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234th Season

Aram Khachaturian


Aram Ilyich Khachaturian was born in Tbilisi, Georgia (then a part of Imperial Russia) to a poor Armenian family (the influence of Armenian folk music is prominent in his work). 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 showed such great talent that he was admitted to the Gnessin Institute where he studied cello under Mikhail Gnessin and entered a composition class (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 (Moscow) 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 Prokofiev and Shostakovich. However these three composers became the so called "titans" of Soviet music, enjoying world-wide reputation as the leading composers of the 20th century.

Khachaturian‘s works include concertos for violin, cello and piano (the latter originally including an early part for the flexatone), concerto-rhapsodies for the same instruments, three symphonies – the third containing parts for fifteen trumpets and organ, and the ballets Spartak (aka Spartacus) and Gayane (music of which was used in Stanley Kubrick‘s film 2001: A Space Odyssey). The latter ballet features in its final act what is probably his most famous movement, the "Sabre Dance". He also composed some film music and incidental music for plays such as the 1941 production of 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 UK audiences.

He died in Moscow on May 1, 1978, just short of his 75th birthday. He was buried in Yerevan, Armenia, along with other distinguished Armenians who made Armenian art accessible for the whole world.

Selected List of Works

Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3

Works for solo instrument(s) and orchestra
Piano Concerto
Violin Concerto
Cello Concerto
Concerto-Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra
Concerto-Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra
Concerto-Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra
Masquerade Suite
Lermontov Suite

Gayane, which includes the famous Sabre Dance

Chamber works
Trio in G minor for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1932)

Works for solo piano
Adventures of Ivan (teaching pieces)
Piano Sonata (1976)


Mariinsky Theatre:
1 Theatre Square
St. Petersburg
Mariinsky-2 (New Theatre):
34 Dekabristov Street
St. Petersburg
Mariinsky Concert Hall:
20 Pisareva street
St. Petersburg

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