Aram Khachaturian is a talented composer, whose compositions became part of the music classics of the 20-th century. His name is recognized throughout the world, and the compositions are performed worldwide, on the best theater stages, concert platforms, as well as the most distant places. Today, the music of Khachaturian is played on the radio, TV and cinema. The UNESCO places the name of Khachaturian among the most renowned composers of the 20-th century, and his “Sabre Dance” of the well-known ballet “Gayaneh” takes one of the first places in the list of the most popular compositions of our age.
Aram Khachaturian was born in Kodzhori (now Tbilisi), suburb of Tiflis, on June 6, 1903, in the Armenian family of a bookbinder. He wrote later: “Old Tiflis is a city of sounds, a city of music. It took a stroll along the streets and lanes away from the center, to plunge into the musical atmosphere which was created by all the various sources…”
It is also important, that at the time, there was a division of RMC (Russian Musical Society) in Tbilisi, as well as a musical school and an Italian Opera Theatre. This place was visited by famous cultural representatives, among which were: Fyodor Shalyapin, Sergei Rakhmaninov, Konstantin Igumnov. Ultimately, there lived famous musicians, who played an important role in the formation of Georgian and Armenian composer schools.
All of this constituted the basis for the early musical impressions of Aram Khachaturian. The original multi-national “alloy” of the intonation was an integral part of his acoustical experience. Years later, this very “alloy” became the pledge of Khachaturian’s music, so that it was never limited by the frames of nationality, and was always appealing to a wide-range of audiences. It is worth mentioning that Khachaturian was always devoid of any demonstration of national hidebound. He had a profound respect and a live interest in the music of various nations. Internationalism is one of the characteristic features and peculiarities of the world perception, and is part of the creative work of Khachaturian.
Despite his early demonstrated musical abilities, Aram Khachaturian became acquainted with the music literacy for the first time at the age of 19 in 1922, when he arrived in Moscow and got enrolled in a cello class at Gnesin Music School. Simultaneously, the composer got a degree in biology from the Department of Physics and Mathematics at Moscow State University.
The musical development of Khachaturian proceeded at a fast pace. Within a short period, not only did he catch up on his classwork, but he also became one of the best students, obtaining the right to perform at students’ concerts in the Small and Grand Halls of Moscow Conservatory.
Khachaturian’s fate as a composer was eventually defined in 1925, when they opened a composition class at the school. After obtaining initial skills of composition there, in 1929, he was admitted to Moscow National Conservatory, where lead by Nikolai Yakovlevich Myaskovsky he was formed as a composer.
Aram Khachaturian was indelibly impressed by the visit of Myaskovsky’s class by Sergey Prokofiev in 1933. The creative work of a genius composer captured the young musician more and more. In its turn, Khachaturian’s compositions amazed Prokofiev so greatly, that he took them with him to Paris, where they were immediately performed.
The first published composition of Khachaturian, “Dance” for violin and piano, already embraces some of the characteristic features of the composer’s stylistics: improvisation, diversity of variation techniques, as well as imitation of timbre effects widely spread in Eastern instrumental music, in particular the famous “Khachaturian’s seconds”, rhythmic ostinato. The composer himself noted: “These seconds come from the numerous sounds of folk instruments which I heard as a child: sazandartar, qyamancha and drum. My organ-point predilection comes from the Eastern music.”
Gradually, Khachaturian switched from little forms to more expanded ones, from the “arrangement” of folk songs and dances up to its “development”. In 1932, the Suite for piano was created; its first piece “Toccata” was widely recognized and included in the repertoire of many pianists. It has stood the test of time. Created by Khachaturian in his youth, “Toccata” has preserved its fascination and power of influence up till now. Rodion Shedrin wrote: “Many years have passed since the day of appearance of that dynamic wonderful play, but even now, its performance whets enthusiasm of the public. There is no professional, who would not but have it memorized, and who would not cherish it with heated enthusiasm.”
In 1933, a new composition “Dance Suite” for symphonic orchestra was performed. The composer Dmitriy Kobalevskiy wrote: “The first performance of this composition, which emitted sunlight, joy of life and spiritual power, was a great success to the young composer, still a student, and he was immediately ranked among the top positions of Soviet composers”.
Here many new things came to happen. The young composer showed his outstanding orchestral skills and affinity for symphonic thinking. In a festive and elegant score of the “Dance Suite” the contours of bright individual orchestral style of Khachaturian stood out clearly.
In 1935, in the Hall of Moscow Conservatorium, the orchestra directed by E. Senkara performed the First Symphony introduced by composer-graduate as the final project for graduation from the conservatory. It finalized the most productive period of studying and, at the same time, started a new period of life and creative work of the composer, who entered maturity stage. The audience, press, colleagues and friends noted the high artistic value of the new composition, the originality and public importance of its content, the richness of melodies, the generosity of harmonic and orchestra colors, and in particular, the bright national coloring of music.
