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Biography

Otar Taktakishvili (Georgian: ოთარ თაქთაქიშვილი; Russian: Отар Васильевич Тактакишвили; Tbilisi, 27 July 1924 – 21 February 1989) was a Georgian composer, teacher, conductor, and musicologist, and prominent political figure. Otar Taktakishvili graduated from the Tbilisi State Conservatory, while still a student he composed the official anthem of the Georgian SSR. By 1949 he became a Professor of the Tbilisi Conservatory and the conductor and the artistic director of the Georgian State chorus. In 1951 he received his first Stalin Prize (USSR State Prize) for his First Symphony. He served as the Dean on the Tbilisi Conservatory (1962-1965). In 1962, Taktakishvili became Chairman of the Georgian Composers’ Union, and soon thereafter the Minister for Culture of the Georgian Republic from 1965 until 1983.
He was awarded the title of People’s Artist of the USSR in 1974, the Lenin Prize in 1982, and the USSR State Prize in 1951, 1952 and 1967. Throughout his career he also served as a member of the international musical committee of UNESCO, and twice headed the electoral committee for the Tchaikovski competition of pianists in Moscow.
Taktakishvili’s works include five operas (Mindia, Three Novellas, Abduction of the Moon, Mususi, Marita) two symphonies, four piano concertos, two violin concertos and two cello concertos, the symphonic poem Mtsyri and the oratorios In the Steps of Rustaveli and Nikoloz Baratashvili, and multitude of arrangements and adaptations of Georgian folk songs. Probably his best known work in the West is his sonata for flute and piano.

Early Life

Otar V. Taktakishvili was born and grew up in Tbilisi, Georgia, in a musical family. He was raised by a single mother, noblewoman Elisabed Mikhailis asuli Taktakishvili, who worked as an artist at the Georgian Opera House. As a result of his mother’s background Otar had a childhood rich in music. He was also strongly influenced by his uncle Shalva Taktakishvili, who was a composer and a professor at the Tbilisi Conservatory. Shalva was one of the founders of the “Association of Young Georgian String Orchestra”, and had authored operas, ballets and chamber works. Otar’s other uncle, Giorgi Taktakishvili was a cellist and director of a music school. His uncles were young Otar’s first musical guides and influences. From a young age, the composer showed great musical promise, and as a child was able to correctly guess notes played on the piano while blindfolded.
While attending the No42 School on Barnov St. in Tbilisi, Otar started his piano lessons with Tamara V. Bagrationi. He subsequently studied with several piano educators including Militsa K. Korius, Anastasia D. Virasladze, and Evgenia Vasilievna Cherniavskaia, where he met his future wife, Irina Giorgienvna Chirakadze, with whom he lived until the end of his life in 1989. Their romance started at the piano while practicing a piano piece for four hands. At the end of high school, he attended and received a diploma from the Air Force Technicuum until he began his studies at the Tbilisi conservatory.
Soon after entering the conservatory in 1942, while Georgia was at war with Nazi Germany, Taktakishvili composed the Anthem of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. According to the composer’s own report, his mother had urged him to enter the contest for the National Anthem after seeing the words to the anthem published in the newspaper. The 19-year-old composer wrote the music “in one try”, submitted his entry and forgot about the contest. He only found out that his music had been selected when he stood outside the concert hall and heard his anthem being played.
Taktakishvili studied at the Tbilisi Conservatory from 1942-1947 under Aleksandr Gauk, Sergei V. Barchudarian and Andria Balanchivadze. The composer’s early influences were Georgian folk music, composers of the classical era, e.g. Mozart, J.S. Bach and Beethoven, and more modern composers, including Zachary Paliashvili, Alexander ScriabinSergei ProkofievDmitri Shostakovich. In his senior year, Taktakishvili had the opportunity to study with Dmitri Shostakovich, and that led to a long-standing collaboration and friendship.
The Conservatory later appointed him professor of choral literature and director of the choir in 1949, a mere two years after his graduation. In later years, he also taught composition and served as rector. Outside of the Conservatory, he served as rehearsal pianist, conductor, and eventually artistic director of the State Choral Kapella of Georgia.
Taktakishvili achieved incredible political recognition in his lifetime. State honors included three separate USSR State Prizes in addition to the 1982 Lenin Prize- one of the highest honors of the USSR (previous winners include Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich). Political appointments included: deputy Supreme Soviet of the USSR, deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR, Presidium member of the International Music Council of UNESCO, Minister of Culture of Georgia (1965-84), chairman of the Georgian Composers’ Union (1962), secretary and board member of the USSR Composers’ Union (1957—89), and jury member/chairman of various international competitions.
Otar Taktakishvili was survived by his spouse, Irina Chirakadze, who resided in the same apartment on 6 Taktakishvili street (former Riga street) where the composer lived from 1964 until 1989, as well as his son Mikhail O. Taktakishvili, who was a professor of Chemistry, and grandson Otar M. Taktakishvili, who is a physician and a composer, living in New York.
otar Taktakishvili