Karen Khachaturian 1920-2011

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Russian composer and nephew of Aram Khachaturian dies aged 90.

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Karen Khachaturian, nephew of the Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian, has died at the age of 90.

The composer is perhaps best known for his work, Cipollino, a ballet based on Gianni Rodari’s allegorical tale of political oppression, which follows Cipollino, or Little Onion, on his fight against the malevolent fruit aristocracy.

Born in Moscow, in 1920, where his father was a renowned figure in the theatre and founder of the Armenian Drama Studio, and his mother was a theatre designer, Karen Surenovich Khachaturian was encouraged to take up music by his uncle.

Karen Khachaturian began his musical education at the Gnesin School at the age of 8 and, ten years later, went on to enrol at the Moscow Conservatory School of Music, studying piano and composition.

After three years he was seconded to the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs Song and Dance Ensemble to write wartime songs that would boost morale. In 1945, Khachaturian resumed his place at the Moscow Conservatory and in 1947, under the guidance of Shebalin and Shostakovich, wrote his first acknowledged work, a Violin Sonata in G Minor. The piece won first prize at the World Youth Festival in Prague and demonstrated Khachaturian’s melodic, predominantly tonal style of composition.

Karen Khachaturian’s works also include a Cello Sonata, four symphonies, scores for numerous films, anthems for Somalia and Zanzibar and, due to the success of Cipollino, he also wrote a number of works for stage including the operetta A Simple Girl in 1959 and the ballet Snow White.

Charlotte Williams