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Giya KANCHELI (b.1935)
In L’istesso tempo

Time…and again, for violin and piano (1996) [25’33]
V & V, for violin, taped voice and strings (1994) [12’35]
Piano Quartet in l’istesso tempo (1997) [26’05]
Gidon Kremer (violin)
Oleg Maisenberg (piano)
The Bridge Ensemble
Kremerata Baltica/Gidon Kremer
Recorded at Festeburgkirche, Frankfurt, Dec.2000 (Time…and again) and June 1999 (Piano Quartet), Pfarrkirche St.Nikolaus, Lockenhaus, July 2003 (V&V)
ECM NEW MUSIC 4618182 [64’40]

 

If you are familiar with other works by Georgian-born Giya Kancheli, you will know what to expect here. Rather like Arvo Pärt, tempos are all slow, melodic material is made up of the most simple, repeated fragments that do not appear to develop towards a climax, and the soporific atmosphere is often punctuated by violent outbursts form the instruments, as if the listener is being jolted out of any sense of stasis.

These elements are all present and correct here, and whether this music ‘does it’ for you will depend largely on how you view this sort of compositional process. The booklet note tries to tackle this head on, becoming nothing short of a defence of the communicative power of simplicity in the wake of Second Viennese complexity. I have mixed views. I was very moved by a previous Kancheli disc of orchestral works …a la Duduki, where the variety of colour within the orchestra helped reduce any boredom that might set in. Here, it’s a little more difficult with much smaller forces, and the chamber delicacy that suits much of his music can be negated by that sheer lack of variety.

That’s not to say there aren’t things to enjoy, but my advice would be to take it one at a time. For me, the most compelling piece here is Time…and again, which could be an artistic credo for the composer. The bell-like intoning of the piano provides a mournful backdrop for the lamentations of the violin and a feeling of soulful longing that the odd peremptory outbursts do nothing to assuage. This is music that can be hypnotically moving in the right mood, unbearably protracted in the wrong one, though one is sure of an honesty and integrity at work.

V & V provides more of the same, though a larger string body and taped voice chanting a ghostly, child-like melody do set up a strongly atmospheric texture. Kremer’s fragmented violin line, with its sustained repetitions and fermatas stopping any straightforward climactic progress, makes the piece end up like some sort of dreamlike violin serenade.

The Piano Quartet in l’istesso tempo is the longest piece here, and as such I did feel the composer indulging in a certain amount of what could be termed minimalist note-spinning. The obsessively sustained ‘same tempo’ of the title is alleviated here and there, but overall the composer seems intent on imposing a state of contemplation on the listener, whether they like it or not. I guess you can always switch the player off if you disagree.

One thing is for certain, the performances are absolutely dedicated to the cause, and the recording wonderfully warm and atmospheric, with the sounds just emerging from absolute silence.

Tony Haywood



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