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Giya Kancheli: Themes from the Songbook
Dino Saluzzi (bandoneon), Gidon Kremer (violin), Andrei Pushkarev (vibraphone)
Recorded in Oslo and Riga (May 2010) – 59’
ECM ref. #: 2188 CD – Booklet in English

Bear’s Kiss, Kin-Dza-Dza, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. These are some of the dozens of films and plays for which Georgian composer Giya Kancheli wrote music (for many years, he was music director of the Rustaveli Theater in Tbilisi and worked with renowned director Robert Sturua). When Kancheli turned 75 in 2010, several of his friends, including producer Manfred Eicher of ECM Records, decided to surprise him by recording excerpts from his film and stage scores. Here, in 20 small bites -- about an hour’s worth of music – is the result, arranged from Kancheli’s songbook Simple Music for Piano:33 Miniatures from Music for Stage and Screen (2009). Performing solos, duets and trios are Argentine bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi, Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer and Ukrainian vibraphonist Andrei Pushkarev.

It is a spellbinding collection, colored by the haunting, halting voice of the bandoneon, Kremer’s violin, sometimes played close to the bridge, and the glistening tones of the vibraphone. The effect is often plaintive, not surprising for music written predominantly during the Soviet era. The earliest selection is the main theme from The Crucible by Arthur Miller (1965). The latest is Bear’s Kiss (2002), a fairy-tale romance by filmmaker Sergei Bodrov about a circus girl and a bear (who becomes human).

The recording begins and ends with Herio Bichebo from Earth, This is Your Son, a 1980 film by Rivaz Chkheidze about Georgians living in Turkey and longing for their homeland. Scored for bandoneon and vibraphone and very deeply felt, it sets the tone for the album. It is a familiar song in Georgia, having been re-recorded in the early 1990s by Jansug Kakhidze with a new patriotic text. The final track on the album is Kakhidze singing and conducting the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra from the original soundtrack.

The disc comprises solos, duets and trios. Some of the most touching music is from the Chkheidze’s 1988 film Don Quixote, performed in three variations, the first for the duet of Kremer and Kremer (overdubbed), the second and third in progressively heart-rending fashion by Saluzzi. Pushkarev performs the ominous main theme from Kin-Dza-Dza (1986), a dark comedy/cult classic about a pair of earthlings stranded on an alien planet (film by Georgi Danelia and Revaz Gabriadze), as well as the theme from Shakespeare’s King Lear(1989).

Not all of the music is doleful or pensive. The main theme from Tamaz Chiladze’s play The Role for a Beginner (1979) for bandoneon and vibraphone is jaunty and jazzy. The theme from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Nightfor violin and vibraphone is folkish and playful. Also heard are themes from the films Cinema (1977, Liana Eliava) and Minimo (1972, Daniela and Gabriadze), both for violin and vibraphone, and When Almonds Blossomed (1972, Lana Gogoberidze) for bandoneon and vibraphone. Most of the arrangements are by Pushkarev.

In the liner notes (by Kancheli’s son Sandro), Kancheli is quoted: “The vast majority of more than a hundred of the films and plays for which I wrote music have now passed into history. So I have decided to revive some lost fragments in this collection of miniatures. Time will tell if they can survive outside their original context.” This album should help. The cover art, a winter landscape, is by Georgian artist Tengiz Mirzashvili, a friend of the Kancheli family.

Mary Ellyn Hutton




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