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Როცა Აყვავდა Ნუში – When Almonds Blossomed – Giya Kancheli Გია Ყანჩელი (1935-2019)

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Როცა Აყვავდა Ნუში – When Almonds Blossomed – Გია Ყანჩელი Giya Kancheli (sheet music)

Giya Kacheli and his symphonies.

giya kancheli sheet music

GIYA KANCHELI (1935) in Georgiano გია ყანჩელი or in Cyrillic гия лександрович канчели, was born on August 10, 1935, in Tbilisi, son of a doctor. After initial piano studies at the School of Music, he entered the Faculty of Geology of the State University of Tbilisi. He entered the Tbilisi Conservatory in 1959, studying composition with Ion Tuskiya, graduating in 1963.

‘Symphony No. 1‘ was composed in 1967, premiering in Tbilisi on May 12, 1968, performed by the Georgian State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dzhansug Kakhidze. Written in an unconventional way, it consists of two movements. A new revised version shortening the second movement was performed in 1992.

The first movement, allegro con fuoco, presents us with a motif with great rhythmic force in a style influenced by Shostakovich. In the central part is a lyrical meditation. Sound explosions contrast with the motif, until the initial motor strength is recovered. A quiet coda connects it to the next part.

The second movement, long, is the longest. It presents us with a meditative theme that develops slowly. In the central part, distant bells initiate a fragment with more dynamic tension. Violent orchestral tutti lead us to its climax, which fails to lower the tension. The ringing of the bells begins the last section. A theme with sustained notes is interrupted several times by violent orchestral entrances. The rhythm marked by the bass of the percussion leads us without reference to its end.

It is a first symphony essay as a postgraduate work, but its mystical style begins to be defined, especially in its second movement. The tone used is not really one of serenity, rather it is music marked by violence. The work ends in an almost apocalyptic way, as if obeying the forces of an inescapable destiny.

Kancheli began his musical career composing for film and theater, collaborating closely with stage producer Robert Sturua. Composes the music for the musical comedy ‘Khanuman’s Extravagances’ in 1968. Among his first soundtracks is ‘Ne Goryuj’ (Don’t Worry!) composed in 1969. Employs Georgian folklore themes, contrasting with jazz themes . In 1970 he is appointed professor at the Tbilisi Conservatory, in the discipline of instrumentation..

The “Symphony No. 2′ (Songs) was composed in 1970, premiering on October 31, 1970, performed by the Georgian State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dzhansug Kakhidze.

The symphony is designed in a single movement, which we can divide into three parts adagio, allegro, adagio, an arch-shaped construction respecting the traditional movements.

Before his comment, we will introduce a brief reflection. I have two different versions of this work, the original directed by Kakhidze lasting almost 32 minutes and a new version directed by Michail Jurowski conducting the Berlin Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester lasting less than 20 minutes.

Analyzing both versions, we see that Jurowski makes very important cuts in the slow parts, reducing the final adagio to almost half its duration. He eliminates all the repetitions and some variations, making a more compact interpretation of the work.

The reflection is the following. Is it permissible to summarize the works by making lighter versions? It would be interesting to know the opinion of the composer. Today’s world in his rush can’t waste time listening to replays. But with this we lose the opportunity to penetrate the real meaning of the work. In music, especially in unknown or little-known works, repetition is important, in order to become familiar with the themes. But most mortals may not have the patience for it.

The modern mentality is too superficial to penetrate to the heart of the works. We are in a hurry even to enjoy one of the most spiritual moments, such as the musical audition. Let us reflect on it, trying to immerse ourselves in the oriental mysticism from which our technicized world is separating itself.

An inevitable consequence of the above is the interference in the evaluation and commentary of the works studied. By basing ourselves on recorded versions of the same, interpretation will always have an important value, especially in little-known works, for which we do not have reference versions.

A poor interpretation of a masterpiece considerably decreases its value, which is why it is possible to undervalue a certain work because of its faulty interpretation. Many unknown scores would gain brilliance if performed by renowned orchestras and conductors.

After this series of reflections, which influence our study of the symphony, based on recorded reproductions of the same, we continue with the description of the symphony studied.

The first part, adagio, presents us with a choral theme in a rather cryptic way, in style, resorting to a pictorial, pointillism image. The theme is initially unrecognizable. Then it receives a series of transformations, played by horn and flute, until it becomes after its climax in a lively dance, starting the second part, allegro.

