Kancheli: Lament

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COMPOSERS: Kancheli
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Lament
PERFORMER: Gidon Kremer (violin), Maacha Deubner (soprano); Tbilisi SO/Jansug Kakhidze
CATALOGUE NO: 465 138-2
‘Music of Mourning in Memory of Luigi Nono’ is the subtitle of Giya Kancheli’s Lament. The two composers were admirers of each other’s work, and they were planning a collaborative work at the time of Nono’s death in 1990; this tribute was composed three years later. It’s typical of Kancheli’s recent works, moving with extreme slowness so that the music seems to lose all sense of direction for minutes at a time, and contrasting sounds that teeter on the edge of silence with explosions of fearsome violence. The solo violin (a part composed specifically for Gidon Kremer) leads the mourning, often accompanied by just a handful of orchestral instruments or none at all; the soprano sings extracts from a text by the German-Jewish poet Hans Sahl in withdrawn, haunting phrases.

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The raw materials are simple and the cumulative effect is very powerful. In many respects Kancheli’s music is light years away from Nono’s; ultimately it relies on traditional devices and the organising principles of tonality, all of which the Italian rejected. Yet the fragmented surfaces, often straining to carve music out of silence, are uncannily close to the etiolated world of Nono’s late works, where everything is elliptical and poeticised, and the Sahl poem that Kancheli sets – ‘Quite slowly I am walking from the world/ into a landscape farther off than far’ – evokes up the same image of the traveller that runs like a Leitmotif through so many of his friend’s extraordinary final pieces. Andrew Clements