Giya Kancheli


“Despite the civilized world’s obvious achievements, our planet is still torn by bloody contradictions. And no progress in artistic activity can withstand the destructive force that easily cancels the fragile process of construction.

I take what is happening around me to heart, and in my work I try to express my own spiritual state; in essence I write for myself, without having any illusions that ‘beauty will save the world’. So my music is sad, rather than joyful, and the colouring of my personality means it is not at all destined to find a wide audience. You won’t find any calls here to struggle, to equality, to the bright feature. What’s recorded here is, rather, bitter sorrow over the imperfection of a society that cannot draw lessons from the most terrible historical examples. These thoughts are express in extremely simple language.”

Chiaroscuro is the 12th release by Giya Kancheli on ECM New Series. It comprises two recent works, Chiaroscuro for violin and chamber orchestra (2010) and Twilight for two violins and chamber orchestra (2004). All the trademark elements of Kancheli’s work are present, the fragile, melancholic melodic lines, the sudden outbursts of bass drums that pierce through the paper thin tranquillity, the inherent anguish, the longing, the suffocated laments, the faltering hope.

Twilight was written when the composer was recovering after a serious illness and is a reflection on mortality. While it is troubling in its colouring, with the two violins circling round each other, it sheds much of the rage against the dying of the light that pervades Stykx, an earlier work concerned with similar themes of time and transience, death and memory. There is still palpable frustration at work derailing echoes of happier times emerging through distant piano notes, but it’s as if a newly found kind of acceptance reins in the more insidious tones allowing them only to disturb, rather than to compromise, the lingering stillness.

Kancheli introduces the right amount of light in both works to give them enough space to breath. Chiaroscuro in particular, is reminiscent of his early work as a film and theatre composer where the narrative imperative called for a disarming simplicity and a more structured development.

“I have always felt, and I still do, a certain awkwardness when performers who can handle any technical difficulties have to deal with my endless, monochrome textures.” Explains the composer. With performers of the calibre of Gidon Kremer (Chiaroscuro) and Kremer with Patricia Kopatchinskaja (on Twilight) there is always enough nuance to make even silence vibrate with both weal and woe.

Chiaroscuro by Giya Kancheli is available on ECM records

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