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Giya Kancheli

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Gia Kancheli
Kancheli in March 2010
Kancheli in March 2010
Background information
Born(1935-08-10)10 August 1935
Tiflis, Georgian SSR, Transcaucasian SFSR, USSR
Died2 October 2019(2019-10-02) (aged 84)
GenresSoundtrack, classical music
Instrument(s)Piano, keyboard, synthesizer
Years active1961–2019

Gia Kancheli (Georgian: გია ყანჩელი; 10 August 1935 – 2 October 2019)[1] was a Georgian composer.[2] He was born in Tbilisi, Georgia but resided in Belgium.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kancheli lived first in Berlin, and from 1995 in Antwerp, where he became composer-in-residence for the Royal Flemish Philharmonic.[3] He died in Tbilisi in an age of 84.



In his symphonies, Kancheli's musical language typically consists of slow scraps of minor-mode melody against long, subdued, anguished string discords. Rodion Shchedrin referred to Kancheli as "an ascetic with the temperament of a maximalist; a restrained Vesuvius".[4]

Kancheli wrote seven symphonies, and what he termed a liturgy for viola and orchestra, called Mourned by the Wind. His Fourth Symphony received its American premiere, with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yuri Temirkanov, in January 1978, not long before the cultural freeze in the United States against Soviet culture. Glasnost allowed Kancheli to regain exposure, and he began to receive frequent commissions, as well as performances within Europe and North America.[5]

Championed internationally by Lera Auerbach, Dennis Russell Davies, Jansug Kakhidze, Gidon Kremer, Yuri Bashmet, Kim Kashkashian, Mstislav Rostropovich, and the Kronos Quartet, Kancheli saw world premieres of his works in Seattle, as well as with the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur. He continued to receive regular commissions. Recordings of his recent works are regularly released, notably on the ECM label.[6]

His work Styx is written for solo viola, chorus and orchestra. It is a farewell to his friends Avet Terterian and Alfred Schnittke, whose names are sung by the choir at certain points.[7]

For two decades, he served as the music director of the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi. He composed an opera Music for the Living, in collaboration with Rustaveli director Robert Sturua, and in December 1999, the opera was restaged for the Deutsches National Theater in Weimar.[8]

He wrote music for films such as Georgiy Daneliya's science fiction film Kin-dza-dza! (1986) and its 2013 animated remake.[9]



Played in films





  • Symphonies
    • Symphony No. 1 (1967)
    • Symphony No. 2 "Songs" (1970)
    • Symphony No. 3 (1973)
    • Symphony No. 4 "To the Memory of Michelangelo" (1974)
    • Symphony No. 5 "To the Memory of My Parents" (1977)
    • Symphony No. 6 (1978–1980)
    • Symphony No. 7 "Epilogue" (1986)
  • Concerto for Orchestra (1961)
  • Mourned by the Wind (Vom Winde beweint), liturgy for viola (or cello) and orchestra (1989)
  • Evening Prayers (Abendgebete) from "Life Without Christmas" (1991)
  • Abii ne viderem ("I turned away so as not to see") for alto flute / viola, piano and string orchestra (1992–1994)
  • Another Step... (Noch Einen Schritt...) (1992)
  • Wingless (1993)
  • Magnum Ignotum (1994)
  • Trauerfarbenes Land (1994)
  • Lament, Music of Mourning in Memory of Luigi Nono (1994)
  • Simi, "Joyless Thoughts", for cello and orchestra (1995)
  • ...à la Duduki (1995)
  • V & V (1995)
  • Valse Boston (1996)
  • Diplipito (1997)
  • Childhood Revisited (Besuch In Der Kindheit) (1998)
  • Sio (1998)
  • Rokwa (1999)
  • And Farewell Goes Out Sighing... (1999)
  • A Little Daneliade (2000)
  • ...al Niente (2000)
  • Ergo (2000)
  • Don’t Grieve (2001)
  • Fingerprints (2002)
  • Lonesome – 2 great Slava from 2 GKs (2002)
  • Warzone (2002)
  • Twilight (2004)
  • Ex Contrario (2006)
  • Kapote (2006)
  • Silent Prayer (2007)
  • Broken Chant (2007)
  • Ilori (2010)
  • Lingering for large orchestra (2012)
  • Nu.Mu.Zu (I don't know, 2015), premiered by the National Orchestra of Belgium[10]
  • Letters to Friends (2016)

Chamber music

  • Woodwind Quintet (1961)
  • Morning Prayers for chamber orchestra and tape (1990; 1st work from the 1990–95 four-part cycle A Life without Christmas)
  • Midday Prayers for soprano, clarinet and chamber orchestra (1990; 2nd work from the cycle A Life without Christmas)
  • Night Prayers for string quartet (1992–1995; 4th work from the cycle A Life without Christmas)
  • Caris Mere (After the wind) for soprano and viola (1994)
  • Magnum Ignotum for wind ensemble and tape (1994)
  • Valse Boston for piano and strings (1996)
  • Instead of a Tango for violin, bandoneon, piano and double bass (1996)
  • Time... and Again (1996)
  • In L'Istesso Tempo for piano quartet (1997)
  • Sio for strings, piano and percussion (1998)
  • Ninna Nanna for flute and string quartet (2008), commissioned by the National Flute Association
  • Chiaroscuro for string quartet (2011)
  • Woodwind Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon (2013)


  • Music for the living, opera in two acts (1982–1984)
  • Light Sorrow, music for orchestra, boys' choir and two boy sopranos (for the 40th anniversary of the victory over fascism) (1984)
  • Evening Prayers, for eight alto voices and chamber orchestra (1991; 3rd work from the 1990–95 four-part cycle A Life without Christmas)
  • Psalm 23, for soprano and chamber orchestra (1993)
  • Lament, concerto for violin, soprano and orchestra (1994)
  • Diplipito, for cello, counter-tenor and chamber orchestra (1997)
  • And Farewell Goes Out Sighing... for violin, countertenor and orchestra (1999)
  • Styx, for viola, mixed choir and orchestra (1999)
  • Little Imber (Kancheli), for solo voice, children's and men's choirs and small ensemble (2003)
  • Amao Omi, for SATB choir and saxophone quartet (2005)
  • Lulling the Sun, for six-part mixed choir and percussion (2008)
  • "Dixi", for mixed choir and orchestra (2009)


  1. ^ n.a. (28 October 2019). "Giya Kancheli obituary". The Times (London). Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  2. ^ Peter Rollberg (2009). Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema. US: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 318–319. ISBN 978-0-8108-6072-8.
  3. ^ "Giya Kancheli turns 75 on 10 August". Sikorski. August 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  4. ^ Ainslie, Sarah. "Giya Kancheli". schirmer.com, 2006. Retrieved on 31 January 2007.
  5. ^ "Giya Kancheli". www.wisemusicclassical.com. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  6. ^ Records, E. C. M. "ECM Records". ECM Records. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  7. ^ Tuttle, Raymond. "Yuri Bashmet Plays", classical.net; retrieved 2 April 2010.
  8. ^ "Ghia Kancheli - Ascetic with Energy of Maximalist", davisvenot.ge; retrieved 2 April 2010.
  9. ^ Rickards, Guy (7 October 2019). "Giya Kancheli obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  10. ^ Serinus, Jason Victor (30 October 2015). "Introspection and sonic explosion from composer Giya Kancheli". Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 November 2015.