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Giya Kancheli: Simple Music / Jenny Lin, Guy Klucevsek

Release Date: 04/02/2021
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30173
Composer:  Giya Kancheli Performer:  Jenny Lin ,  Guy Klucevsek Number of Discs: 1

Simple Music for piano is a collection of inspired fragments from themes of classic Georgian plays and films for the stage and screen by Giya Kancheli (1935-2019). On this album the set is performed, improvised, arranged, even reimagined by the innovative pianist Jenny Lin and accordion virtuoso Guy Klucevsek as an engaging mixture of solos and duos.


Jenny Lin recorded July 13-16 2020 at Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia.
Guy Klucevsek recorded August 20, 2020 at his home in Staten Island, New York.

Executive Producers: Jon Feidner, Anthony B. Creamer III
Producer: Dan Merceruio
Recording, Mixing and Mastering Engineer: Daniel Shores
Read more Engineer: Dan Merceruio
Remote Recording Engineer Guy Klucevsek: Andreas K. Meyer & Jennifer Nulsen
Piano Technician: John Veitch
Piano: Steinway Model D #590904 (New York)

Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Cover Art: Terry Winters
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford


Simple Music is the name of a CD from Steinway & Sons on which pianist Jenny Lin and accordionist Guy Klucevsek play 33 miniatures by Giya Kancheli. The longest of them lasts a little over three minutes. Jenny Lin and Guy Klucevsek play the works, mostly reminiscent of salon or bar music, in a sophisticated and atmospheric manner. Definitely very entertaining!

-- Pizzicato

"The album is of our time, illuminating the power and possibility of music making during the COVID-19 pandemic. The result is stunningly beautiful, haunting in its simplicity, equally melancholic and lighthearted."

-- Broadway World

The Georgian composer Giya Kancheli was one of the many composers I first encountered thanks to Manfred Eichler and the albums he produced for ECM Records. Those that chose to visit this composer's Wikipedia page will see that he was prodigiously productive, primarily in orchestral music but also in chamber music and several approaches to vocal music. However, those categories are preceded by an extensive ""Filmography"" section. For two decades of his life, he served as Music Director of the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi; and this led to his writing music for dozens of films, as well as stagings of plays. When I wrote about him for in 2011, I observed that most of those films ""remain unknown outside the Russian-speaking world;"" and things do not seem to have changed very much since then. However, in 2009 he published Simple Music for Piano: 33 Miniatures for Piano. As the title suggests, these are brief ""sketches"" that Kancheli ""harvested"" from all the incidental music he had composed. Eicher decided to celebrate Kancheli's 75th birthday (which was on August 10, 2010) with a recording of selections from that 2009 publication. Rather than restrict the album to solo piano performances, Eicher chose to follow the advice of Kancheli's son, Sandro, and feature the Argentine bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi. Shortly thereafter the planning extended to include violinist Gidon Kremer and Andrei Pushkarev, who had performed on vibraphone with the Kremerata Baltica. The resulting album, Themes from the Songbook, consisted of only nineteen selections from Simple Music. Steinway & Sons [has released] a recording of the entire collection. The pianist is Jenny Lin, but she is joined by accordionist Guy Klucevsek. Each of them presents a solo account of a generous number of the compositions, and they also perform as a duo on many of the tracks. There is a certain degree of satisfaction that comes from a beginning-to-end traversal of Kancheli's 33 miniatures. The music was certainly not originally created for that purpose. On the other hand, those that decide to follow the track listing, which identifies the plays and films for which the music was written, may be either puzzled or amused over the question of how the music relates to the narrative. At the same time, I am willing to give Kancheli the benefit of the doubt with regard to how these 33 pieces have been ordered. Mind you, I suspect that Saluzzi, Kremer, and Pushkarev also gave considerable thought as to how the excerpts they selected should be ordered; but, on the new Simple Music album, I assume that Lin and Klucevsek chose to honor the composer's own ordering (even if not all of the selections were performed as piano solos). Those that recall my rants against responding to COVID-19 with soothing blandness should take note that there is nothing bland about Kancheli's music. There is always some undercurrent of wit in each of these miniatures. The music may have been intended to be "incidental;" but Kancheli always seemed to know how to make a listener sit up and take notice, even when the music may be providing a transition from one scene to another. When it comes to enduring pandemic conditions, this is decidedly my kind of quietude!

-- The Rehearsal Studio

Giya Kancheli died in 2019, leaving behind an imposing catalog that included a number of late large works for orchestra and chorus. The Georgian composer also wrote in a more intimate style, often for films and theater. These pursuits kept his work out of view of the censors of the Soviet era, so eager to hunt down modernist composers. Thirty-three of these pieces, ephemeral but attractive, are collected in Simple Music. Pianist Jenny Lin and accordionist Guy Klucevsek realize these works on a Steinway CD.

