Most of Georgia's 20th-century compositional life followed the pattern of Soviet Republics, with any experimentation that took place in the 1920s eradicated in favour of music that glorified Soviet subjects. However, the rich legacy of Georgian folk-music had already been explored before this change, and its inclusion in works of Soviet Socialist Realism was actively encouraged. The 20th-century father-figure of Georgian classical music was Zakhary Petrovich Paliashvili (1872-1933). One of the pioneers of collecting Georgian folk-music, he used the influence of folk-idioms to colourful and powerful effect in three main operas, Abessalom and Eteri (1913), Daici (Twilight, 1923) and Latavra (1930).
Lev Knipper (1898-1974) had a reputation as a modernist in the 1920s, notably for the satirical operas The Legend of the Plaster God (1925) and The North Wind (1929-1930); the latter incurred official displeasure. After studying Tadjikistan folk-music, he produced a symphonic suite Vatch (1932) incorporating
folk themes, which had a high reputation for its orchestral skill. He then embarked on a series of symphonies (he eventually produced 20) with a strong Soviet content, of which the Symphony No.3 `Far Eastern' (1933) uses huge forces including soloists and chorus, and reflected his life in the Red Army. Many of his songs have been popularized by the Red Army, and one of the best known occurs in the Symphony No.4 `Poem about the Komsomol Fighter' (1934), a combination of full-blooded and often effective orchestral writing and patriotic tunes, which will interest those studying the development of Soviet music. The music of Vano Muradeli (1908-1971) is rooted in Georgian folk music without direct usage of folk-song, exemplified in his two symphonies (No.1 1938 and No.2 The War of Liberation, 1942). His opera The Great Friendship (1947) was the catalyst for the Zdhanov crackdown on `formalism' in 1948. Otar Taktakishvili (born 1924) was probably the best known name outside Georgia during the Soviet period; he served as Georgia's Minister of Culture. His tonal idiom was well within the proscriptions of the approved Soviet style, and quite highly regarded.
One more recent Georgian composer well worth discovering is Giya Kancheli (born 1935), whose music follows an atmospheric slow progression of changing dynamics and ideas (sometimes violent), with occasional and never direct echoes of folk music. The Symphony No.3 (1973) frames the aggressive with passages using a wordless tenor. The Symphony No.4 `In memoria di Michelangelo' (1975) opens with the slow tolling of a bell, with something of the gentle unfolding of Gorecki's celebrated third symphony, but is musically far more interesting. With a riotous, tormented scherzo section, this monumental work traverses great swells of climax, vast vistas of texture, and moments of delicacy. The sometimes violent Symphony No.5 (1977) again has very sharp contrasts of dynamics, incidents exploding out of near silence, and a generally slow progression, with vivid colours in climactic moments. Similar outbursts are found in the Symphony No.6 (1981). He has written a multi-media opera, Music for the Living (1984).
Georgian Music Information Centre:
Georgian Composers' Union Music Information Centre
David Agmashenebeli Ave. 123
Republic of Georgia
tel: 8832 95 48 61
PALIASHVILI Zakhary Petrovich
born 16th August 1871 at Kutaisi
died 6th October 1933 at Tbilisi
Paliashvili was the foremost Georgian composer of his generation, who (in common with similar activities elsewhere in the world) studied and collected Georgian folk-songs, recording over 300 of them and publishing his researches in 1910. Wishing to see an indigenous Georgian operatic tradition, he co-founded the Fraternity for the Creation of Opera in the Georgian Language (1906), and his best known work is the Georgian opera Abessalom and Eteri (1909-1919). Based on a Greek legend, it is strongly pervaded by the exotic colours, modal harmonies and sinuous melodic style of Georgian folk-music (with the influence of Near-Eastern music). It is the combination of folk styles and Western techniques that gives the opera vivid colours and at times an unusual and evocative idiom, although the formal epic construction is conventional (arioso and recitative). The opera Daici (Twilight, 1923) is in the 19th-century operatic tradition, both dramatically and musically, laced with folk dances and choruses, patriotism and a final rousing Soviet-style chorus. The story is one of jealousy, the heroine being betrothed to a warrior but loving another, who is killed by the warrior in a duel. In penance, he decides to give his life in the next battle; the opera ends with the departure of the soldiers.
Paliashvili taught and conducted in Georgia. His brother was a well-known conductor; of his eleven children, five were professional musicians.
- Georgian Suite for orch.
- mass; Festival Cantata
- operas Abessalom and Eteri, Daici and Latavra
opera Abessalom and Eteri (1919)
A. Tsulukidze Zakarja Paliashvili Tbilisi, 1971 (Georgian, Russian and French editions)