By 1966 the world was a radically different place from where we started in 1960. Beatlemania swept across the globe, to the extent that John Lennon labelled the band "more popular than Jesus" in March 1966. Although they were still at the height of their popularity, the band would give their last performance on tour on August 29, 1966. The Vietnam War was at it's peak in 1966, with over 200,000 American soldiers now deployed to Vietnam, as well as troops from Australia and New Zealand. The last episode of The Flintstones aired on April 1, Valentine's Day saw the introduction of decimal currency in Australia, and October 1 the world was introduced to the first Toyota Corolla. The new Metropolitan Opera House opened at the Lincoln Center in New York, with a performance of Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra.
Georgian composer Otar Taktakishvili is somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to Soviet composers. When one thinks of the difficulties Shostakovich, Prokofiev and many others faced, Taktakishvili faced no criticism for his music from the authorities. Not only that, he even held many high ranking positions within the Soviet and Georgian governments, including deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR and Minister of Culture of Georgia, a position which he held for almost 30 years. He was also awarded prestigious titles such as People's Artist of the USSR in 1974, the Lenin Prize in 1982 and the USSR State Prize 3 times. His ability to avoid censure from the Soviet authorities is also down to his use of a simpler, more accessible style of writing.
Taktakishvili was influenced at a young age by his mother and two uncles, one of which was a professor at the Tbilisi Conservatory. He first rose to prominence in 1942 when, at the age of 19 and still studying at the Tbilisi Conservatory, he entered a competition to compose the new Georgian anthem. He wrote the music "in one try", sent it off, and then forgot all about it. He only realised his piece was chosen to be the anthem when he stood outside the concert hall as it was first performed. Like many Soviet composers of his generation, he turned to regional folk music for inspiration. Most of his output is for voice, including several operas, but his best known work is his Sonata for Flute and Piano. Written in 1966, the Sonata is characterised by lyrical folk melodies, and energetic drive tempered by an anguished middle movement.