RFE/RL’s Sofia Kornienko has interviewed the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli at his home in Antwerp. The interview is remarkable for the insight it gives into the nature of the relationship – and the disconnection – between the arts, including music, and political thought and action. In a series of what amount to reflective miniature essays, Kancheli expresses his sadness at the terrible events of August, which in addition to killings of civilians and ethnic cleansing have included apparently gratuitous acts of calculated nihilism, like the torching by Russian forces of large areas of beautiful Georgian forest land. Kancheli also expresses bewilderment at the actions of his Ossetian friend and colleague the conductor Valery Gergiyev, “who didn’t — as he should have — dedicate his performance of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky to fallen Ossetians and Georgians as well.”
One or two excerpts from the article and interview:
The following is a note the 73-year-old composer included in a dedication to Mariinsky Theater director Valery Gergiyev on his 50th birthday:
“Our creative and personal relationship, which has endured many years, has filled me with hope that the powerful energy you possess will travel the globe and return, like a boomerang, to the symbolic circle Bertolt Brecht called ‘the chalk circle of the Caucasus.’ This piece, which I have dedicated to you, I named an Ossetian word, ‘Ouarzon,’ which means ‘love.’ When I transcribed this word in Latin letters it turned out, to my surprise, that it sounds like ‘war zone.’ Unfortunately, this transcription reflects the reality of events transpiring in the Caucasus. It is commonly known that the difference between love and the creation of a ‘war zone’ is just one poorly thought-out step. The way back, on the other hand, is long and difficult.”I embrace you,
That was in May 2003.
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I cannot go there [to Russia] because people who were very close to me have believed this propaganda, and it’s very unpleasant for me. But my attitude toward these people has remained the same, because they are innocent! I repeat this over and over: if these people had had the power to decide, then everything would have been all right.
I can see before my eyes scenes of Georgians being expelled from Moscow, transported out like cattle. I saw that giant military plane land and open its rear entrance, and people walked out, after having stood for two hours because there were no seats. Just like they transport cows, so they deported the Georgians from Moscow.
And in spite of all this, relations between ordinary people remained normal. They are still normal, and they will continue to be. They definitely will be! But some time has to pass, that’s all. Some time has to pass, and I think something will change in Russia. Won’t there be a time when Russia will go down the path of civilized life?
Kancheli: You know, since Pushkin’s time it has been a bit freer in Tbilisi for all the great men who have come there, and lived there. I won’t list them. I would only like to recall the surnames of recent geniuses who could not live without Tbilisi, like Pasternak.
RFE/RL: What do you think he would say right now?
Kancheli: You know, when I saw what happened, when I felt it, I thought, “How lucky are those who did not live to see this and left life before it happened….” Boris Leonidovich Pasternak is among those fortunate ones. I don’t think any of them could have imagined it. But it’s normal: Pasternak could not imagine what Vladimir Vladimirovich imagines.