Aram Khachaturian (1903 - 1978)
Aram Khachaturian was born in 1903, in Tiflis, Russian Empire. He was the fourth son in a modest Armenian family. His father was a book-binder and a craftsman; he noticed the son's musical talent and got him a used piano, but he did not have money for a music teacher. Khachaturian was self taught until the age of 19, when he moved to Moscow to join his brother, a theater director. He studied physics and mathematics at the Moscow University for one year before entering the Gnessin School of Music in 1922. At the entrance test he saw a cello and said, - "I want to learn to play this big violin". He studied cello under Mikhail Gnessin. He graduated with honors from the Gnessin School in 1929 and from the Moscow Conservatory in 1934, where he studied composition under Nikolai Miaskovsky. Sergei Prokofiev promoted Khachaturian's music in Europe, and his piano trio and the First Piano Concerto (1936) has won him international acclaim.
His Ballet "Gayaneh" (1942), with the brilliant "Sabre Dance", became an international sensation. But his second ballet, "Spartacus", written in 1945, was not staged for 11 years. Khachaturian was among the Soviet artists and intellectuals affected by official attacks on culture under Joseph Stalin in 1940s and 50s. His music was denounced as being 'formalistic'. Khachaturian suffered from official attacks along with Sergei Prokofiev, Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhmatova and many other distinguished intellectuals in the Soviet Union. Only in December of 1956 "Spartacus" had it's premiere on the stage of Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, and soon it gained international success. The "Adagio" from the ballet "Spartacus" and the "Sabre Dance" from the ballet "Gayaneh" became the signature themes of Khachaturian. He also wrote an acclaimed score for "Masquerade", a drama by Mikhail Lermontov. Khachaturian was a recipient of many Soviet and International awards. As professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory he promoted innovative and inter-cultural approach to music education. He cherished his Armenian heritage. He also included in his compositions a taste of the world music and various oriental influences. Aram Khachaturian died in Moscow in 1978 and was buried in Armenia.