is my face. Perhaps, someone will find this face ugly - well, some 20 years later
it will become beautiful."
First Symphony (1934) is the first work in the history of Armenian music written
in this genre. Here, in the thesis work of the composer-graduate, the main features
of Khachaturian’s creative individuality were revealed – the joy of
life perception and great optimism expressed in monumental epic musical images.
This work proved that Khachaturian was cut out to be a symphonist.
The study of classical music was of a great importance during the development
of the composer’s mature musical language in his attitude towards the national
music and its symphonization. Creative principles of not only Armenian, Russian,
but also West-European critics helped Khachaturian find his true way in creativity.
Khachaturian’s First Symphony (e-moll, G-dur) is a three-part cyclic work
in which all the three parts are mainly united by the dancing character of rhythm-intonations.
The first part gives exhaustive development of the basic idea; the second and
the third ones only complement it. In the symphony’s first part one can
clearly see not only Khachaturian’s bent for symhonism, but also the characteristic
features of his musical speech: pathetics, romantic excitement, dramatic development
of musical images. The character of improvisation and monothematic character as
the methods of purposeful thematic are already detected in the First Symphony.
“I very well remember that great and strong impression made by the First
Symphony, - said D.D. Shostakovich, - first performed in Leningrad in1936 and
conducted by Shtidri. Khachaturian acquainted me with the score of the symphony
before its performance. I was stunned by the extraordinary melodic richness of
this work, the finest bright orchestration, the profound content of the musical
material, its general festive and joyous peculiarity. Discussing the music of
the First Symphony one can say that it is a real delight in/with beauty and joy
of life. It is still remembered that at the premiere of the First Symphony there
were a lot of musicians who experienced the same feeling I did: the feeling of
joy on the occasion of the appearance of the great and talented composer…”
In the Second Symphony (1943) Khachaturian artistically, realistically and figuratively
sang of the Soviet people’s heroism, their struggle, thoughts and trials
during the severe days of the Great Patriotic War.
“My new, Second Symphony, – wrote the composer, – doesn’t
have a literature programme; while creating it I tried to embody in general musical
images those thoughts and feelings with which our people live in today.”
The monumental Second Symphony is a vivid example of a symphony of heroic-patriotic
genre. The alarms informing about the nationwide distress, the dramatic character
of the intensive struggle, the great woe and warlike challenge to the victory
hymn at the finale, - such is the development of the Second Symphony’s music,
such is its musical-dramatic conception. If during the War the Second Symphony’s
musical images called to the struggle for the ultimate victory, nowadays the tragic
character of this work reminding of the past war calls to the struggle for peace.
The Second Symphony begins with a little prelude notifying the nationwide distress.
“The bell’s beats in the prelude, – writes Khachaturian, –
underline the significance of what is taking place and make the audience be concentrated.”
The musical image of the alarm evokes a response reaction – one can hear
a kind of mournful wail of the people. The intonation of the wail pierces the
whole symphony; that gives us the reason to speak of one theme character. In the
Second Symphony, as well as in the other symphonic works, this method is of great
dramaturgic importance. However, the mournful intonations of the prelude acquire
a new quality in the end, merging with the exultant victorious hymn of fame.
“I did not want the listeners to search for specific illustrations to the
descriptions of superhuman sufferings caused by fascist monsters. But have to
confess that while writing the Andante (3rd part), I imagined the tragic scenes
of German brutality.”
The well known Romanian conductor George Georgeskoo writes with delight about
the Second Symphony:
“I became acquainted with Khachaturian’s creativity long before
our private meeting. Once in summer, setting out to a health resort on the coast
of Black Sea, I took the score of the Second Symphony. Just after the first review
the splendor of its content, richness of melodies and sincerity incredibly surprised
me. Soon I wanted to study the Symphony properly and perform it. I was expecting
the beginning of the season with impatience. In the autumn, after the return to
Bukharest I began working on the Second Symphony together with an orchestra and
soon it was included in our four concerts and was a huge success. The work was
destined to be grand; coloring and poetry, proceeding from the fold art, and classical
clarity of the form happily harmonize with it. The combination is original and
fresh! This work is full of profound dramatic character, rich and variable in
sounding. It seems that all the feelings overflowing people’s hearts are
expressed in the Symphony. In its sounds – wrath and indignation, sorrow
and lyrics: ultimate and in the same time ceremonial(triumphal). And all this
gamma of emotions is replaced by the festive mood, proclaiming the triumph of
joy of life.
Khachaturian’s Second Symphony was included in the repertoire of the orchestra
of the Bukharest Philharmony. It also promoted the success of our foreign tours
to a considerable degree: in Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, Warsaw, Prague. I had to
conduct it in Rome, Belgrade, Leipzig and also at George Eneskoo First International
The musical critic G.Khubov called this work “The Bell Symphony”.
In 1946 the Second Symphony was honored with the Stalin Prize.
By the 30th anniversary of the Russian Revolution of October 1917, Aram Khachaturian
had written a monumental work for the big symphony orchestra with a trio of wind
instruments, 15 soloing trumpets and an organ; it was called the Symphony-Poem.
Due to the enlarged staff of the orchestra, an extraordinarily strong sound was
The composer didn’t preface the new work with a program or with an epigraph,
nor did he write a devotion which might have helped determine its contents. Two
themes lie in the basis of this one-part Symphony-Poem: the two themes, determining
the development of the composition.
This work’s destiny was not an easy one. In January 1948, the Symphony-Poem
was sharply criticized by the government during the conference of the prominent
figures of the Soviet music; in particular, the criticism was a result of the
setting 15 trumpets and an organ into the score. Khachaturian’s name was
mentioned among the names of Myaskovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich – the
so called “composers-formalists”.
Both as a composer and as a man, A. Khachaturian was not prepared for such attacks.
“We had been waiting for our constituent assembly so long! Well, just
here and at this very time I was insulted so unfairly and undeservedly…
I was depressed and wasted away. I started seriously thinking over changing my
profession…”– recalled the composer afterwards.
Later on, the composer renamed the Symphony-Poem into the Third Symphony. Its
premiere took place in Leningrad (St.-Petersburg) in 1947 under the conduction
of Y. Mravinsky. Eventually the Third Symphony has occupied a remarkable place
in the world’s musical culture.