Five Composers To Listen To On Armenian Remembrance Day

Apr 24, 2015

Today marks Armenian Remembrance Day and the centennial of the mass killings of Armenian citizens during World War I. Here are five Armenian composers whose music we'll highlight in commemoration of the day.

Edvard Mirzoyan was born in 1921 to a family of musicians. He began composing at age 12, and following a time in school in Moscow he returned to Armenia, where his compositions gained him national prominence. Out of a small body of dramatic works, his most well-known include the Symphony for Strings and Timpani, Epitaph for String Orchestra, and his Cello Sonata.

Arno Babadjanian's music is infused with hearty Armenian folk tunes that are reflected in his work throughout his career. Like many of his contemporaries, Babadjanian spent formative musical years in Moscow (while there, Babadjanian also studied at the House of Armenian Culture). He completed his celebrated Piano Trio in f# minor in 1952, and it has been a beloved concert hall staple ever since.

Alan Hovhaness was born on March 8, 1911 in Somerville, Massachusetts to an Armenian father and an American mother of Scottish descent. Hovhaness was dedicated to composing music from a young age, though it wasn't until 1940 as the organist at an Armenian church in Watertown, Massachusetts he became deeply invested in Armenian music. In the mid-1940s Hovhaness created a technique known as “spirit murmur,” in which each instrument repeats musical phrases independently to produce a complex layering of sound.

Aram Khachaturian was born in 1903 and is regarded as Armenia's superstar composer. After studies in Moscow, Khachaturian’s 1936 Piano Concerto vaulted him to prominence, both within the Soviet Union and internationally. In 1944 he composed Armenia's National Anthem, and remains one of the most highly recognizable and regarded Armenian composers to this day.

Alexander Arutiunian was born in Yerevan on September 23, 1920 and showed talent at a young age. While his Trumpet Concerto is a concert hall favorite, it's his Violin Concerto inspired by the 1988 Spitak earthquake that gets to the raw emotional core of Arutiunian's music.