Kancheli: Themes from the Songbook

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Kancheli
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Themes from the Songbook: Themes from Earth, This is Your Son; Bear’s Kiss; The Crucible; As You Like It; Don Quixote; Hamlet; King Lear; Kin-Dza-Dza; The Role for a Beginner; Twelfth Night; Cinema; Richard III; Mimino; When Almonds Blossomed; The Eccentrics
PERFORMER: Dino Saluzzi (bandoneon), Gidon Kremer (violin), Andrei Pushkarev (vibraphone)
CATALOGUE NO: ECM 274 3230

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The Songbook in question is Giya Kancheli’s 2009 volume Simple Music for Piano, reprising melodies he had written for films and plays over more than 40 years – tunes famous in the realms of Georgian cinema and stage.

The Argentine bandoneon virtuoso Dino Saluzzi has teamed up with Gidon Kremer and Andrei Pushkarev (vibraphone) to create free arrangements and interpretations of various numbers from the Songbook as a 75th birthday tribute and present to Kancheli.

The CD ends with an extract from the original soundtrack of the 1980 film Earth, This is Your Son, with Kancheli’s close friend Jansug Kakhidze conducting and singing the song ‘Herio Bichebo’ which also opens the disc in an arrangement.

A sincere gesture from all concerned, but what of the music? Apart from the soundtrack excerpt, which is moving, it fell rather flat with me.

Divorced from their filmic context, and the significance they may carry for natives of Georgia, the pieces come across as little more than easy listening in which the three distinguished performers engage in pleasant noodling around a succession of slow and mostly melancholy themes.

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Late at night, with the lights turned down low, over a glass of something, would be the best ambience. This is only for Kancheli fanatics, I fear. Calum MacDonald