They are not the first to create a duo version of the pieces – another recording is for piano and cello. The accordion and piano create a cabaret ambience often heard in European cinema. Lin and Klucevsek are well matched musical partners. They allow gentle, jazzy, material like “Theme from ‘When Almonds Blossomed’” and “Theme from ‘Mimino’” to unfurl with lyricism, but without undue sentimentality. Jaunty selections like “Theme from Mother Courage and Her Children” and a “Rag-time from Richard III” are clever and instantly hummable. The pieces also reference a number of classical composers, Chopin, Johann Strauss, and Stravinsky among them. Kancheli had a distinctive voice of his own, but it is fascinating to hear him working in a milieu that encourages pastiche. Lin and Klucevsek explore Simple Music’s considerable charms with a sense of wonder and adventure.

-- Sequenza 21

Giya Kancheli (1935-2019) is known primarily for his orchestral and choral pieces, works of austere beauty that can burst with vitality or violence at a moment's notice. Rodion Shchedrin called him ""an ascetic with the temperament of a maximalist—a restrained Vesuvius"". Like many American listeners, I'm sure, I was introduced to his music by way of Kim Kashkashian's account of his extensive, elegiac viola concerto Mourned by the Wind (ECM 1471, M/A 1993). "Large-scale" and "Kancheli" are, then, two words that belong together in my head. This disc offers something very different: Simple Music, a set of 33 light-hearted miniatures for piano, drawn from his music for theatre and film. Many of these fall into one of two stylistic categories: rainy-day cafe jazz and tongue-in-cheek oompah marches. All are ordered with variety in mind. Kancheli goes further by encouraging improvisation and creative interpretation from the performers. In this way, pianist Jenny Lin recruits accordionist Guy Kulcevsek, who adds imaginative counterpoint to the piano pieces and transcribes some for solo accordion. Both add tasteful flourishes and dissonances to the pieces. In all, a lovely diversion with just the right amount of charm and humor. A note about the recording: as this was during Covid lockdown, the instrument parts were recorded separately: Lin in Virginia in July 2020, and Kulcevsek in Staten Island the following month. You would never guess they were not in the same room. I commend both performers and the recording engineers on a job well done under difficult circumstances.

-- American Record Guide

The prominent Georgian composer Giya Kancheli (1935–2019) wrote a great deal of music that could be emotionally powerful, even wrenching. This new release is something quite different. Simple Music is a collection of brief fragments described by the composer as follows: “While dedicating myself to symphonic and chamber music, I simultaneously wrote music for the stage and screen. No wonder, then, that certain themes originally intended for plays and films made their way into my larger works or that the large forms themselves sometimes contained episodes reminiscent of incidental music. I myself can’t always remember where a particular theme first appeared, not least because the vast majority of more than a hundred of the films and plays for which I wrote music have now passed into history.

“I have decided to revive some lost fragments in a collection of 33 miniatures. Time will tell if they can survive outside of their original context. Meanwhile, I’ll allow myself to give a little advice to anyone interested in these humble sketches.

“The simplicity of presentation does not preclude but rather encourages freedom of interpretation, particularly for those with a gift for improvising. Strict adherence to tempo markings, dynamic indications and performance instructions is by no means obligatory.”

This explanation, placed at the front of the score and included in the booklet, intrigued me. It obviously interested pianist Jenny Lin and accordionist Guy Klucevsek. Together as a duo they perform 10 selections; 17 are assigned to solo piano and the remaining six to solo accordion. All of the music is tuneful and, for the most part, witty and light-hearted. Occasionally, as in “Twelfth Night,” No. 21 in the set, and “Tears Were Falling” (No. 27), the melody is interrupted by some wildly dissonant clusters, but that is a rare occurrence. Others, like “The Bear’s Kiss” (No. 23), are so casual that we could be listening to a cocktail pianist in a bar. In fact, any group of half a dozen of these miniatures makes very enjoyable listening. Some of the melodies are quite catchy. But after a while they all begin to run together. I have long admired the music of Kancheli, but by the end of this disc I had run out of patience. A group of miniatures needs enough variety to sustain interest over the period of an hour. Enjoyable in segments, the whole of Simple Music is simply too unvaried.

The performers play with obvious relish for the music. They have divided the 33 numbers between themselves wisely, and the recorded sound is fine. The detailed notes by Ethan Iverson are very helpful.

-- Fanfare Read less