ARAM KHACHATURIAN 1903-1978
Aram Khachaturian was a Soviet and Armenian composer and conductor and he is considered one of the leading Soviet composers. Khachaturian is considered the most renowned Armenian composer of the 20th century. Composer composed the first Armenian ballet music, symphony, concerto, and film score. While following the established musical traditions of Russia, he broadly incorporated Armenian and, to lesser extent, Caucasian, Eastern and Central European, and Middle Eastern peoples' folk music in his works.
He is highly regarded in Armenia, where he is considered a "national treasure". By synthesizing folk music into formal classical compositions, Aram Khachaturian made a notable contribution to the world of music while preserving the robustness of the Armenian culture. The combination of the songs and rhythms of the Caucasus peoples with Western theoretical stylism created a bridge between the east and the west and made folk music themes very acceptable for classical concert performances/
Born and raised in Tbilisi, the multicultural capital of Georgia, Khachaturian moved to Moscow in 1921 following the Sovietization of the Caucasus. Without prior music training, he enrolled in the Gnessin Musical Institute, subsequently studying at the Moscow Conservatory in the class of Nikolai Myaskovsky, among others.
"Portrait of Aram Khachaturian"
Author Rinat Kuramshin
His first major work, the Piano Concerto (1936), popularized his name within and outside the Soviet Union. It was followed by the Violin Concerto (1940) and the Cello Concerto (1946). His other significant compositions include the Masquerade Suite (1941), the Anthem of the Armenian SSR (1944), three symphonies (1935, 1943, 1947), and around 25 film scores. The years preceding and following World War II proved to be very productive for Khachaturian. In 1939 Khachaturian made a six-month trip to his native Armenia "to make a thorough study of Armenian musical folklore and to collect folk-song and dance tunes" for his first ballet, Happiness which he completed in the same year. "His communion with Armenia's national culture and musical practice proved for him as he put it himself, 'a second conservatoire'.
Maris Liepa in the ballet "Spartak"
A scene from the ballet "Gayane"
Gramophone record Aram Khachaturian. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
Khachaturian is best known for his ballet music—Gayane (1942) and Spartacus (1954). His most popular piece, the "Sabre Dance" from Gayane, has been used extensively in popular culture and has been covered by a number of musicians worldwide. His melodies are characterised by improvisations, variations and the imitation of oriental timbres. They permeate the majority of his compositions. His style is "characterized by colorful harmonies, captivating rhythms, virtuosity, improvisations, and sensuous melodies".
During most of his career, Khachaturian was approved by the Soviet government and held several high posts in the Union of Soviet Composers from the late 1930s, although he joined the Communist Party only in 1943. Along with Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich, he was officially denounced as a "formalist" and his music dubbed "anti-people" in 1948 but was restored later that year. This condemnation ended at the death of Stalin, and when he returned to Moscow he did not change his compositional style, composing Spartacus, a world-renowned ballet.
After 1950 he taught at the Gnessin Institute and the Moscow Conservatory and turned to conducting. He traveled to Europe, Latin America and the United States with concerts of his own works. In 1957 Khachaturian became the Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers, a position he held until his death.
Music critic Edward Greenfield expresses the opinion that Khachaturian "notably outshone other Soviet contemporaries in creating a sharply identifiable style, something which his successors have found impossible to emulate". He composed a great portion of his works in a ten-year span between 1936 and 1946, preceding and following the Second World War. Despite his formal restoration after the 1948 denunciation, Khachaturian only succeeded in composing one internationally acclaimed work in the last 30 years of his life, the ballet Spartacus.