New Music: Gulfs of Silence



The music composed by Georgian expatriate Giya Kancheli always raises the weightiest issues: “Grief, regret, the repudiation of violence. Hope predominates over happiness and joy,” he writes in the liner notes to this new release. Of the two tone poems for orchestra recorded here, the first, “Simi,” is subheaded “Joyless thoughts for violoncello and orchestra.” As played by Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (with the Koninklijk Filharmonisch Orkest van Vlaanderen, conducted by Jansug Kakhidze), it makes its quiet, mournful way through a vast empty landscape. Kancheli here has distilled the angst of Shostakovich, one of his heroes, down to its direst essence. “Magnum Ignotum,” the title work, combines wind instruments and taped voices into a folkloric liturgical minimalism that leaves much room for pondering. As Kancheli writes at the conclusion of his liner comments, “If the continuation of a musical idea after a long rest has always been of particular interest to me, then this formally enigmatic, mysteriously beautiful piece must be followed by total silence.”

George Tysh is Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at