Giya Kancheli: Themes from the Songbook

Dino Saluzzi, Gidon Kremer, Andrei Pushkarev

A very special album for Giya Kancheli’s 75th birthday. When starting out on his career as a creator of symphonic and chamber music, the Georgian composer also wrote much incidental music for the theatre and the cinema. Though still little-known in the West, the film music was widely heard across the former Soviet Union and the themes here (there are 20 on the album) enjoyed great popularity.
ECM decided to invite Dino Saluzzi to revisit Kancheli’s music for stage and screen, in his personal and highly creative way. Simultaneously Gidon Kremer, an old friend and champion of Kancheli’s music, also expressed an interest in doing something special for Giya’s birthday. With both Kremer and Saluzzi on board, the project took on new dimensions. Finding links between the worlds – Kancheli’s, Kremer’s, and Saluzzi’s – is a task adroitly handled by Pushkarev. The vibraphonist, who works often with Kremerata Baltica, prepared arrangements realized with Kremer in Riga, and also worked in Oslo with Saluzzi, intuitively supporting Dino’s very relaxed approach to the material.
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.

Featured Artists Recorded


Original Release Date


  • 1Herio Bichebo from Earth, This Is Your Son
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 2Theme from Bear's Kiss
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 3Main theme from The Crucibles
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 4Theme from As You Like It
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 5Theme from Don Quixote Var. I
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 6Theme from Hamlet Var. I
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 7Theme from King Lear
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 8Theme from Don Quixote Var. II
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 9Main theme from Kin-Dza-Dza
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 10Main theme from The Role For A Beginner
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 11Theme from Twelfth Night
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 12Main theme from Cinema
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 13Theme from Hamlet Var. II
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 14Waltz from Richard III
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 15Theme from Mimino
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 16Theme from Don Quixote Var. III
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 17Main theme from When Almonds Blossomed
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 18Waltz from The Eccentrics
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 19Theme from Hamlet Var. III
    (Giya Kancheli)
  • 20Herio Bichebo from Earth, This Is Your Son
    (Giya Kancheli, Moris Potskhishvili)
Giya Kancheli a compose pour le théâtre et le cinéma. Ce cinéma géorgien dont Fellini disait qu’il pouvait l’émourvoir jusqu’aux larmes. Des mélodies simples aux allures de chansons populaires, quelques accords qui posent un décor : Kancheli maîtrise à la perfection l’art de la suggestion sonore. Réunis en un ‘songbook’, ces thèmes miniatures composés pour la scène ou l’écran peuvent être librement arrangés par les interprètes. Quand ceux-ci ont le talent de Dino Saluzzi, Gidon Kremer et Andrei Pushkarev, une poèsie à la mélancolie tenace s’installe. Fellini en aurait pleuré de joie.
Tribune de Genève
Pünktlich zum 75. Geburtstag spielte Saluzzi mit Gidon Kremer an der Violine und Andrei Puskarev am Vibraphon 20 Titel des Songbooks in neuem Klanggewand ein. Neun davon stammen aus der Zusammenarbeit Kanchelis mit dem renommierten Theater-Direktor Robert Sturua, die restlichen sind Themen aus Filmen. Ein Geburtstagsgeschenk, an dem viele Menschen Freude haben werden!
Tom Asam, Titel-Magazin
Giya Kanchelis Themes From The Songbook ist etwas ganz Spezielles. Es handelt sich um frühe Musik des georgischen komponisten, interpretiert von dem argentinischen Bandoneonspieler Dino Saluzzi, dem litauischen klassichen Geiger Gidon Kremer sowie dem ukranischen Vibraphonisten Andrei Pushkarev. Es funktioniert fulminant, weil hier Platz gelassen ist für eine freie Kommunikation. …
Saluzzi, Kremer und Pushkarev nutzen auf dem Album die ungeheure Freiheit von Interpretation und Improvisation, die sie in den Stücken Kanchelis nachempfinden und artikulieren, Eigenschaften, die dem Jazz eigen sind und der klassischen Musik von einst auch einmal zugänglich waren.
Ulfert Goeman, Jazzpodium
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.