The allegro occupies the central part of the symphony, with the presentation of a lively dance, first discreetly, finally after a string ostinato, interpreted rhythmically in the style of Stravinsky. The section ends abruptly in a silence that connects it with the final part.

The last adage closes the structure in the form of an arch. The initial songs performed in the form of chamber music by various instruments return. Finally, a pastoral theme presented by wood appears, which illuminates the work in a new light. The symphony ends placidly in silence.

The work is based on the liturgical songs of Georgia, polyphonic songs of popular origin that provide an image of mystery. But the melodies are not clear, they are generally diffuse and are slowly being discovered, so we think it is important to keep all the repetitions and variations.

Kancheli in 1971 is appointed musical director of the Rustaveli Theater in Tbilisi, for which he writes various musical scores.

The ‘Symphony No. 3’ was composed in 1973, premiering on October 11, 1973, in Tbilisi, performed by the Georgia State Symphony Orchestra conducted like the previous ones by

Dzhansug Kakhidze, to whom the symphony is dedicated. The work needs the collaboration of a tenor, who at its premiere was H. Gonashvili.

Written in a single movement, it begins with a series of wordless melismatic chants by the tenor soloist. A couple of chords lead us to a string ostinato, which is interrupted by different metal chords. The flute responds with fragments of the initial melisma. The string features a new ostinato in an undulating form in the style of Bartok night music.

A massive unison from the orchestra ends this section. It continues with a series of changing harmonic phrases that end with strong chords. Some lyrical phrases are then developed based on the initial melismas that end with great orchestral force.

In the central part, the solos of the oboe and the flute present a bucolic scene, before the new entry of the tenor vocalizing. The strings take the theme to a climax followed by further descending phrases from the tenor, ending this magical scene.

The last part begins with a sinister string rhythm, interrupted by metal chords, a new Stravinsky influence. It continues with a section of great dynamic and rhythmic force that leads us to a new climax. The music calms down as the tenor reappears, returning to the initial material, with woodwind comments and brass chords. The sound of the bells, followed by the timpani leads us to the repetition of the melismatic opening phrases by the tenor soloist.

A new symphony in which the author’s style is clearly imposed. Like the previous one, it is divided into three parts without interruption, presenting us with a spiritual reflection on life, in an abstract way without adding any descriptive material. The use of folk themes, in the style of Bela Bartok, never presents direct quotations from them.

Kancheli continues to write scores for stage and film, among which is the soundtrack for ‘The Cranks’ composed in 1973, with the well-known slow waltz ‘She is here’.

The “Symphony No. 4′ (To the memory of Michelangelo) was composed in 1974, premiering on January 13, 1975, in Tbilisi, performed by the Georgian State Symphony Orchestra conducted like the previous ones by Dzhansug Kakhidze. In 1976, he received a Georgia State Award for this score. In January 1978 it was premiered in the United States conducted by Iouri Temirkanov with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Written for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Renaissance painter and sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), known in Spanish as Miguel Ángel, the painter of the Sistine Chapel.

Composed in a single movement, it uses the bells to accompany various themes, as well as the celesta. The symphony has a lighter character than the previous ones, with the use of clear melodic motifs. It begins with the solitary and funereal tolling of the bell, to which the wooden instruments join. A second bell joins the twelve chime and a third bell twenty-four, forming a harmonic ensemble.

A crescendo of the orchestra begins, which when it stops leads us to a long passage full of serenity with ethereal entrances of the woodwind, which gradually become melodic forms derived from Georgian folklore. Abrupt entrances of the orchestra try to destroy this magical moment.

In the central part, the intervention of the harp and the celesta lead us to a fragment of great tonal stability. The flute plays a clear melody. A fragment of great simplicity and beauty. But again the abrupt orchestral entrances try to destroy these moments of peace. A kind of scherzo with rhythmic figures on the strings adds to the destructiveness. A violent passage is interrupted by a peal of bells that finally manage to neutralize it.

Then begins a recapitulation of previous themes or derived directly from them, interrupted several times by strong chords from the orchestra. The final section is characterized by a violin solo col legno, accompanied by flutes, bells, harp and celesta, until finally it is left alone with a tubular bell.

