Aram Khachaturian

From New World Encyclopedia

Aram Khachaturian
Background information
Birth name Aram Khachaturian
Born June 6, 1903, Tbilisi, Georgia
Died May 1, 1978
Occupation(s) Composer

Aram Ilich Khachaturian (Armenian: Արամ Խաչատրյան, Aram Xačatryan; Russian: Аpaм Ильич Xaчaтypян, Aram Il'ič Hačaturjan) (June 6, 1903 – May 1, 1978) was an Armenian composer whose works were often influenced by Armenian folk music. 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.


Aram Ilyich Khachaturian was born in Tbilisi, Georgia (then a part of Imperial Russia) to a poor Armenian family. In his youth, he was fascinated by the music he heard around him, but at first he did not study music or learn to read it. In 1921, he traveled to Moscow to join his brother, unable to speak a word of Russian. Although he had almost no musical education, Khachaturian showed such great talent that he was admitted to the Gnessin Institute where he studied the cello under Mikhail Gnessin and entered a composition class in 1925. In 1929, he transferred to the Moscow Conservatory where he studied under Nikolai Myaskovsky. In the 1930s, he married the composer Nina Makarova, a fellow student from Myaskovsky's class. In 1951, he became professor at the Gnessin State Musical and Pedagogical Institute and the Moscow Conservatory. He also held important posts at the Composers' Union, which would later severely denounce some of his works as being "formalistic" music, along with those of Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich. Yet, these three composers became the so called "titans" of Soviet music, enjoying world-wide reputation as leading composers of the twentieth century.


Khachaturian's works include concertos for violin, cello, and piano, the latter originally including an early part for an unusual instrument, the flexatone. There were also concerto-rhapsodies for the same instruments along with three symphonies, the third of which contained parts for 15 additional trumpets and organ. Additionally, there were the ballets Spartak (aka Spartacus) and Gayane, the music of which was used in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The latter ballet's final act features his most famous movement, the Sabre Dance. He also composed some film music and incidental music for plays such as the 1941 production of Mikhail Lermontov's Masquerade. The cinematic quality of his music for Spartacus was clearly seen when it was used as the theme for a popular BBC drama series, The Onedin Line, during the 1970s. Since then, it has become one of the most popular of all classical pieces for United Kingdom audiences. Joel Coen's The Hudsucker Proxy also prominently featured music from the ballet Spartacus and Gayane mixed with original compositions by Carter Burwell. He was also the composer for the state anthem of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was one of five choices to become the state anthem of Armenia following the dissolution of the former Soviet Union.

Khachaturian and Communism

Khachaturian was enthusiastic about communism. In 1920, when Armenia was declared a Soviet republic, Khachaturian joined a propaganda train touring Armenia which included many Georgian-Armenian artists. The composer joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1943. His communist ideals, along with his Armenian nationalism, are apparent in his works, especially Gayane (which takes place on a collective farm) and the Second Symphony. It was the Symphonic Poem, later entitled the Third Symphony, that earned Khachaturian the wrath of the Party. Ironically, Khachaturian wrote the work as a tribute to communism:

I wanted to write the kind of composition in which the public would feel my unwritten program without an announcement. I wanted this work to express the Soviet people's joy and pride in their great and mighty country (Yuzefovich, 191).

Perhaps because Khachaturian did not include a dedication or program notes, his intentions backfired. Andrei Zhdanov, secretary of the Communist Party's Central Committee, delivered the so-called Zhdanov decree in 1948. The decree condemned Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Khachaturian, and other Soviet composers as "formalist" and "antipopular." All three accused composers were forced to apologize publicly. The decree affected Khachaturian profoundly: "Those were tragic days for me... I was clouted on the head so unjustly. My repenting speech at the First Congress was insincere. I was crushed, destroyed. I seriously considered changing professions" (Yuzefovich, 190).

He died in Moscow on May 1, 1978, days before his 75th birthday. He was buried in Yerevan, Armenia, along with other distinguished personalities who made Armenian art accessible for the whole world. In 1998, he was honored by appearing on Armenian paper money (50 Armenian dram).



