and tragedy. Dmitriy Shostakovich
wrote: “The Second Symphony is perhaps Khachaturian’s first
composition, in which the tragic start reaches these new heights;
but, despite its tragic essence, this composition is full of
profound optimism and belief in victory. A combination of the
tragedy and life-assertion here is acquiring great power.”
In 1944, Khachaturian composed the national hymn of Armenia.
One year later the war was over, and soon the “victorious” Third
symphony appeared. Really, Third symphony is an excited, full
of pathetic elements ode, original hymn to victors. In connection
with Third symphony of Khachaturian, it should be recalled the
words of academician B. V. Asafiev: “The art of Khachaturian
appeals: “May it be light! And may it be joy!”…
In the summer of 1946, the composer created his Cello Concerto,
which was performed in Moscow by S. Knushevitsky with a great
success. At the same time, the vocal cycle to verses of Armenian
poets was created. If the instrumental concert has long ago
become one of the favorite genres for the composer, the vocal
cycle was applied for the first time.
In 1954, the most significant composition of Aram Khachaturian,
heroic and tragic ballet “Spartacus” was created. It occupied
a deserving place among the best ballets of the 20th century
for the profoundness of its idea, the brightness of artistic
implementation, the scale of dramatic art and form, and finally,
for the boldness of resolution of actual creative problems related
to contemporary musical and choreographic art.
The 60-s were marked by another concert “splash” in the creative
work of Khachaturian – three Concerto-Rhapsodies appeared one
after another: Concerto-Rhapsody for violin and orchestra (1961),
Concerto-Rhapsody for cello and orchestra (1963), and Concerto-Rhapsody
for piano and orchestra (1968). The composer has several times
shared his thoughts about the willingness to compose the Forth
Concerto-Rhapsody featuring all of the three concert instruments
joining together at the end of composition… In 1971, the State
Prize was awarded for the triad of Concerto-Rhapsodies.
Khachaturian spent much effort to pedagogical work. For quite
a long period of time he directed the composition class at Moscow
Conservatory after P. I. Chaykovsky and at Gnesin Music Institute.
Developing the pedagogical principles of his teacher Myaskovsky,
and based on own life and creative experience, Khachaturian
created his private composers’ school.
The private life of the composer was also rich in events. Khachaturian
had a daughter Nuneh from the first marriage; she was a pianist.
In 1933, Khachaturian got married for the second time to Nina
Makarova, a student from Myaskovsky’s class, who’d become a
faithful helpmate of the composer. Together they had a son,
Karen Khachaturian (at the present he is a known art critic).
A myriad of prizes witness a universal recognition of creative
work of Aram Khachaturian. In 1963, Khachaturian was elected
a full member of Armenian Soviet Republic’s Academy of Sciences,
honorary academician of Italian Music Academy “Santa Cecilia”
(1960), honorary professor of Mexican Conservatory (1960), corresponding
member of the Academy of Arts of GDR (1960). Aram Khachaturian
had the titles of Professor and Doctor of Art Criticism (1965).
The Big Philharmonic Hall in Yerevan, a string quartet
and an annual competition of pianists and composers are named