The symphony begins with some funeral notes in memory of the great artist. A score of philosophical characteristics opposing two different worlds. One of them describes the simplicity and classical clarity of Michelangelo’s work. Impetuous interruptions of the orchestral tutti contrast with the expressed beauty, which is opposed to the violence of the real world.

Continuing his collaboration with the theater, in 1975 he composes the music for the musical comedy ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ after the work of Bertol Brecht.

The “Symphony No. 5′ (To the memory of my parents) was composed in 1977, premiering on February 27, 1978 in Tbilisi performed by the Georgian State Symphony Orchestra conducted like the previous ones by Dzhansug Kakhidze.

In this symphony, which follows the patterns of the previous ones, he uses a harpsichord to highlight certain scenes. Quiet nostalgic passages contrast with other violent fragments. It begins with a harpsichord solo in a neo-baroque tonal mode. But it is soon violently interrupted by entrances from the orchestra and notes suspended from the strings.

A crescendo announced by the timpani leads us to a powerful climax, based on a distortion of the initial notes of the harpsichord. Suspended notes reappear. A brief reappearance of the harpsichord is stopped by abrupt entrances from the orchestra, which try to focus on a certain key without finally succeeding.

In the central part, after a pause, a development section appears, which slowly increases the melodic lines from the suspended notes. The music is getting warmer. The harpsichord tries to return to the initial notes until there is an increase in tension, with sudden entries of the strings on a rhythm marked by the tam-tam. A series of rhythmic motifs seem to want to dominate the action.

The harpsichord tries to restore the melody but is interrupted by dissonances. The issue of suspended notes reappears. When it seems that we reach the final resolution, a violent orchestral entrance through dissonances tries to destroy this material. Finally the suspended notes continue, ending the symphony with a few simple notes of the harpsichord that leaves its conclusion open.

A tragic work that continually seeks to destroy any appearance of melody. Dedicated to the memory of her parents, it evokes a world that tries to destroy moral and aesthetic values. Childish ideas are violently demolished, as if to demonstrate the corruption of youthful innocence.

Among his new contributions to the cinema we find his most famous soundtrack, ‘Mimino’ composed in 1977, which contains his nostalgic song dead leaves. For the theater he composed the stage music ‘El papel para un debutante’ by T. Chiladzed in 1979 which contains a melodic interlude. Since this year Kancheli is secretary of the Union of Composers of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and a member of the Union of Filmmakers.

The “Symphony No. 6′ was composed between 1978 and 1980, fulfilling a commission for the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester. It was premiered on April 7, 1980 in Tbilisi, performed in its first version by the Georgian State Symphony Orchestra, conducted like the previous ones by Dzhansug Kakhidze. The final version premiered on October 22, 1981, in Leipzig, performed by his Gewandhausorchester conducted by Kurt Masur.

Also written in a single movement without interruption, we can consider it divided into three parts. The first presents us with a melody with folk roots introduced by the cello, in a way that creates an effect of ancient music, with the timbre of a viola da gamba. It continues with a fragmented dialogue between two flutes, which is expanded by the introduction of the harp.

This section ends abruptly with a dramatic string entrance. The harpsichord initiates a series of tonal changes with the participation of the flutes. A motif of three notes from the harpsichord is repeated on the flutes. The return of the opening material is interrupted several times by furious entrances from the orchestral tutti. The section ends with figurations of the harpsichord on a sustained note of the string.

The second part continues without interruption with a less fragmented, more melodic texture, in the form of a lengthy meditation with extended notes, leading to a climax with dramatic horn calls in a neo-baroque style. It continues with a passage with figurations of the flutes from the first part, combined with the melody of this section. A cello solo leads us into the next section.

The last part mysteriously begins with the sound of tubular bells. It continues with an energetic section. The tubular bells return pacifying the music. The opening theme of the symphony returns but is interrupted by a new orchestral climax. Again he tries to return to the initial motif but an extensive orchestral rhythmic motif prevents him, reaching a new climax with the intervention of the tam-tam. After a gong strike the opening theme closes the piece, ending on a suspended note.

A new symphony that uses folk songs from his land in a personal way, to create an expressive score, without the need for descriptive materials. Neo-baroque motifs are used as a form of expression.

In 1985 he composes the soundtrack for the film ‘Den Gneva’ (The Day of Wrath).

