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Alexander  Spendiaryan - Armenian National Music (anmmedia.am)
Alexander Spendiaryan

Composer

Nov 01 1871 May 07 1928

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 Armenian poetry.

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 opened conservatory.

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 projects unfinished.  

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.