Kancheli Abii ne Viderem
Many years ago Kancheli wrote of his aim to ''transmit a sensation of beauty, durability, and light flowing from above... the feeling of a religiosity in the broadest sense, which I myself find in all music which is dear to me''. In the 1990s that religious impulse has come to the surface, above all in the four-part sequence entitled Life without Christmas from which Morning Prayers and Evening Prayers are taken.
Kancheli has not (yet?) been hijacked by a publicity industry which now makes it difficult for some of us to listen to the likes of Gorecki, Tavener and Part without an uneasy feeling of being manipulated. But in any case his brand of meditative probing is less sensuous, more tense, than theirs—I'm tempted to say less glamorous, but I don't want to get into questions of comparative virtue or sincerity. At their best all these composers deal in an inner calm which goes from the soul to the soul. Kancheli has the additional post-Soviet gift of transfiguring hand-me-down cliches of Western classical music into pearls of unheard-of wisdom. As you listen you can almost feel the drops of spiritual calm melting from the ice-block of Western materialism.
The other-worldliness of Morning Prayers is enhanced by the use of a taped boy's voice (where ex-Soviet composers have written for child soloists the results are all too often uncomfortable in performance). And the presence of the Hilliard Ensemble is an undoubted bonus for Evening Prayers, even if it makes for some emergency adjustments to the score (the voice-parts were originally intended for eight altos).
But my favourite piece here is undoubtedly Abii ne viderem (''I turned away so as not to see''). Does the title reflect Kancheli's self-confession on emigrating to Germany from a Georgian homeland now torn apart by civil strife? Maybe. Yet the effect conveyed is almost the opposite. This is a more convulsive, emotionally stricken piece than the two Prayers, it's like some kind of distilled, post-Holocaust Bruckner. Its furious dialogues, inexorable momentum and penetration to ever deeper levels of mourning speak to me of turning away but of facing up to... to what?... I'd say a century of genocide, but that might be to raise unrealistic expectations. Ultimately it is not social comment but spiritual distillation which Kancheli offers, and unlike some composers he has the ear and the technique to bring it off.
Top-flight performances from the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra—they play with most of the expressive range of native Georgians and superior refinement. Excellent recording quality too. No sign of text or translation for the brief Latin prayers.'