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Here is a Giya Kancheli album like none before it, and with an unprecedented cast, featuring master musicians of different worlds – Argentine bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi and Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer. Mediating betwen those worlds, the gifted Ukrainian vibraphonist Andrei Pushkarev. Subtitled “Giya Kancheli’s Music for Stage and Screen”, the album was recorded in Oslo and Riga as a surprise 75th birthday present for the great Georgian composer, and it features inspired duo and trio interpretations of themes from Kancheli’s early music. Like other composers of the former Soviet Bloc, Giya Kancheli ‘subsidized’ his art music by writing – prolifically – for theatre and cinema. If this was considered part of the craft of becoming a composer, Kancheli went deeper into the subject than many of his contemporaries. He formed strong associations with playwrights and directors and his ‘incidental’ music was widely heard - in the East.

In 2009 Kancheli published “Simple Music for Piano” a songbook reprising melodies written over a long period, some dating back to the 1960s and 70s. From the composer’s foreword. “While dedicating myself to symphonic and chamber music, I simultaneously wrote music for the stage and screen. No wonder, then, that certain themes originally intended for plays and films made their way into my larger works or that the large forms themselves sometimes contained episodes reminiscent of incidental music. I myself can’t always remember where a particular theme first appeared, not least because 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. Meanwhile, I’ll allow myself to give a little advice to anyone interested in these humble sketches. The simplicity of presentation does not preclude but rather encourages freedom of interpretation, particularly for those with a gift for improvising. Strict adherence to tempo markings, dynamic indications and performance instructions is by no means obligatory. You can play as many of these pieces as you like, in the sequence of your choice...”

At ECM the call for “freedom of interpretation and improvisation” sounded like a personal message to Dino Saluzzi, the Argentine bandoneon poet and composer whose expressive freedom is legendary. With Giya’s 75th birthday looming, Manfred Eicher suggested recording some Saluzzi interpretations of Kancheli by way of a personal tribute. Meanwhile Gidon Kremer, a lomg time Kancheli supporter had also been contemplating a Kancheli tribute, based around the film music...

With both Kremer and Saluzzi involved, the project took on new dimensions. Vibraphonist, Andrey Pushkarev, who works often with Kremerata Baltica prepared arrangements of Kancheli which were realized with Kremer in Riga, and he also worked in Oslo with Saluzzi, intuitively supporting Dino’s very relaxed approach to the material.

A further surprise at the end of the album is a vocal track by Jansug Khakidze. Last heard on ECM on Garbarek’s “Rites”, the late singer/conductor was a close friend of Kancheli. Here he is a heard with the theme song from the original soundtrack of the Georgian film “Earth, This Is Your Son”.

Nine of the featured themes derive from Kancheli’s collaborations with internationally acclaimed theatre director Robert Sturua. There are also themes from films by Georgi Danelia, Eldar Shengelaia, Sergei Bodrov, Lana Gogoberidze and others.

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