The “Symphony No. 7‘ (Epilogue) was composed in 1986 and as its name indicates, it constitutes his last symphony. Dedicated to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, it premiered on December 11, 1986, in Prague, performed by that orchestra conducted by Vaclav Neumann. A new revised version was performed on March 24, 1992 in Berlin performed by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Olaf Henzold. This version makes numerous cuts, in the style of those made in the second symphony mentioned above.

To check how the two versions differ, a comparative study has been carried out between them, based on the recording by Michail Jurowski with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin that uses the original version with a duration of 30’41’ and the recording by Fedor Glushchenko with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, which performs the revised version with a duration of 20’58’. As we can see, the difference in duration is remarkable.

The result of the study is the following. The tempo used by both directors is practically the same, so the difference in timing cannot be attributed to the speed of interpretation. A thematic study reveals that both versions respect all the themes that appear. The difference between both versions lies in the cuts made in transition motifs between themes and in their repetition. This makes for a more dynamic and light version, but when we listen to it for the first time we find it more difficult to identify the thematic motifs.

The original version is more repetitive but many times we believe that for an unprepared audience it is preferable. When the score is known, we find in the reduced version a greater thematic contrast that gives it more brilliance. Opinion on which is the best will depend entirely on the taste of the listener.

The conclusion that we can draw from these comments is that many times we should not settle for hearing only one version. The criticism of a work can change completely depending on the version heard and the conversion of the notes written in its score into musical sounds, which will also depend on the skill of the orchestra in interpreting them and the vision of its director. Many little-known works are little valued as they do not have great interpretations of them.

After these considerations we move on to the description of the analyzed music. The symphony begins with dramatic brass fanfares and cymbal hits that culminate in a few concluding bars. The entrance of the woods pacifies the scene by introducing a more friendly music. This section ends with the performance of a hymn with some solemnity. The changes between a bellicose and a friendly music take place in a radical way, as if he wanted to highlight the two aspects of life, torn between love and earthly violence.

It follows with a section in adagio tempo, which leads us into a romantic lyrical theme in waltz rhythm. It then continues with another section of aggressive military music. For a while the music unfolds peacefully, with melodies played by woodwinds and a nostalgic flute theme. Without interruption a new section begins in allegro tempo with dissonant metal entrances and a rhythmic theme with influences from Stravinsky, which ends in a climax with the participation of trumpets and percussion. The metal finally fades and the symphony ends with a nostalgic and painful theme. A few piano notes accompany a quiet coda.

A symphony, if it can still be called that, which has lost all classical structure. A large number of themes appear, with citations from previous symphonies and other composers. The work acquires an air of recapitulation, as if the composer’s idea were to close a cycle, his symphonic cycle. It is what really happens. He doesn’t write any more symphonies.

From now on his symphonic compositions will not be called symphonies. Each one has a descriptive title, but does not follow any script, which characterizes symphonic poems. He writes pure symphonic music, like a meditation on a certain theme. It does not correspond to any particular gender. Perhaps the symphony is dead. Perhaps it has been transformed by taking on a new design. We will continue to call it a symphony or simply symphonic music or music for orchestra.

On the other hand, we could also consider it as an evolution of the symphonic poem. An abstract symphonic poem, without following a certain plot line. An expression of feelings. In short, we will call this new genre that emerged in the 20th century Symphonic Music, simply and without further theoretical disquisitions. The problem before us is to decide if these types of compositions are an evolution of the symphony and should be included in a history of the symphony based especially on contemporary music.

After these metaphysical comments let us return to the reality of this particular symphony. At the top of it is an epigraph by the Georgian poet Galaktion Tabidze beginning ‘A long time ago…’. Later the work is subtitled as Epilogue. This tells us that it is a recapitulation of all his previous work. A recapitulation seen with nostalgia, but seeking to close a stage. Many themes are from his earlier works. The abrupt union between static music and aggressive music with military features is very evident here. We translate below some phrases of his author pronounced during one of his interviews.

It seems as if one of the objectives of art was to denounce injustice, lies, vulgarity, ignorance, opposing them to goodness, beauty, light. Music, having no connection to any particular concept or visual image, is capable of embodying these ideals in an obvious way in the most universal and simultaneous way. Beauty in music has a special purity, fragile and vulnerable. But perhaps therein lies its limitless emotional impact.

