Georgia’s Acclaimed Composer Giya Kancheli’s Pieces Performed at Summit Music Festival in NY

A special evening celebrating Georgia’s most distinguished living composer Giya Kancheli’s masterpieces was held at the renowned Summit Music Festival in New York on August 4. The evening consisted of two parts: a documentary film about Giya Kancheli was screened, followed by a concert ‘ “Miniatures for Clarinet and Piano”, unveiling pieces of the great maestro.

Particularly for this important occasion, Director of the film Olga Gregory and Producer Antimony Gregory came from Canada to screen their mutual documentary film ‘Giya Kancheli: I used to hate the Clarinet.’ In order to perform the music of the great Georgian composer, celebrated Clarinetist Julian Milkis, also coined the only student of the clarinet legend Benny Goodman, paid a special visit from Switzerland, while well-known pianist Vadim Monastirsky came from Jerusalem.

Founded in 1991, the Summit Music Festival assembles a faculty of the highest caliber, representing the finest traditions of Europe, Asia and the American continents, to offer a concentrated study in ensemble and orchestral programs to talented students from all over the world. Efrem Briskin, Artistic Director, and David Krieger, Executive Director, began with a small summer music camp program which transformed into a summer music festival of the highest quality with an international character. By 1993, they had established the basic structure of its present program to serve serious pre-professional international musicians and offer its host community an exciting array of chamber music and orchestral concerts. This year, for the first time, the festival hosted the Kancheli Program with the participation of distinguished musicians.

The acclaimed Georgian maestro composed music for Georgian theater and cinema for years and his works have accompanied some of Georgia’s most iconic cinematography. Throughout his life, Kancheli has composed more than 37 orchestral pieces, 10 chamber music pieces and 10 choral operas. Kancheli has lived in Western Europe since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. First, he lived in Berlin and later moved to Antwerp where he became composer-in-residence for the Royal Flemish Philharmonic. Kancheli has seen world premieres of his works in Seattle, as well as with the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur. He continues to receive regular commissions. New CDs of his recent works are regularly released, notably on the ECM label. The spectacular musician has earned international recognition and has been named among the world’s greatest movie composers alongside Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota.

The hall was full of Georgian immigrants and locals eager to see the film and enjoy heavenly beautiful melodies.

The film starts with Julian Milkis talking about Kancheli: “I heard his music for the first time in 1987. I was driving the car, the radio was on and I suddenly stopped and sat without moving for around 15 minutes. It was a real shock, since I’d never heard such music before. The melody captivated me to such an extent I got lost in it and arrived late to my own concert,” Milkis recalled.

“The film Giya Kancheli: I used to hate the Clarinet was born by chance,” says husband of the Director and famous TV-host Antimony Gregory. The couple paid a visit to Antwerp to record an interview with the notable composer. The conversation with Kancheli lasted for over three hours. As a result, the recording was so interesting that they decided to continue recording the interview and make a documentary film. Although at first the maestro was hesitant, mutual friend Julian Milkis managed to persuade him. Milkis is sure that Kancheli’s music will not be forgotten after 50 years, or even after 100.

The second part of the Kancheli evening was opened with a grandiose concert Miniatures for Violin and Piano. Vadim Monastirsky, famous pianist and Professor at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in Israel played the Royal Piano accompanied by Julian Milkis’ clarinet. They have already performed the Miniatures both in Jerusalem and America a couple of times.

“I play each note with pain,” Professor Monastirsky said during the rehearsal, a few hours before the concert. “This is amazing, I have played so many pieces in my life, but I think that a musician must feel Kancheli in order to understand and experience the pain in his music”, the acclaimed Professor noted.

“It doesn’t matter in which place among 22 countries I have played Kancheli’s music, be it Germany, Italy, Ireland or Mexico, everywhere the audience listened to his pieces, they literally cried. It is really unbelievable,” Julian Milkis said.

The concert, presenting 18 miniatures full of deafening sadness and quiet joy, bitter glee and merciless self-irony, left the guests speechless. The audience listened with bated breath. People who heard the music felt happiness and at the same time sobbed. Half of the hall was emigrants from Georgia, and to them the music of Giya Kancheli performed by Vadim Monastirsky and Julian Milkis was familiar from the old movies, evoking nostalgia and arousing mixed emotions and memories from the past. The other half of the audience was American. They did not suffer from childhood memories when listening to this music, but cried from happiness and sadness on hearing the amazing melodies. They reacted to Kanchelis’ music in the same way as the people in 22 other countries, ultimate proof that Giya Kancheli’s music will endure centuries and continue to impact people and their feelings.

By Liko Chigladze

08 August 2019 18:59