  • Happiness (1939)
  • Gayane (1939-41), which includes the famous Sabre Dance
  • Spartacus (1950-54)


  • Symphonies
    • Symphony No. 1 (1934)
    • Symphony No. 2 The Bell Symphony (two versions: 1943, 1944)
    • Symphony No. 3 Symphony-Poem (1947)
  • Dance Suite (1933)
  • Suite from Gayane No. 1 (1943)
  • Suite from Gayane No. 2 (1943)
  • Suite from Gayane No. 3 (1943)
  • National Anthem of the Armenian SSR (1944)
  • The Russian Fantasy (1944)
  • Suite from Masquerade (1944)
  • Ode in Memory of Vladimir Ilich Lenin (1948)
  • Suite from Battle of Stalingrad (1949)
  • Triumphal Poem, a festive poem (1950)
  • Suite from The Valencian Widow (1952)
  • Suite from Spartacus No. 1 (1955)
  • Suite from Spartacus No. 2 (1955)
  • Suite from Spartacus No. 3 (1955)
  • Symphonic Pictures from Spartacus (1955)
  • Salutatory Overture (1958)
  • Suite from Lermontov (1959)

Vocal Orchestral

  • Poem about Stalin (1938)
  • Three Arias (Poem, Legend, Dithyramb), for high pitched voice and orchestra (1946)
  • Ode of Joy, ballade for female soloist, chorus, violins, harps, and orchestra (1956)
  • Ballade about Motherland, for soloist and symphony orchestra (1961)


  • Piano Concerto (1936)
  • Violin Concerto (1940), also exists as a flute concerto version
  • Cello Concerto (1946)
  • Concerto-Rhapsody for violin and orchestra (1961)
  • Concerto-Rhapsody for cello and orchestra (1963)
  • Concerto-Rhapsody for piano and orchestra (1968)

Chamber Music

  • String Quartet (1931)
  • Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1932)


  • Poem (1925)
  • Poem (1926)
  • Waltz-Etude (1926)
  • Andantino (1926)
  • Variations on the Solvage Theme (1928)
  • Seven Recitatives and Fugues (1928, 1966)
  • Suite (Toccata, Waltz-Capriccio, Dance) (1932)
  • Dance No. 3 (1933)
  • March No. 3 (1934)
  • Budenovka, a mass dance (undated)
  • Choreographic Waltz (1944)
  • Three Pieces (Ostinato, Romance, Fantastic Waltz) (1945)
  • Album for Children No. 1, 10 pieces (1947)
  • Waltz from Masquerade (1952)
  • Piano Sonatina (1959)
  • Piano Sonata (1961)
  • Album for Children No. 2 (1965)


  • Dance No. 1, for violin and piano (1926)
  • Allegretto, for violin and piano (1929)
  • Song-Poem (in Honor of Ashugs), for violin and piano (1929)
  • Violin Sonata (1932)
  • Nocturne from Masquerade, for violin and piano (1941)
  • Roaming Ashug's Song, for cello and piano (1925)
  • Elegy for Cello and Piano (1925)
  • Piece for Cello and Piano (1926)
  • Dream, for cello and piano (1927)
  • Sonata for Solo Cello (1974)
  • Pantomime, for oboe and piano (1927)
  • Mass Dance, for bayan (1932)

Incidental Music

  • Uncle Baghdasar (1927)
  • Khatabala (1928)
  • Oriental Dentist (1928)
  • Debt of Honor (1931)
  • Macbeth (1933)
  • Devastated Home (1935)
  • Great Day (1937)
  • Baku (1937)
  • The Valencian Widow (1940)
  • Masquerade (1941)
  • Kremlin Chimes (1942)
  • Sound Scout (1943)
  • The Last Day (1945)
  • Southern Bale (1947)
  • Tale About The Truth (1947)
  • Ilya Golovin (1949)
  • Spring Current (1953)
  • Guardian Angel from Nebraska (1953)
  • Lermontov (1954)
  • Macbeth (1955)
  • King Lear (1958)

Brass Band

  • Combat March No. 1
  • Combat March No. 2 (1930)
  • Dancing Music (on the theme of an Armenian song) (1932)
  • March No. 3 (Uzbek March) (1932)
  • Dance (on the theme of an Armenian song) (1932)
  • To The Heroes of the Patriotic War, a march (1942)
  • March of the Moscow Red Banner Militia (1973)

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Aronovich, Viktor. Aram Khachaturyan. NY: Sphinx Press, 1985. ISBN 0823686582
  • Fay, Laurel E. Aram Khachaturian: a complete catalogue. NY: G. Schirmer, 1990. OCLC 23711723
  • Ehrenburg, I., A. Khachaturian, and V. Pomerantsev. Three Soviet artists on the present needs of Soviet art. Soviet Studies, 5(4) (1953): 427-434.
  • Shneerson, Grigorii Mikhailovich. Aram Khachaturian. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959. OCLC 602159
  • Yuzefovich, V. Aram Khachaturian A Boigraphy. translated by N. Kournokoff and, V. Bobrov. New York: Sphinx Press (August 1985). ISBN 0943071003

External links

All links retrieved October 31, 2021.


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