Kancheli: Diplipito; Valse Boston

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WORKS: Diplipito; Valse Boston
PERFORMER: Thomas Demenga (cello), Derek Lee Ragin (countertenor); Stuttgart CO/ Dennis Russell Davies (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 472 082-2
Kanchelia (as we might call the imaginative region that Giya Kancheli’s music has inhabited since his voluntary exile from his native Georgia) is a bleak, sometimes beautiful place. Memories of ancient joys and sorrows hang in the air; a distant voice sings something sad in a tongue we do not know. It is not utterly still: the wind blows across the steppe, punctuated by the occasional storm; there is a sense of a journey, but where we finish is much like where we started. Simultaneously haunted by and alienated from its roots, this is a perpetual internalised music of exile. The results are often very beautiful: Diplipito (1997), pitting countertenor against cello in duets of aching elegy, seems to me one of Kancheli’s most ravishing creations. In Valse Boston (1996) for piano and strings an ineluctably slow 3/4 time merely hints at long-lost dance origins amid images of lament and frustration: the ballrooms of Kanchelia are chill, empty places, probably with glass and rubble on the floor. With Dennis Russell Davies (conductor and dedicatee) at the piano, there are ghosts in Valse Boston of Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto and, in both pieces, of Schubert, whose example has encouraged Kancheli’s recent works towards more direct melodic content. The performances reflect utter dedication from all concerned: only the most intense focus can keep such music raw and mesmerising from moment to moment. The transparency of ECM’s recording matches the high standards it has maintained throughout its Kancheli issues. Calum MacDonald