Kancheli continues to write soundtracks, such as ‘Kin-Dza-Dza’ in 1986 or ‘Passport’ in 1990. But he begins a new genre of symphonic music that will replace the symphony. One of the first scores is entitled ‘Crying by the wind’, a liturgy for viola and orchestra, composed in 1989 and premiered in Berlin in 1990. Written in memory of Givi Ordzhonikidze, a musicologist friend of his, it is one of the most melancholy you have written.

Divided into four movements, it could also be considered a new symphony for viola and orchestra. The writing for the viola is not of a virtuosic type, which differentiates it from the concertos. Below, due to its conceptual importance, we translate the composer’s own reflections on his work.

In principle all my works, any of them, could be called ‘Liturgy’. For me it is important that my music is a kind of religious service or ritual, but I am not going to dwell on this point. It usually seems to me that if the listeners think about the composer’s religious convictions during the performance, something that is not at the level of the music interferes.

I have repeatedly said that I did not see a great difference between my previous works, which I have called symphonies, and the ones I am currently writing. The two genres can be considered either as program music or as ‘pure’ music. It is worth adding that I generally do not begin to think about the title until the work is finished and that it would be inaccurate to identify the title of one of my works, any of them, with its content.

His next symphonic work is ‘Mourning Prayers’ composed in 1990 for chamber orchestra and tape, with a vocal recording, premiered in London. ‘Midday Prayers’ for soprano, clarinet and chamber orchestra, composed the same year, premiered at Salzau (Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival).

His work, like its author, comes out of Georgia and becomes international. She receives a scholarship from the German Academy of Arts, living in Berlin since 1991, due to the political instability in Georgia after the disappearance of the USSR.

In 1994 he composes ‘Night Prayers’ for saxophone, string orchestra and tape, premiered in Stuttgart. In the same year he writes ‘Magnum Ignotum’ for wind instruments, double bass and tape, again with vocal recordings, premiered by the Dutch Wind Ensemble. Finally ‘Caris Mere’ for soprano and viola, was also composed in 1994, premiering in Ferrara.

Since 1995 Kancheli has lived in Antwerp (Belgium), at the invitation of the Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra as composer-in-residence. For this orchestra he wrote in the same year ‘Simi’ (Shadow reflections for cello and orchestra), a work dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich. A reflection of intense sadness expressed through the rope. Simi is a Georgian word meaning rope.

‘… à la Duduki’ composed in 1995 for wind quintet and orchestra, premiered in Mannheim. He does not use the duduk, but imitates its sound. The duduk is a folk wind instrument similar to the oboe that has been discussed in previous pages.

‘Valse Boston’ composed in 1996 for piano and strings, written for the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester is dedicated to his wife, with the following sentence. Dedicated to my wife with whom I have never danced. An ironic phrase like the one in the title of the work, with its pages of nostalgic expression, totally separated from the spirit of the dance. As a curiosity we will add that Kancheli is married and has two children.

‘Diplipito’ for cello, countertenor and chamber orchestra was composed in 1997 and premiered in Lisbon. The title of the work is a cryptic word taken from the poet Joseph Brodsky, which means my work of silence, my mute creation… It is what the countertenor expresses with his unintelligible words taken from a Georgian epic. Perhaps they have a meaning for their author.

‘Styx’ for viola, mixed choir and orchestra composed in 1999 premiered in Amsterdam. Charon, represented by the viola, guides travelers to the entrance of the kingdom of death, Hades, crossing the Styx lagoon (Styx).

Among his latest works is ‘Twilight’ (Twilight), composed in 2004 for violin, viola, string orchestra and synthesizer, premiered the following year in Salzburg. Written after overcoming a serious illness, she was inspired by poplar trees during the fall comparing them to human life. Finally we cite ‘Dixi’ for mixed choir and orchestra composed in 2009 and premiered in Munich.

His works respect tonality, through an ascetic musical language of a meditative nature, opposing the violence of the external world to the contemplative calm of the internal world. His music expresses the tragedy of today’s world that cannot be avoided. But inner meditation can never be annihilated, being the main element where hope resides.

On stringed instruments, the string is struck or scraped with the back of the bow rather than the bristles, producing a soft, percussive sound.

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