Today considered to be a prominent Armenian composer, Aram
Khachaturian was born on June 6, 1903 in Tiflis (Tbilisi), the capital of Georgia. His father was a bookbinder and his family was poor. During his youth,
he possessed a strong fascination for music but never studied it or even
learned to read it.
In 1921, a year after Armenia was declared a Soviet
republic, he travelled to Moscow where his brother was the stage director of
the Second Moscow Art Theatre. A young adult, Khachaturian still had virtually
no musical education. Nevertheless, his remarkable talents were enough for him
to be admitted to the Gnessin Institute where he studied cello and later
composition. In 1929, he transferred to the Moscow Conservatory, continuing his
composition lessons, and graduated in 1934.
Following his graduation from the Moscow Conservatory,
Khachaturian went on to hold important posts in Soviet Russia. In 1937, he was
deputy chairman of the Moscow branch of the Composers' Union and two years
later he was appointed vice-chairman of the Organizing Committee of Soviet
Composers. In 1943, he became an official member of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union. However, only five years later he fell from official favor with the
Party due to a composition, his Third Symphony, which ironically he had
composed as a tribute to communism.
Following World War II and the Soviet Union's subsequent
harsh controls over its artists, Khachaturian, along with Shostakovich and
Prokofiev, was officially condemned and branded as "formalist" and
"anti-popular." Despite the worldwide reputation of these composers, they were
forced to give public apologies. Khachaturian was particularly affected by this
event and even considered giving up composing. Nevertheless, he rebounded and eventually regained official favor. He went
on to receive numerous state awards and even served as the Secretary of the
Board of the Composers' Union beginning in 1957. He died in Moscow on May 1,
1978 and was buried in Armenia.
Khachaturian's works include concertos for the violin, cello
and piano (the latter being his first composition to gain recognition in the
West), three symphonies, piano works (most notably two albums of music for
children), and film and incidental music. His most well-known music, however,
comes from his two ballets, Spartacus
and Gayane, including his famous
"Sabre Dance." Though his style was considerably controlled by the state,
Khachaturian nevertheless inspired several composers after him and his music is
generally applauded for bringing Armenian art to the world stage.
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