Aram Khachaturian: composer, conductor, teacher, founder of Armenian new school
Being a world-famous composer, his works, which stand out with their unique,
purely Khachaturian handwriting, occupy a special place in the treasury of world
classical music. Along with Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev, his name
has always been mentioned as one of the three greatest composers of the Soviet
He was born in Tiflis (Tbilisi) capital of Georgia on June 6, 1903 into the
Armenian family of Kumash and Yeghia (Ilya)Khachaturian, who came of peasant
families from Aza, an Armenian village in Nakhichevan.
The family of the book-binder Yeghia lived in a district of old Tiflis, which
was considered to be the cultural center of the Transcaucasia. As a boy,
Khachaturian was fond of folk dances and songs widespread in this town. Besides,
his father and mother handed down to him, and his three brothers their love for
folk music. Their family turned out to be very artistic. His elder brother Suren
became well known in the theatrical world in Moscow. Vaginak was an amateur
actor, the youngest brother Levon became a singer in Moscow. In 1921 Suren took
Aram to Moscow. The new condition gave a new turn to the young man's life. In
1922 he went to Gnessin Music school and took up the study of the cello (class
of S. Bichkov, after A. Borisyak’s class. At the same time, he took private
classes with Yelena Gnesina. In 1925 Khachaturian entered the composition class
on the advice of his teacher, composer Mikhail Gnesin. Here he composed a number
of instrumental pieces: Dance for violin and piano (1926), Poem for piano
(1927), Song Poem for violin and piano (1929) etc, which bear the unmistakable
stamp of his personality. Within a year they were published and performed on the
In those years Khachaturian was active in the House of Armenian Culture in
Moscow. It was there that he got acquainted with the culture of Armenia. He
wrote music for some plays on Armenian themes for its Drama Studio.
Upon graduating from the Gnesin School in 1929 Khachaturian entered the Moscow
Conservatoire and studied composition at outstanding Russian composer
Myaskovsky. Among the works Khachaturian composed in Myaskovsky's class is
hissonata for violin and piano, Trio for piano, violin and clarinet, Dance
Suite, Toccata for piano, music for theaters. In 1934 Khachaturian wrote his
First Symphony as a graduation thesis while completing the composition course.
He dedicated it to the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Soviet
government in Armenia.
Another important event took place in Khachaturian's life shortly before his
graduation. In Myaskovsky's class, he met Nina Makarova, a young and talented
composer and pianist, and soon the young people were married.
The piano Concerto brought Khachaturian world fame. In 1940 he wrote his Violin
Concerto and was awarded the State Prize. In 1941 his music for Lermontov's
drama "Masquerade" was written.
During the Second World War (1941-1945) Khachaturian composed several war songs,
the ballet Gayaneh (the revised version of his first ballet "Happiness" written
in 1939) which was first performed by the Kirov opera and ballet theater in
1942, the Second Symphony (1943). For the ballet and a symphony, Khachaturian
was again awarded State Prizes. In 1944 Khachaturian wrote the national Anthem
of Soviet Armenia.
The Cello concerto was created in 1946 the first performer of which was
On December 27, 1956, Khachaturian's ballet “Spartacus” had its premiere at the
Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre. It was a real triumph and one more proof of the
composer's original talent. Along with the ballet "Gayaneh", "Spartacus" have
been staged in many countries of the world. It is constantly included in the
repertoire of the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre. In 1959 Khachaturian was awarded Lenin
Prize for the ballet "Spartacus".
In 1950 Khachaturian took up teaching composition at the Gnesin Music Institute
and also was appointed to a professorship at the Moscow Conservatoire. Most of
his students became outstanding composers: Edgar Hovhannissian, Ed.
Khaghaghortzian, M. Tariverdiev, K. Volkov, M. Minkov, An. Vieru(Romania), A.
Aeshpai, Nobuo Terehara (Japan), Lopes Martin Horhe (Cuba), etc.
During his lifetime Khachaturian got all the prestigious titles existing in the
USSR: Titles of People's Artist of Armenia, Russia and the USSR, Hero of
Socialist Labor, and also numerous awards, prizes, medals, and orders.
Khachaturian left a comprehensive musical legacy embracing almost all genres and
His 3 symphonies, 3 concertos, 3 concerto-rhapsodies, ballets, a number of other
orchestral works, works for soloists, chorus and symphony orchestra, piano and
violin pieces, songs incidental music to plays and 17 films (Armenian films
"Pepo" and "Zangezur" among them) are loved by the broadest audience on all
thecontinents. As a composer and conductor, he appeared in more than 50
countries of the world: Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, Bulgaria,
Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hawaii, Hungary, Italy,
Iran, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Monaco, Romania, Poland, Finland, Norway, North,
Middle and South America, Japan, etc.
He was an honored professor of Santa Cecilia Academy of Music in Rome, of German
and Greece art academies. He was awarded orders and diplomas in France, Egypt,
Romania, Bulgaria, Iran, etc.
His works were performed by outstanding musicians of different countries:
pianists (L.Oborin, Y.Flier, W.Kapell, N.Petrov, A.Rubinstein, M. Limpany, B.
Berezovsky, etc), cellists (M.Rostropovich, Knushevitsky, Ad. Odnoposoff,
Shakhovskaya), violinists (Is. Perlman, Pikizen, D. Oistrakh, L. Kogan, Elman,
etc.), conductors (Gauk, Herbert von Karayan, Zubin Mehta, G. Georgescu, Y.
Ormandy, Leopold Stokowski, Genady Rojdestvenski, etc). Armenian prominent
musicians always perform Khachaturian's works with special love and pride.
Recordings of Khachaturian's works have been made by British, Armenian, German,
French, Japanese and many other firms.
Most of Khachaturian works have been published in Armenian, Russian leading
publishing houses as well as in foreign ones, such as: "Muuzichna Ukraina"
Ukraine, "Suhulem Mataasi" Istanbul, "Le Chant du Monde" Paris, "leads Music
Corporation" New York, "Hans Sikorsky" Hamburg, "Belwin Mills" New York, "G.
Schimer" London, "Edition Peters" Leipzig and many others.
Aram Khachaturian died on May 1, 1978. He was buried in Yerevan in the Pantheon
next to other great names of Armenian culture.
The Aram Khachaturian Museum in Yerevan was established just after his death,
which became the favorite cultural center for Khachaturian music lovers.