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Gia Kancheli - Little Imber


Gia Kancheli is a Georgian composer (although currently residing in Belgium) who, at least for the past couple of decades, has found a prominent place within the school of Baltic post-modernists, sharing some stylistic sensibilities with Part, Vasks and Gorecki, while also forging his own distinctive sound. Although certainly no stranger to vocals, Kancheli brings them to the fore as instruments with the two works found within his latest release, Little Imber

"Amao Omi" is the more immediate of the two works, and meshes to effective ends the styles of Baltic folksong, liturgical choral music, and minimalism. The choir, set against an instrumental backdrop of saxophone quartet, is an interesting sound palette, and references other modern composers such as Philip Glass and Michael Nyman. The comparisons are only heightened by the slow, tonal pacing of the work. Although largely tentative and somber, there are occasional outbursts from the chorus - both in unison with the saxophone quartet, as well as accent stabs of punctuation - that bring added emotional energy to the piece. Although the lyrics are not provided, the title alludes to Georgian verse about war, and the pacing of the work, as it oscillates between quiet despair and moments of sudden panic, play to this theme.

"Little Imber" is both complementary and something else entirely. A mix of choir, children's chorus, male vocal solo, and chamber ensemble, it feels both through-composed and cinematic. There are so many separate elements of style sewn together in this piece that its patchwork focus is its main unifying theme. The non-classical timbre of the male lead acts almost as narrator to the festivities that bounce from something akin to simple children's song to meditative choral elegies. A pastoral flute strain can emerge out of a hushed choral dirge, before leading the chamber ensemble back to somber sustains. The children's chorus is often placed as an almost distant, angelic refrain to the mix. "Little Imber" is also tied to war through its title, as the people in the British town of Imber were deeply affected and relocated during World War II. The children's chorus and male lead take on almost haunting roles in light of this, as if conjuring memories of those from the past.

As both works deal with themes of war and suffering - although mainly through allusion - you might expect the overall tone to be a bit bleak. And though it does carry that through in places, it certainly is not the sole theme. Much of the music from the prominent Baltic composers marry this balance between dark reflections on their political and war-torn histories with an almost unshakable grounding in their religious faith and unifying national heritage. And so it seems here. There is a quiet resolve to this music, as a lone lantern bravely flickering in the window on a cold night.

Overall, the pieces on Little Imber should find an appreciative audience with those interested in any of composers mentioned in this review. This set offers a touch more immediacy than some of Kancheli's previous work, but continues the style he has established in recent years.

Additional Info: In 2003, Gia Kancheli collaborated with Artangel, the London-based arts production company, on the Imber Project, which was part-installation part-musical performance, staged in the deserted village of Imber on Salisbury Plain. If the event itself was rather disappointing, the opportunity to visit this remote spot, whose population was evicted when it was requisitioned by the MoD during the second world war and which is still used for training troops in urban warfare, was priceless. After the audience had been led through the ghost village, Kancheli's Little Imber was performed in the village church as the climax of the performance. Even at the time it seemed inadequate. Something composed for such a singular occasion needs more than the familiar Kancheli mixture of saccharine choral writing and snatches of faux baroque tracery, complete with the usual intrusion of more brutal and martial music. Hearing it on disc only confirms the thinness of the 35-minute piece. The companion piece here, Amao Omi, from 2005, inhabits more or less the same musical world, but with its choral writing set against more urgent saxophone textures, the effect is less cloying and more purposeful.

Two choral works by the great Georgian composer Gia Kancheli. Gia Kancheli's tenth album on ECM New Series offers two recent large-scale choral works with unconventional instrumental forces. While the composer has frequently stated that his love for music began with Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington rather than with Bach and Schubert let alone with traditional Georgian polyphony, his highly compelling new compositions mirror impressions of both Western and Georgian sacred music without actually alluding to religion itself.

Artist: Gia Kancheli / გია ყანჩელი
Album: Little Imber
Format: Audio CD


1. Amao Omi for mixed choir and saxophone quartet
2. Little Imber for small ensemble, voice, children?s and men?s choirs

Nederlands Kamerkoor
Rascher Saxophone Quartet
Klaas Stok conductor
Mamuka Gaganidze voice
Zaza Miminoshvili guitar
Matrix Ensemble
Rustavi Choir
Children`s Choir
Gia Kancheli composer

Add to Cart:

  • Model: Audio CD
  • Artist: Gia Kancheli
  • Music Genre: Classical

This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 21 March, 2019.

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