Kancheli: Trauerfarbenes Land; …à la Duduki

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Kancheli
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Trauerfarbenes Land; …à la Duduki
PERFORMER: Vienna RSO/Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 457 850-2
From the sombre cover photography to the existentialist booklet notes explaining Georgian composer Giya Kancheli’s longing for home, much about this disc sets out to evoke an atmosphere of seriousness and gloom, no doubt to prepare the listener for the substantial emotional impact of the main work on the disc, Trauerfarbenes Land (‘Land that Wears Mourning’). The piece bears all the usual Kancheli hallmarks – extremes of dynamic and texture, simple diatonicism contrasted with harsh dissonance, a meditative slowness – but it wields a weighty emotional punch, paradoxically through the music’s ruthless, almost mindless adherence to strict rules and its severely limited material, all of which is presented in the work’s opening bars. …à la Duduki, for brass quintet and orchestra, is a somewhat lighter affair, using oriental-sounding melismas in a final, visionary meditation which is cut short abruptly by the return of the work’s opening shriek.

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Yet this is curiously fragile music: question it for a second and the edifices Kancheli constructs crumble before your eyes. Belief is everything. And strangely, the well-nigh immaculate and wonderfully committed performances from the Vienna RSO under Dennis Russell Davies, and ECM’s rich, warm recorded sound only serve to make us question the whole way we approach this serious-minded, monumental music. David Kettle