Spartacus is a ballet in three acts by Aram Khachaturian, an Armenian Composer, which is inspired by the historical figure of Spartacus.
Musicians have the unique ability to reflect their nation’s history, traditions, sorrows and joyful moments in their music. However, only a few of them earn world-wide recognition and succeed to bring world fame to their nations.
Armenians are proud to have such a composer, whose music has conquered the whole world. That composer is undoubtedly Aram Khachaturian, one of the most renowned Armenian composers of the 20th century that Armenia is so proud of.
Even if you are hearing the name of this great Armenian musician for the first time, you can easily find an unlimited amount of Aram Khachaturian’s music on the radio, internet, TV, etc.
By doing so, you will realize how familiar Khachaturian’s music is to you, since they are also famous for being used in numerous films, TV series, commercials, championships, etc.
We think you got curious! What music is that? Just keep reading to learn more about this outstanding Armenian composer.
Spartacus: The Origin of the Ballet
Aram Khachaturian is best known internationally for his ballet music. Few people will know that before preparing the composition for “Spartacus”, the great composer decided to go on a tour around Italy, to get acquainted with the very places at the center of the famous story of a slave rebellion.
This tour should have greatly helped the composer to introduce the strong spirit and energy of that epoch, through the lively rhythms of the composition.
Spartacus was premiered by the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad (present-day St. Petersburg) in 1956, and its revised form was performed in 1968 by the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. It was the third Moscow staging of “Spartacus”, which gained international popularity.
Due to the richness of melodies and bright national coloring of music in each act of the heroic and tragic ballet, “Spartacus” occupied a deserving place among the best ballets of the 20th century.
So far, the most enchanting moment comes in Act II when Spartacus frees his wife Phrygia and the lovers celebrate with “Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia”. This part was used in many world-famous films.
The ballet score won Khachaturian the Lenin Prize in 1954.
Spartacus Ballet Writer: Aram Khachaturian
Born and raised in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, Khachaturian moved to Moscow in 1921, soon entering the Gnessin Institute as a cellist.
At the same time the future composer got a degree in biology from Moscow State University. Fortunately, he did not become a biologist.
Why fortunately? The answer is simple. Because there would be a huge gap in the world music without Aram Khachaturian whose compositions would soon become part of the music classics of the 20th century.
In 1929, Khachaturian was admitted to Moscow National Conservatory, where he was formed as a composer.
Khacahturian’s major works include:
- Piano Concerto
- Violin Concerto
- Dance Suite
- Masquerade Suite
- First Symphony
- “Sabre Dance” from “Gayane” ballet”
- Spartacus ballet
That list also includes such renowned names as Beethoven and Chopin. As a composer and conductor, he appeared in more than 50 countries of the world (Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, Bulgaria, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco, Romania, Poland, Finland, Norway, Japan etc.).
Aram Kachaturian’s Legacy in Armenia
Being a world-famous composer and having a great contribution to the classic music, Aram Khachaturian never forgot about his hometown roots. Khachaturian is highly loved and respected in Armenia and is considered a “national treasure” bringing Armenian music recognized worldwide.
Thus, don’t get surprised to find several buildings in Armenia named after Aram Khachaturian, since there are many of them opened to honor the Armenian composer’s memory.
For example, the philharmonic hall of the Yerevan Opera Theater is officially called “The Aram Khachaturian Grand Concert Hall”. Just after his death “The Aram Khachaturian’s museum” in Yerevan was opened, which has become the favorite cultural center for Khachaturian music-lovers.
Every year, starting from 2003, “The Aram Khachaturian International Competition” is held in Yerevan, Armenia. It is aimed to identify talented young musicians in three specialties – “Piano”, “Violin” and “Cello”.
The geography of participants is very wide. It brings together representatives from U.S., Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Britain, Russia, China and other countries.
So, if you are young and talented musician, don’t waste time, come to Armenia and participate in this competition. Who knows, maybe you are going to be the next winner?
All these factors, prizes, honors and finally the true love towards the great Armenian composer witness a universal recognition of creative work of Aram Khachaturian.
Spartacus and More: Aram Khachaturian’s Famous Compositions
It is nearly impossible to speak about and introduce Aram Khachaturian’s all compositions. But ignoring them would also be a “crime”, so let’s just dive in and explore, at least some of them.
Khachaturian’s first major symphonic composition, the Piano Concerto, immediately gained the sympathy of listeners. That was his first work to bring him recognition in the West. It immediately entered the repertoire of many famous pianists.
It was followed by another two frequently performed compositions, Violin Concerto and the Cello Concerto. Both of these Concertos maintain their popularity into the 21st century.
Khachaturian was already a fully developed, mature composer, the author of many remarkable works, when he started to give more priority to composing music for drama plays.
The most significant composition of this genre, that left classic music lovers enchanted is “Masquerade”. It is based on the same-titled play by Russian poet and playwright Mikhail Lermontov.
However, the most famous and the most recognizable work by Aram Khachaturian remains “Sabre Dance” from the final act of the ballet “Gayane”.
Due to the use in a wide range of films, TV series and commercials the popularity of this catchy music went beyond the borders of the Soviet Union. The immortal “Sabre Dance” is also popular among figure skaters who widely use this music in their performances.
On June 6, 2013, on the 110th anniversary of Khachaturian’s birthday “Sabre Dance on the Street” was performed at Yerevan Cascade by “Barekamutyun dance ensemble” and “Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra”.
Just imagine how the modern interpretation of “Sabre Dance” admired tourists and passers-by.
Aram Khachaturian: Inspiration from Armenian Folk music
Aram Khachaturian grew up in an atmosphere, that was rich in Armenian vivid tunes and Armenian folk music, which determined his musical thinking.
Khachaturian was particularly influenced by his greatest teacher, the folk-song collector, musicologist Komitas, who, according to Khachaturian, laid the foundations for Armenia’s classical tradition.
This is exactly why the Armenian composer extensively exhibited his Armenian roots in many of his compositions. For example, the “Dance Suite” is a unique mixture of Armenian and other Trans-Caucasian folk melodies.
In his Armenian-influenced “First Symphony” (1934), Khachaturian uses his very own knowledge of Trans-Caucasian music, and applies it to European musical structure, creating western-eastern harmonies.
The middle section of “Gayane” ballet is also based on an Armenian folk song.
The composer is also the founder of the Armenian national film music. The cooperation between the famous trio of “Pepo” is well-recognized in Armenia. You may probably think, what is “Pepo”, or famous trio?
“Pepo” was the very first Armenian sound film, which was a great success and is still perceived with deep respect and national pride among Armenians.
It was Aram Khachaturian who created the music, Yeghishe Charents (Armenian writer) who wrote the lyrics and Hrachya Nersisyan (actor) who sang the song “Fisherman’s Song” for the first sound film “Pepo”.
You can enjoy the whole richness of Armenian folk music in this film.
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