Georgian composer Giya Kancheli’s latest ECM New Series album, issued shortly after his 80th birthday, features first recordings of two major works: Chiaroscuro for violin and chamber orchestra, and Twilight for two violins and chamber orchestra. Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica have had a long and close association with Giya Kancheli. On Twilight, the coming together of Kremer and Patricia Kopatchinskaja, two of the most powerfully expressive violinists of our era, makes for fascinating listening. The piece is a touching meditation on mortality, written at a time when Giya Kancheli was recovering from illness and seeing in the leaves and branches of poplar trees outside his window a metaphor for change and transformation.
Twilight, Kancheli’s first piece composed for two solo violins and strings was written on Gidon Kremer’s initiative for the annual Mozart Week in Salzburg. “In my professional life various superb performers have appeared at different periods,” Giya Kancheli writes in the liner notes. “I am very happy that for the ECM production of Twilight Gidon Kremer joined forces with Patricia Kopatchinskaja. At the rehearsal I realized from the first bars that Patricia has all the attributes of a distinguished musical personality.” Kopatchinskaja, for her part, much enjoyed the encounter with fellow violinist Kremer: “This was one of my strongest and most moving experiences….I grew up and educated myself with the sounds and visions of Gidon Kremer. He is the musician and thinker who always captures me with all senses and trust, when listening to anything he does.”
The title composition Chiaroscuro borrows its name from the painting technique of the renaissance and baroque whose concern with dramatic contrasts of light and shade corresponds quite directly to the characteristically stark dynamics of the composer’s writing, vigorously conveyed by Kremerata Baltica. The piece was originally written for Julian Rachlin, to be performed by him on both violin and viola. After its premiere both Yuri Bashmet and Gidon Kremer asked Kancheli for independent versions, and these were subsequently developed and performed. As Kancheli remarks, “Profound personalities always discover in the music something that cannot be expressed in notes and signs … They effectively become co-authors of the works they perform.”
In this sense, Gidon Kremer – as masterful interpreter – has been ‘co-authoring’ Giya Kancheli’s work since 1998 and his riveting performance of Lament – Music In Mourning Of Luigi Nono. Other Kremer/Kancheli collaborations on ECM include Time…and Again and V & V (on the album In L’istesso tempo, recorded in 2000 and 2003), Silent Prayer (on Hymns and Prayers, recorded 2008) and Themes from the Songbook (recorded 2010). Kremerata Baltica, too, has been programming Kancheli’s music from the beginning of its history. Gidon Kremer: “Giya’s music has become an inseparable part of the Kremerata Baltica orchestra’s repertoire: each year, each season we have studied and played one or two of his pieces. Despite our previous acquaintance, each piece reveals something new and special.”
Gidon Kremer’s relationship with ECM dates back to Arvo Pärt’s album Tabula Rasa. This was followed by several volumes of live recordings from the Lockenhaus festival. Kremer’s recording of the complete sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin by Bach, released in 2005 on ECM New Series, met with unanimous international acclaim. Kremerata Baltica which first appeared on ECM on Kancheli’s In l’istesso tempo made its official label debut in 2005 with a highly original interpretation of Schubert’s G-major string quartet. Their album of music of Mieczysław Weinberg was Grammy nominated.
Founded in 1997 by Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica is a chamber orchestra comprised of young musicians from the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as a medium to share artistic experiences, and, at the same time, to promote and inspire the musical and cultural life of the Baltics. It is one of the outstanding ensembles in Europe and beyond.
Patricia Kopatchinskaja made her ECM debut playing Tigran Mansurian’s Romance and Double Concerto on Quasi parlando, released in 2014, soon followed by a much-praised account of the music of Galina Ustvolskaya. Kopatchinskaja was born in Chisinau, Moldova, and studied violin and composition in Vienna and Berne. In 2000 she won the International Henryk Szeryng Competition in Mexico. She has received awards for her complete recording of Beethoven's works for violin and orchestra, and the concertos of Bartók, Eötvös and Ligeti.
Giya Kancheli studied at the Conservatorium of Tbilisi with Iona Tuskiya from 1959 until 1963. In 1971 he became Music Director of the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilissi, and wrote much music for theatre and for the cinema alongside his pieces for symphony orchestra. He moved to Berlin in 1991. In 1995 he was composer-in-residence of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic in Antwerp, and subsequently based himself in Belgium as a freelance composer.
His association with ECM dates from 1991, and the recording of his viola concerto, Vom Winde beweint. Many premiere recordings of his compositions have subsequently been made for ECM, and Chiaroscuro is the thirteenth New Series album to feature his music. It was recorded in Vilnius, Lithuania in December 2014, and produced by Manfred Eicher.