Khachaturian as a Conductor

“For me, the art of conducting has an enormous attractive strength for many reasons. Firstly, I have always gone through performing music since my youth. Secondly, what opportunity can be more attractive than the one of making my compositions sound by such a significant instrument as the orchestra? And, at last, this is one more form of association with the widest audience…
Aram Khachaturian

Khachaturian had always dreamed to perform his orchestra works himself, while rehearsing with little orchestras of dramatic theatres to which he wrote music. In 1950, he, at last, managed to realise his desire and started conducting his works at the concert venues of many countries.
Everything began once in spring – after one call.
Khachaturian was given a ring and told that there would take place a concert in honor of the election of academician Vavilov as a member of parliament, and it is he, the composer, who must conduct the concert. In that evening the concert program included the final of Violin Concerto (performed by Leonid Kogan) and extracts from the ballet “Gayane”.
This proposal was completely unexpected, and Khachaturian was about to refuse it. As he said later, he had been excited the whole day; however, everything passed well, even successfully.
“Just since that spring day I have been ‘poisoned’ by conducting,” – recalled Khachaturian.
The sphere of Khachaturian’s conducting activities broadened year by year. His debut on the symphonic stage took place on February 10, 1950, and as early as in that year’s summer he signed a contract on conducting 15 concerts in the USSR’s cities. Touring in the largest cities of the Soviet Union, Khachaturian also looked forward to conducting in the sites, where, as to his words, “the foot of the symphony orchestra had never entered.” Regular meetings with teachers and students of musical institutions, with self-acting artists, and also with common people gave propagandistic character to Khachaturian’s tours.
Even in the first reviews of Khachaturian’s conducting performances, their authors emphasized the expressive flexibility of Aram Ilich’s hands, his ability to make the shape of the whole, and his significant inner sensation of rhythm.
Soon, there took place the first foreign performance. Being in Rome in 1950, Khachaturian accepted the offer of the administration of the Rome Radio to conduct a concert with the local orchestra. “Italian reviewers accepted me warmly and called me ‘an experienced maestro,’ obviously, out of their unawareness,” – recalls Aram Ilich. – “This rather flattering epithet encouraged me, and, since then, I have combined all the foreign tours with my recitals.”
While working with the orchestra, Aram Khachaturian revealed his inherent artistry, bright performing endowments, strong creative will, incredible capacity for work and mature professionalism.
“It was comfortable to play under his stick. He could spark off orchestra members and soloists. He always knew what he wanted. His conducting will unfailingly impressed the audience”, – recalled the famous violinist Victor Pikaizen.
The foreign tours also corresponded to Khachaturian’s temperament: the dynamics of his nature and the thirst for communication with people. He once mentioned in a conversation that he had found new friends abroad. The life endowed Aram Ilich with a heap of extremely interesting meetings: with the Queen of Belgium, Elizabeth, and the Pope of Rome, John 23th, with Jean Sibelius, Arturo Benedetti Michelangelo, Ernest Anserme and Nadia Boulanger, Charlie Chaplin, Sophia Loren and Ernest Hemingway…
Prague, Warsaw, Berlin, Sofia, Budapest, Bucharest, Vienna, Paris, Rome, Brussels, London, Helsinki, Leipzig, Salzburg, Reykjavik, Washington, New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Cairo, Beirut, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Gvadalahara, Caracas, Havana, Mexico, Osaka, Nagasaki, Kyoto, Alexandria, Liege, Cordoba, Luxembourg, San-Paulo, Manchester, Bologna, Acapulco… This is far from the complete list of the cities where Khachaturian performed. His concerts were always a success, promoting to the strengthening of international cultural relations.

“The composer conducted the vast program outwardly calmly, being seized with the ardor of inner burning. The concert has become an outstanding event in our musical life… The audience greeted Khachaturian with a long ovation, which was supported by the orchestra fanfares.”
Helsingah Sanomat (April 16, 1955)

“Khachaturian sets his task to excite the audience with music. The composer himself has not kept his intentions secret. He says: ‘Music is a matter of heart’. The yesterday concert demonstrated that the composer understands this matter…”
L’Humanité (March 29, 1960)

“Nobody could conduct the orchestra better than he did. His gesture was clear and exact, his motions sparked both the performers and the audience. The orchestra sounded the way we had not long happened to hear. The success was outstanding…”
Paeze Sera (April 8, 1963)