Alexander Spendiaryan (Spendiarov) was born on November 1, 1871, in Kakhovka
town, Dnepr province, Taurida Governorate (nowadays Herson’s region, Ukraine).
Spendiaryan's ancestors were from Ani- the ancient capital of Armenia.
His father-Afanasi Sdendiarov (Stepanos Spendiaryants) (1840-1901) was a great
industrialist who was dealing with timber trade. His mother Natalia Selinova
(Selinyan) (1845-1915) was from a famous family. Her father was the governor of
Karasoubazar (presently Belogorsk).
The composer’s childhood and adolescence passed in Kakhovka and Simferopol. In
their hospitable house, they often organized events and attended by Ivan
Aivazovsky. He played violin but he liked to hold it like qamancha. The
composer's mother accompanied him on the piano. Tatar, Armenian, Greek,
Ukrainian melodies were played during these concerts. Talented Alexander was
interested in all types of art. He started practicing music at the age of 9.
First, he took piano lessons but stopped after 1-1.5 years because as the
composer mentioned himself he could not bear the scales. Later he started to
play the violin.
In 1882-1890 he got his secondary education in the Classical Gymnasium in
Simferopol, which he graduated with a silver medal. He sang in the students’
choir and was actively engaged in musical life in the gymnasium.
In 1888 he composed his first romance -'' I am attracted by your beauty'' and
dedicated it to his first love Lisa Arendt. In the same year of graduation, he
traveled with his father to Europe. In Vienna Opera, he heard Carmen performed
by the great symphony orchestra for the first time in his life.
In 1890-1895 Al. Spendiaryan studied at Moscow Imperial University, first, at
the Faculty of Natural Sciences, then at the faculty of Law, but he never worked
as a lawyer. During his student years, he was the concertmaster of the student
orchestra, led by N. Klenovski. Hearing Spendiaryan's works Klenovski advised
him to study the theory of composition, becoming Spendiaryan's first teacher.
During this period Spendiaryan brothers communicated with Armenian intellectuals
in Moscow and were involved in Armenian culture. In 1894 during one of the
meetings Spendiaryan met Alexander Tsaturyan. Spendiaryan heard his ''Oh Rose''
poem and composed the homonymous romance. It was his first composition based on
In 1896-1900 Spendiaryan took private lessons of composition with Russian famous
composer N. Rimski-Korsakov. Their relationship gradually turned into a big
friendship. With the help of N. Rimski-Korsakov Spendiaryan entered Russian
elite classic music life. Gradually his name became famous in S.Petersburg and
Moscow. In 1900, at the end of his studies with Rimski-Korsakov Spendiaryan
composed his first outstanding symphonic composition ''The Concert Overture''
which he dedicated to his beloved teacher.
In 1901 Al. Spendiaryan got married to Varvara Mazirova (widow of Spendiaryan’s
brother Leonid, who died young) who was Ivan Ayvazovski's sister’s
granddaughter. Spendiaryan’s father donated a luxury house to a new-formed
family in Yalta. Previously it was the summer residence of Serbian queen
Natalia. Spendiaryan’s big family (he had 4 daughters, 2 sons) lived in this
house until 1916.
The Spendiaryans’ Yaltas mansion became the place for intellectuals’ gatherings.
Many people desired to make friendship with the honest and hospitable household,
renowned composers Al. Glazunov, A. Lyadov, N. Amani, A. Arenski, Tc. Kyui, S.
Rakhmaninov, opera artists F. Shalyapin, E. Zbrueva, E. Mravina, writers M.
Gorky, A. Chekhov, Al. Kuprin, painter I. Repin, and others. Spendiaryan was an
interesting speaker with a big sense of humor, which made him more attractive.
In 1901-1916 he lived in Yalta being actively engaged in cultural and social
activities. Due to his efforts, the Amateur choir of Yalta and many musical
schools were founded. In 1905 Spendiaryan composed "The Three Palm Trees"
symphonic poem based on Lermontov’s homonymous poem. For this composition, the
composer was awarded the Glinka Prize. With the suggestion of Russian ballet
master M. Fokine ballet ''The Seven Daughters of Gins’ King'' based on the
symphonic poem ''The Three Palm Trees'' was staged, the premiere of which took
place at Berlin Kroll opera house in 1913.
In 1916 Spendiaryan sold his mansion in Yalta and moved to Sudak summerhouse
with his family.
In the same year, Spendiaryan was invited to Tiflis. Being in Caucasia for the
first time, he got the opportunity to listen to Eastern melodies and melodies of
Caucasian nations. Here he met the illustrious poet Hovhannes Tumanyan. Getting
familiar with the writer’s works the composer chose the poem "The Capture of The
Fortress of Tmuk" as a subject for the opera. Returning to Sudak he started
working on the opera "Almast". The libretto was written by Russian poet S.
Parnok. Many artists united around the composer and very soon, the first act of
the opera was heard in his study room.
During World War I and revolution Spendiaryan was largely engaged in public
activities in Sudak as well. He organized many concerts for the benefit of the
people who suffered from the war.
At the invitation of the Armenian Government Spendiaryan moved to Armenia in
1924 and undertook the spacious development program of music culture. In Yerevan
Conservatory, due to the efforts of the composer, the orchestral class, and the
first symphonic orchestra was founded, and the first concert led by Spendiaryan
took place on December 10. Here the composer got involved in pedagogical
activity sharing his rich experience to the lecturers and students of newly
On Spendiaryan’s initiative and under his baton Beethoven’s 3rd and 5th
symphonies were performed in Yerevan for the first time.
In 1925 Spendiaryan composed his last work, ''Yerevan sketches'' and dedicated
it to the symphony orchestra of the conservatory. During these years the
composer still worked on his masterpiece- the opera Almast, but he hadn't
managed to complete the instrumentation of the last act. It was finished by
Maximilian Steinberg, N. Rimski-Korsakov's another student.
In 1926 not only in Armenia but also in the entire territory of Soviet Union the
25th anniversary of Al. Spendiaryan’s creative activity was greatly celebrated.
The composer was the first person who was awarded the title of the People's
Artist of Soviet Armenia and the title of the Professor of Yerevan Conservatory.
Al. Spendiaryan died on May 7, 1828, at the age of 57, leaving many creative
With Al. Tamanyan's suggestion the composer was buried in the garden close to
the Opera House. The composer couldn't attend the premiere of "Almast". Only two
years after his death the premiere of the opera took place in Moscow. Then on
June 20, 1933 "Almast "opera opened State Opera House in Armenia, which was
named after Alexander Spendiaryan in 1939.