Aram Khachaturian monument, Moscow

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Born in Georgia, but Armenian by blood, Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) is another of those great Soviet musicians – composer, in his case – who seemed to come out of nowhere. He, like the great pianist Svyatoslav Richter, came to Moscow with virtually no formal training and ended up making his mark almost immediately.  Numerous of his works are still played regularly around the world, but his ballets Gayane and Spartacus are surely his most enduring. That is, with one exception… Khachaturian is also the author of the short “Sabre Dance,” which, it sometimes seems, has not been played only by the lazy and the incompetent.  This seems like the perfect place for me to make a personal admission. As a child of the American desert (I mean that literally, I was born and grew up in the Mojave desert, but I also mean it figuratively, because I grew up in the barren 1950s and early 1960s), I didn’t get much high culture. With the sole exception of a long playing record of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker in our home, my sole exposure to classical music was through Looney Tunes cartoons. Were it not for Bugs Bunny I wouldn’t have heard a classical composition, other than The Nutcracker, until I was well into my third decade of life. The reason I mention this is that I actually had heard “Sabre Dance” although I had no idea it was written by Khachaturian, or, indeed, that is was even classical music. I knew the tune in the spectacular performance of the great rock ‘n’ roller Dave Edmunds, who had something of a hit with the song in the 1960s with his band Love Sculpture. I guess I should be ashamed of this, but have you ever heard Edmunds play that tune on his guitar? Holy Moses! That’s what the word searing was invented for. I never see Khachaturian’s name or face that I don’t think of Dave Edmunds. I don’t know what the composer would think of that, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

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As for this monument to Khachaturian, it was sculpted by Georgy Frangulyan, based on an architectural design by Igor Voskresensky, and it stands just across the street from the monument to Mstislav Rostropovich, which is also the work of this sculptor-architect team. It was unveiled in 2006 with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, Russian First Lady Lyudmila Putin and Armenian President Robert Kocharian doing the honors in person. Curiously, just eight years after that event, all three of those individuals have receded into the background. Putin divorced his wife and she plummeted out of the public eye; Luzhkov was removed from the mayor’s office and he, too, became irrelevant overnight; while Kocharian left office in Armenia in 2008 and left the big world of politics. I don’t think that has anything to say about Khachaturian, but it does remind us that ars longa, vita brevis…

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3 thoughts on “Aram Khachaturian monument, Moscow”

  1. John — I grew up in a cultural desert as well, and also counted on Bugs Bunny and friends to give me what I needed. Would often turn the picture off on the tv so I could concentrate on the music. Loved this posting and the memories it conjured up!

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