Piet Koornhof (violin), Albie van Schalkwyk (piano), Susan Mouton (cello)
18 Miniatures (2019)
Delos DE3589 [62’41”]
Producer Piet Koornhof / Engineer Stefan van der Walt
Recorded 9 & 10 April 2021 (Miniatures), 29 April 2022 (Middelheim) at Conservatoire Hall, School of Music, North West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa
Reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Giya Kancheli made his name primarily in the field of orchestral music. The Georgian composer’s style ranges from prayerful reflection to more volatile thoughts, sometimes in immediate juxtaposition. The music carries a wide dynamic range, showing its worth for the big screen as well as the concert hall or home cinema.
Kancheli did indeed write for plays and films, and extracted some of this material into 18 Miniatures for violin and piano, a rare foray into chamber music. This new album takes that extended suite and adds a late piano trio, Middelheim, dedicated to the hospital of that name in Antwerp where the composer was resuscitated in 2016.
What’s the music like?
The miniatures are well realised musical postcards, at times playful or amusing and then serious or sardonic.
There is a childlike simplicity at play in Kancheli’s writing that is immediately evident in the first piece, Lontano, which ends in a haze of harmonics, and in the third piece, a deceptively simple utterance marked Cantabile. The same marking is used for piece no.16, a short piece whose phrasing has a notable breadth.
In the fourth piece (Grazioso) the violin trills and soars like a bird, while one of the longest pieces, the twelfth (Quasi recitando) finds the instrument brooding to distracted piano accompaniment. Another Quasi recitando, the piece no.14, gives vent to longer phrases that are beautifully sung yet autumnally tinged.
The trio is a powerful piece of work, depicting with startling clarity Kancheli’s moments of distress in the hospital in Antwerp. It does this through a stern, alarming gesture at the start.
Does it all work?
Yes – though listeners may want to dip into the 18 Miniatures a little more, rather than listen to them in an unbroken span of 45 minutes.
In the Miniatures, Piet Koornhof and Albie van Schalkwyk capture the simplicity and feeling of the music, helped by a recording that gives them space. The intensity of the trio is impressive in this performance, sustained throughout a tense and meaningful 17 minutes.
Is it recommended?
Yes – it offers another perspective on Kancheli’s writing, right at the end of his life. The performances are excellent too.
You can get more information on this release at the Delos website