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Aram Khatchaturian

Staff Report

Armenian composer, conductor and teacher
Born: Tbilisi, 24 May/6 June 1903
Died: Moscow, 1 May 1978.

He is considered by some to be the central figure in 20th-century Armenian culture and, along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich, was a pillar of the Soviet school of composition. He influenced the development of composition not only in Armenia but also in Asia and South America. His name graces the Grand Concert Hall in Yerevan, a string quartet has been named after him and a prize in his name was instituted by the Armenian Ministry of Culture. His house was opened as a museum in 1978 and since 1983 the International Khachaturian Fund in Marseilles has held competitions for pianists and violinists.

Education: He first attended the Gnesin Institute, Moscow, to study the cello with Bïchkov and Borisyak. He attended the Moscow Conservatory for a number of years (1929–34) and later postgraduate work (1934–36).

Works: 50 works during his student years including: Seven Fugues for piano (1928), Song-Poem for violin and piano (1929), Toccata for piano (1932), Trio for clarinet, violin and piano (1932), Piano Concerto (1936)
Later works: The ballet Gayane, the Second Symphony, the Cello Concerto (1946), the Third Symphony (1947) and the ballet Spartacus (1950–54) which was first performed at the Kirov Theatre in Leningrad in 1956 and in a revised form at the Bolshoy in Moscow in 1968.

Life as a conductor: Khachaturian began conducting in 1950 and made appearances with programs of his own works in over 30 countries. He received official recognition throughout his career, from the Order of Lenin in 1939 to Hero of Socialist Labour in 1973.

Comments: Khachaturian was the first composer to place Armenian music within an international context. By synthesizing the musical achievements of his age with Armenian traditions such as peasant song, urban instrumental folklore, the art of the ashugh, the ornamental style of medieval monody and the purism of national idioms of Komitos, he created a new aesthetic. The various folk trends which impacted on his style were responsible for the development of the principles of improvisation, virtuosity, metrical and rhythmic variation, polythematicism, and use of monologue which dominates the trilogies of instrumental concertos.

Source: Adapted from New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 2, 2001