Today one of the most successful and admired Georgian composers has died after a long illness, aged 84. Although Giya Kancheli is remembered with his remarkably beautiful film soundtracks, he has composed, performed and conducted many significant scores in classical music, too. And still, he has become the spirit of Tbilisi through his plain but magnificent melody "Yellow Leaves" that will forever associate with the golden autumn of the capital city where the Georgian musician was born on 10 August 1935.
Even after he moved to Berlin, Germany in 1991, and then in 1995 to Antwerp, Belgium, where he became composer-in-residence to the Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra, Giya Kancheli still belonged to his beloved home town. Therefore, it is rather symbolic that one of the true Tbilisians shall lay to rest during the Tbilisi City festival, seeing off by the fall foliage he admired a lot.
A family spokesman announced that respecting Kancheli's extremely modest last wish, the burial was planned to take place in the Didube Pantheon on 5 October. This will be a great disappointment for the Mtatsminda Pantheon of Writers and Public Figures since Giya Kancheli was not only a talented composer but an equally great public figure and philanthropist. The farewell ceremonies will take place at the address: 6 Tovstonogov St, Tbilisi, on 3 and 4 October. The funeral procession will start at 14:00 in Rustaveli Theatre.
Giya Kancheli's music is an essential part of some of the most famous Georgian films in the late twentieth century. He formed a successful partnership with the outstanding movie directors Eldar Shengelaya ("The Extraordinary Exhibition" (1968), "The Eccentrics" (1974) and "Samanishvili's Stepmother" (1977) both with Jansug Kakhidze, "Blue Mountains, or Unbelievable Story" (1983)) and Georgiy Danelya ("Don't Grieve" (1968), "Mimino" (1977), "Kin-Dza-Dza!" (1986), "Passport" (1990), and "Fortuna" (2000)).
Giya Kancheli's work on "Peola" (1970), "Qvevri" (1970), "When Almonds Blossomed" (1972), "The Record" (1973), "The Magic Egg" (Annimation, 1974), "Knights errant" (1975), "Khanuma" (1978), "Several Interviews on Personal Matters" (1978), "Soil of the Ancestors" (1979), "Earth, this Is Your Son" (1980), "Life of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza" (1988), "Oh, this Terrible TV" (1990), "Shindisi" (2019) and others ensured him a special place in the hearts of his fellow Georgians as well as the numerous admirers all over the world.
US Embassy Tbilisi, Georgia posted on its Facebook page: "Today the world lost a legendary composer, Giya Kancheli. His music transcended time and culture and it will live on forever. Today more than ever, the yellow leaves seem silent".
Opera magazine tweeted the same day: "RIP Giya Kancheli, the Georgian composer who died this morning in Tbilisi, aged 84. Long before he became internationally famous, he spent two decades as music director of the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi. Between 1982 and ‘84 he wrote an opera, Music for the Living".
Professor Ivan Moody, the British composer and conductor born in London, wrote in Gramophone magazine: "With the death of Giya Kancheli at the age of 84, the world has lost a musical colossus. His music, which on the surface became ever more austere, was in fact always a semi-dormant volcano, liable to erupt unexpectedly at any moment with shattering power... Kancheli was unfailingly charming as a person; I had the good fortune to meet him several times over the years, both in London (at the Almeida Festival, in 1990, where he was genuinely delighted that I had written the first published article in English on his music) and in Lisbon. As he lit cigarette after cigarette, we discussed his work and his motivation... and it was clear to me that I was in the presence of a man of singular, unwavering purpose. At the premiere of his searingly beautiful Diplipito (1997), written for the countertenor Derek Lee Ragin, an eminent Spanish composer sitting next to me complained that Kancheli had not done anything with his musical material. But he’d missed the point: the granitic force of that material was itself the essence of Kancheli’s unique vision, and its own justification".
Martin Luter King had a dream. Some people chase the American dream, others try to catch a glimpse of the Georgian dream. Giya Kancheli, the modest genius, had a shared dream with Jansug Kakhidze, another prominent Georgian composer. In March 2019 Mr Kancheli told the journalist of OK magazine, "Sadly, I shall not live long enough to witness the start of traditional, philharmonic life in my city. This means to inform the music lovers long ahead of when they can attend performances of music by Mozart, Brahms, Bach, Stravinsky, etc. Jansug Kakhidze wished exactly the same as I do but he did not live to those times, and the same will be about me. The country and the nation cannot be considered of high cultural standards if these classical giants or talented representatives of modern music are not performed".
Giya Kancheli was a true magician who played with notes and composed dreams with sounds and silence. He died but the music he left behind still reflects part of his spirit. Or it seems so during a 10-second silence right after the final note from his melody fades away completely. It can be sensed that "he is here... he is here", now and forever imprinted in our hearts.