The Soviet Armenian composer Aram Khatchaturian was born on 6 June 1903 in Tiflis (Tbilisi). The bookmaker’s son started to play the tenor horn as a youth and taught himself how to play the piano. When he was 18, he moved to Moscow, where he started to study biology. However, he soon abandoned his studies of natural sciences and devoted himself to music: in 1922 he was admitted to the Gnessin State Musical College where he studied Cello. Performances of his early compositions Tantas for violin and piano and Poema for piano were successful, in 1929 he was accepted at the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied composition under Nikolaj Mjaskowski and Michail Gnessin. In 1933 he married Nina Makarowa, a composer and fellow student. After receiving his diploma in 1934 for his Symphony No. 1, he stayed at the Conservatory for three more years as a postgraduate. During this time, he composed the Dance Suite (Lezginka), the Two Dances and the Trio: Khatchaturian established himself as a composer. In 1939 he became vice-president of the Union of Soviet Composers’ organizing committee. In 1944 he composed the Anthem of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was used until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In the 1940s he wrote his ballet Gajane, the Symphony No. 2 and the Concerto in D minor for violin and orchestra. He started to successfully conduct his own works and to teach at the Gnessin-Institute in 1951; five years later, he finished Spartacus, his most famous ballet.
Khatchaturian received numerous awards, for example the Stalin prize, the Lenin prize and the USSR State Prize. In 1973 he was given the honorary title “Hero of Socialist Labour”. On 1 May 1978 Aram Khatchaturian died shortly before his 75th birthday in Moscow.