Alexander Arutiunian was born in Yerevan, in the family of Grigor and Eleonora Arutiunian, on September 23, 1920. His father was a military serviceman. He entered the Yerevan State Conservatory’s children’s group in 1927 and was admitted in 1934 to the Conservatory, from which he graduated on the eve of World War II. He wrote his first work, “Impromptu,” for cello and piano, in 1941. After the war he moved to Moscow , where he participated in the workshops of the House of Armenian Culture from 1946-1948 and studied at the Moscow Conservatory, graduating in 1948.
In 1949 Arutiunian was awarded the Stalin Prize for his cantata “Motherland,” a graduation piece he wrote as a student at the Moscow Conservatory. In the same year, he composed the “Festive Overture.” In 1950 he coauthored “Armenian Rhapsody” with Arno Babajanian. He married Irina (Tamara) Odenova and had two children.
He returned to Yerevan and from 1954 to 1991 was the artistic director of the Armenian State Philarmonia. He continued to win acclaim for his works, many of which were inspired by the folk traditions of Armenian music, including the vocal symphonic poem “The Legend about the Armenian People” (1961). In the 1960s he tended towards classical forms and clearer tonality.
Arutiunian wrote a total of thirteen concerts for different instruments, of which the 1950 concert for trumpet made him known in the United States. He composed his concerto for violin and string orchestra “Armenia-88,” inspired by the Spitak earthquake, in 1988.
He also wrote the opera “Sayat-Nova,” using some of the songs of the great troubadour (1968), the song-cantata “With My Fatherland,” based on the poems of Hovhannes Tumanian (1969), and the vocal series “Monument to My Mother,” based on the poems of Hovhannes Shiraz (1969).
His prolific production included music for theater and cinema, with the films “The Heart Sings” (coauthored with Konstantin Orbelian, 1956) and “Nahapet” (1977), among others.
In 1962 he was awarded the title of People’s Artist of Armenia and in 1970 he became People’s Artist of the USSR. Also in 1970 he started teaching at the Komitas Conservatory (Yerevan State Conservatory). He received the title of professor in 1977 and would continue working until 2008. After independence, he was decorated with several medals and orders. In 1987 he was awarded the title of honorary citizen of Yerevan.
He continued producing until his last years. His last work was the “Children’s Album” for piano (2004).
He passed away on March 28, 2012, in Yerevan, and was buried at the Komitas Pantheon.