Giya Kancheli

Giya Kancheli: Winnipeg New Music Festival

Giya Kancheli was Georgia’s leading composer and one of the most distinguished in the Soviet Union in the late 20th century. His fellow Soviet colleague Rodion Shchedrin assessed him as “an ascetic with the temperament of a maximalist – a restrained Vesuvius”. Much of Kancheli’s music combines stillness and beauty with latent violence that occasionally erupts to devastating expressive effect.

Audiences in the west came to his music largely through recordings, especially from the Munich based CD label ECM New Series, which began in 1992 with the issue of his grippingly elegiac Vom Winde Beweint (Mourned by the Wind, 1989), a liturgy for viola and orchestra, performed by Kim Kashkashian and conducted by Dennis Russell Davies. Both became longstanding advocates of Kancheli’s music; others for whom he wrote works included Mstislav Rostropovich, the violinist Gidon Kremer, the violist Yuri Bashmet, the conductor Kurt Masur and the Kronos Quartet.

Kancheli’s music has appeared often at the festival, including a Canadian premiere of “Dixi” for choir and orchestra in 2015. It was performed by the Canadian Mennonite University Chorus and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Last year’s festival featured a performance of what is believed to be Kancheli’s final work Nu.Mu.Zu.

Kancheli passed away in October 2019. He was 84.