Khachaturian was considered to be the central figure in 20th century Armenian culture and was one of the prolific names in the Soviet school of composition along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich. He is responsible for influencing the development of composition not only in Armenia but stretching across Asia and Europe.
Khachaturian was born in the multicultural city of Tbilisi in 1903 to an Armenian family and his earliest musical influence was hearing folk music in Tbilisi. “I grew up in an atmosphere rich in folk music: popular festivities, rites, joyous and sad events in the life of the people always accompanied by music, the vivid tunes of Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian songs and dances performed by folk bards and musicians."
He studied at the Tbilisi Commercial College, "a school for aspiring merchants", between 1913 and 1920. It was in these years that he began to compose. He also played in an amateur wind band as a student. In 1921, at the age of 18, he became a student of biology at the university in Moscow and simultaneously began cello lessons at the Gnessin Institute with Glier and Gnesin. It was during this time that he composed incidental music for the Second Armenian Drama Studio, of which his brother was the director. Captivated by music and his musical life in Moscow, he soon dedicated himself to full-time musical study, enrolling at the Moscow Conservatory in 1929.
Khachaturian composed over 50 works in his youth, including Pesnya-poéma (‘Song-Poem’) for violin and piano (1929), Seven Fugues for piano (1928) and the brilliant Toccata for piano (1932). On Prokofiev’s recommendation, his Trio for clarinet, violin and piano (1932) was published and premiered in Paris. His graduation piece, the Armenian-influenced First Symphony, showed his developing originality and creativity, which is extensively imbued with Armenian folk elements.