After Cuban revolution Armenian famous composer Aram Khachatryan was among the first to leave for the Liberty Island on tour with his small soviet delegation. Political context in the tour was apparent, but not for him. In January 1960 Khachatryan introduced his Second symphony in Havana. Ha also was the leader of the group. Success of performance was rather big. The audience greeted the Armenian composer with stormy applauses, and amongst numerous notes from the audience, one was distinguished: “You worked two wonders. The first was your symphony, and the second one—what you did with your orchestra.” Author of the note was worldwide American writer Ernest Hemingway’s wife—Mary Welsh.
For the composer, well aware of Hemingway’s pen and his works, and gaining appraisals from someone like this, was a double pleasure for him. However, the biggest surprise- rendezvous of two prominent art representatives- was still to come.
Supposedly, upon Mary’s initiative, rendezvous of Khachatryan, his wife—Nina Markovna, and Hemingway was initiated. This hypothesis also indirectly confirms famous Soviet state and political figure Anastas Mikoyan’s son—Sergo, who also in those days was in Cuba with his father. In his notes he wrote: “Among other presents we took a bottle of Russian vodka for Hemingway. Surprisingly, we noticed a likewise bottle, already open.
-A few days ago I heard, that famous composer Aram Khachatryan is in Havana,-he said. -We invited him to our place. We had a very interesting talk at the dinner table. We admired him and his wife. I love his music. Exactly Khachatryan left me this bottle.”
One of eyewitnesses of the rendezvous was Vladimir Kuzmishev, representative of friendship with foreign countries company. He made friends with Khachatryan during this visit.
In those years American writer was living in “La Vigia” house not far from Havana. Here he was receiving thousands of his amateurs, visiting from different corners of the world. Khachatryan’s reception was more than warm. At first, according to American tradition, hosts accompanied them in all the three floors of the house. Kuzmishev writes in his notes: “Khachatryan was a very modest person, with great surprise he revealed that owner of “La Vigia” adored his music.” This wasn’t all. It turned out, that Hemingway had a collection of Khachatryan’s music records—about 15 CDs and stereo tapes.
“Hemingway literally shocked Aram Ilich, when with distinguished friendly and respectable gesture he showed the stereo tapes in one of his drawers of the living room and said: “This is your music, maestro.”
-Why are they here?-asked Khachatryan perplexed, apparently shocked with the fact, that Hemingway has his recordings.
Everybody laughed but the composer. And he, continuing to hesitate, asked 2-3 times: “What’s funny here? Why are you laughing?” Aram Ilich’s childish sincerity was worth recognizing, to understand, that it wasn’t an artist’s coquetry, but quite a natural reaction: “How come? A Nobel Prize winner, approximately a divine creature, and I’m maestro from him?”
There is another evidence of this rendezvous, recorded by famous Armenian writer and publicist Sergei Dovlatov. In his “Solo on typewriter” he described an episode: “Khachatryan came to Cuba. He met Hemingway. He needed to explain himself somehow. He said something in English. Hemingway asked:
-Do you speak English?
-Like we all do,- Hemingway said.”
Interesting enough, exactly Sergo Mikoyan insists, that the dialogue was with him, meanwhile Dovlatov attributed it to Khachatryan without any ground.
In any case, despite the fact, on whose knowledge of English Hemingway was speaking of, it didn’t obstacle in having a sincere and frank talk. According to evidence of people present there, they were talking of literature, music, Cuba, Russia during the dinner, as well as of Spain—Hemingway’s eternal love. It’s a pleasure to fact, that they shared many views. And this wasn’t surprising. Human values, which don’t know any borders, time and politics, were appreciated by both.
In memory of their first rendezvous, they took a photo next to the well-known Ceiba tree in their yard. While parting the host was led by Cuban traditions, where men wave hands, and women hug.
There is information, when a month later members of another Soviet delegation visited Hemingway, the writer treated them with Armenian brandy given by Khachatryan and remembered that Khachatryan with distinguished pride stressed: “This is from Yerevan.”
It’s hard to believe, that a year later, initiator of strong, blithe and new programs Ernest Hemingway would commit a suicide.
By Hovik Charkhchyan