GIYA KANCHELI Exil
Exil is dedicated to Manfred Eicher, the founder of the ECM label, to whom Kancheli paid such glowing tribute in his interview with SJ in last April's Gramophone. And this five-movement, 48-minute song-cycle is in many ways a true ECM piece – wholly contemporary in spirit, yet not excluding any listener with ears to hear and a soul to suffer.
I suppose I should not be giving a puff for a recording company. Indeed some might counter by saying that music like Kancheli's, which increasingly wears its spirituality on its sleeve, is in danger of creating its own clique of New Age compassion-obsessed fellow-travellers. Certainly there is a danger that a concept such as that of Exil, so resonant in a world of multiple ethnic conflagrations, emotionally blackmails us into uncritical approval. But that would only be so if the music itself were deficient. All I can say is that I am immediately drawn in by the hovering, flute-timbred lines which make up the very discreet taped background to the first movement, a setting of Psalm 23. They are like melancholy calls over bleak mountains, and they return to punctuate and haunt the rest of the cycle. The very first chord which joins in, so familiar yet so elusive, has Kancheli's signature all over it. I love the way his microtonally divergent tape part can never quite be grasped by or reconciled to the 12 semitones (or more usually just plain diatonic triads) of the live instruments. I love the way the soprano and flutes shadow one another, diverge and coalesce. I love the uncanny balance Kancheli manages to strike between profound consolation and, as I hear it, even more profound inconsolability. Exemplary performances and recording make this a valuable addition to the discography of one of the precious voices in the music of our time. (Gramophone)