Otar Vasilyevich Taktakishvili

Otar Vasilyevich Taktakishvili was a composer, teacher, writer, and conductor in Soviet Georgia. He rose to national prominence early in his career, having composed the official anthem of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic while he was still a composition student of Sarkis Barkhudaryan at the Tbilisi Conservatory. 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.

Taktakishvili’s music spanned many genres, but his primary output was vocal music with an emphasis on folk material. Many Soviet composers of Taktakishvili’s generation turned to regional folk music as source material. Born around 1920, these composers received traditional Russian music theory instruction in Soviet conservatories that followed a standard curriculum. These composers were aware of Western techniques, but they remained relatively isolated. Whereas composers of the generation prior, including Prokofiev and  Shostakovich, became victims of censure due to their highly complex musical language, composers like Taktakishvili employed a simpler, more accessible style without fear of judgement from their westernized Saint Petersburg and Moscow colleagues.

Taktakishvili's works include operas, 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. Probably his best known work in the West is his sonata for flute and piano.