As maturity approached, Khachaturyan started to give more priority to composing the music for drama plays in his creative work. The most significant compositions of this genre are: music to Lope de Vega’s “The Valencian Widow” (1940), Lermontov’s “Masquerade” (1941). Symphonic suites, created on the basis of music to plays, gained their independent concert life.
Khachaturian also paid a duly attention to cinematography, by showing excellent feeling of its specific rules, understanding efficient role of music in discovering the essence of the synthetic whole. Among various films, in which his music sounds, “Pepo” and “Zangezour” occupy special place.
The brightest talent of Aram Khachaturian was revealed in his symphonic compositions. Both the Piano Concerto (1936) and Violin Concerto and orchestra (1940) were a great success, and very soon gained the sympathy of listeners.
In these compositions, the tendencies, which first surfaced in “Dance Suite” and “First Symphony”, found further development, but they also added quite a few new elements. First of all, this was a sign of the composer’s acquisition of concerto style, which later became one of the characteristic features of his own style. The composer turned to the concerto genre several times, and made a number of interesting and bold discoveries in it.
Just as the composer was recognized one of the most famous and talented musicians, the Great Patriotic War began in 1941. However, even during those hard times, many of Khachaturian’s compositions were performed, which motivated him to in the pursue of
In 1942, the score of the ballet “Gayaneh” featuring the libretto of K. Derzhavin was finished. In this composition, the composer skillfully synthesized the tradition of the classic ballet with the folklore national music and choreographic art. The ballet “Gayaneh” was included as a solid part of the repertoire of native and foreign theaters. Three symphonic suites, composed by Khachaturian from the music to “Gayaneh”, also gained widespread fame.
In 1943, the Second symphony of Khachaturian was completed. New, extraordinary sides of his creative works were revealed in this composition of the war years, in which the music was enriched with new colors of heroics and tragedy. Dmitriy Shostakovich wrote: “The Second Symphony is perhaps Khachaturian’s first composition, in which the tragic start reaches these new heights; but, despite its tragic essence, this composition is full of profound optimism and belief in victory. A combination of the tragedy and life-assertion here is acquiring great power.”
In 1944, Khachaturian composed the national hymn of Armenia. One year later the war was over, and soon the “victorious” Third symphony appeared. Really, Third symphony is an excited, full of pathetic elements ode, original hymn to victors. In connection with Third symphony of Khachaturian, it should be recalled the words of academician B. V. Asafiev: “The art of Khachaturian appeals: “May it be light! And may it be joy!”…
In the summer of 1946, the composer created his Cello Concerto, which was performed in Moscow by S. Knushevitsky with a great success. At the same time, the vocal cycle to verses of Armenian poets was created. If the instrumental concert has long ago become one of the favorite genres for the composer, the vocal cycle was applied for the first time.
In 1954, the most significant composition of Aram Khachaturian, heroic and tragic ballet “Spartacus” was created. It occupied a deserving place among the best ballets of the 20th century for the profoundness of its idea, the brightness of artistic implementation, the scale of dramatic art and form, and finally, for the boldness of resolution of actual creative problems related to contemporary musical and choreographic art.
The 60-s were marked by another concert “splash” in the creative work of Khachaturian – three Concerto-Rhapsodies appeared one after another: Concerto-Rhapsody for violin and orchestra (1961), Concerto-Rhapsody for cello and orchestra (1963), and Concerto-Rhapsody for piano and orchestra (1968). The composer has several times shared his thoughts about the willingness to compose the Forth Concerto-Rhapsody featuring all of the three concert instruments joining together at the end of composition… In 1971, the State Prize was awarded for the triad of Concerto-Rhapsodies.
Khachaturian spent much effort to pedagogical work. For quite a long period of time he directed the composition class at Moscow Conservatory after P. I. Chaykovsky and at Gnesin Music Institute. Developing the pedagogical principles of his teacher Myaskovsky, and based on own life and creative experience, Khachaturian created his private composers’ school.
The private life of the composer was also rich in events. Khachaturian had a daughter Nuneh from the first marriage; she was a pianist. In 1933, Khachaturian got married for the second time to Nina Makarova, a student from Myaskovsky’s class, who’d become a faithful helpmate of the composer. Together they had a son, Karen Khachaturian (at the present he is a known art critic).
A myriad of prizes witness a universal recognition of creative work of Aram Khachaturian. In 1963, Khachaturian was elected a full member of Armenian Soviet Republic’s Academy of Sciences, honorary academician of Italian Music Academy “Santa Cecilia” (1960), honorary professor of Mexican Conservatory (1960), corresponding member of the Academy of Arts of GDR (1960). Aram Khachaturian had the titles of Professor and Doctor of Art Criticism (1965).