“Achingly beautiful, musical post cards from Georgia”, Kancheli’s “33 Miniatures” by George Vatchnadze

Here are Kancheli’s 33 musical postcards inspired by mainly Shakespeare & Brecht plays and cinematic works of various eras, small fragments with an average duration of 2 minutes of deep intimacy and reflection. It is a music that differs dramatically from the more incisive character of the Georgian composer’s large-scale orchestral works and which undoubtedly has a strong “visual” character.

While his symphonic works exhibit austere beauty, culminating in wide dynamic peaks. The contrast between soft & loud, can easily exceed 20dB. Here the miniatures are more controlled and more evocative of delicate tone poems. The exception being, “Romeo & Juliet” which differs from the other miniatures in that it’s composed of many melodies but with a lot more edge to it, resulting in more emotional and musical power. Strong emotional outbursts are followed by the quietest of moments. The music sometimes swells into an eruption, but the music is not intimidating; it only sounds as though it is depicting a heightened emotional state, an emotional state that induces the listener to contemplation & reflection.

There are many tangible influences; from historical romance to echoes of Satie, not to mention native Georgian sacred (three-voice polyphony & folk. Kancheli once wrote: “I feel as if I am filling a space in the heart that has been deserted.” The music exudes many different emotions, transcendental, meditative, some beautiful, others whimsical, interwoven with hints of sadness and sorrow.

Giya Kancheli transcribed these cinematic postcards to the piano especially for George Vatchnadze as Kanchelli & Vatchnadze’s father were close, life long friends. There is a conversation on YouTube between Kancheli & Vatchnadze here.  While you are on YouTube, check out Vatchnadze’s performance of the Rachmaninov’s 2’nd Piano Concerto – simply superb).

Throughout “33 Miniatures”, Vatchnadze’s musicianship is excellent, for a pianist who specializes in Rachmaninov’s mighty second & third piano concertos or even the eclectic Prokofiev Piano Sonatas, it is wonderful to hear such delicacy at the pianist’s fingertips. The Georgian traits of sadness and sorrow are well conveyed. The album is rounded out by the addition of other Georgian folkloric inspired composers: Ruben Altunyan’s Cello Sonata & Sulkhan Tsintsadze’s Five Pieces on Folk Themes. The former solo cello and the latter pieces are for cello and piano. Cellist Suren Bagratuni provides great delicacy and insight into these delicate miniatures. Bagratuni & Vatchnadze have played together many times and it shows; there is a lovely musical comradeship evident in their duets. The actual recording itself is wonderfully “wet”, the listener is transported to the hall. The Steinway Model D is well reproduced on this recording both in its weight and brilliance. The musical pieces are all short and have the virtue of being both immediately accessible while possessing real musical depth. The more you listen to these songs, the more they sink into your psyche.

What a wonderful addition to the music lover’s collection. Currently available on CD, streaming on Amazon Music, Qobuz & Tidal.

Purchase the CD here on Amazon and leave a review.

Repost from Philip O’Hanlon’s review of this album on Amazon.com

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