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Gia Kanczeli / photo Gia Chkhatarashvili
GalleryGia Kanczeli / photo Gia Chkhatarashvili

For the first time, the cycle of four ‘prayers’ by Georgian composer Gia Kancheli titled Life without Christmas will be performed on one day, at times corresponding to the names of the individual parts: in the morning, at noon, in the evening and before midnight.

The composer will be a guest at the concert and the entire Nostalgia Festival. The concert will begin on the second festival day, Saturday 24 November at 8:00 a.m., and will end at midnight. During intervals between the pieces-concerts, we would like to invite you to the Common Table at Galeria u Jezuitów, where meals will be served to those participants who will have exchanged their free admission passes for festival wristbands.

Let us listen carefully to Life without Christmas, ‘to what lies behind the title. This could be a need for metaphysics, for finding one’s own spirituality or simply being together with others: in music, silence or around a table,’ says Nostalgia director Michał Merczyński. The concept of an all-day meeting and concert, which will interweave music with sharing meals, listening to excerpts from the Bible and discussions, is to ‘let our autumn festival release in us, to quote Kancheli, “an expectation of change, an expectation of joy, of a feast that has not happened yet”.’

Composed in the early 1990s, the cycle of four ‘prayers’: Morning Prayers, Midday Prayers, Evening Prayers and Midnight Prayers, will be performed by Orkiestra Collegium F conducted by Marcin Sompoliński.

‘If these are prayers, they are so in a very broad, extra-liturgical sense. Within them, Kancheli does not refer directly to any religion, but calls for a spirituality that searches, does not submit to any creed, and wakes up at night with a scream, “Where is God (if He exists at all)”? It is music echoing with the voices of angels that have never been heard. It is a song of innocence in an uneven struggle against aggression, violence and evil,’ writes Dorota Kozińska about the Georgian composer’s cycle.

A similar opinion on Life without Christmas is expressed by musicologist Krzysztof Stefański: ‘Spirituality in Kancheli’s works should not be identified with any particular religion. The eponymous “Christmas” should rather be understood as a system of values, a light that overcomes the darkness of this world.’

Gia Kancheli was born in Tbilisi in 1935. He is one of the most unique Georgian composers. Having been the music director at the Rustaweli Theatre in Tbilisi for two decades, he left Georgia in 1991. At first, he lived and worked in Berlin, and subsequently he settled Antwerp. Today he shares his time between Belgium and his native Georgia. He composes for artists from all over the world, and his works have been performed by musicians like Jansug Kakhidze, Dennis Russell Davies, Kim Kashkashian, Gidon Kremer, Yuriy Bashmiet, Mstislav Rostropovich and the Kronos Quartet. His albums are released on the ECM label, which Nostalgia has been working with since the festival’s inception.

Kancheli is particularly famous for his large-scale compositions. So far, he has written seven symphonies, an opera and many pieces for chamber orchestra. Each of his works is based on some general principles that are often non-musical, for instance the length of breath, silence, tension, calmness and excitement. This is why Kancheli’s works are so organic in nature, combining archaic melodies alongside modern ones.

A meeting with Giya Kancheli will be held after the screening of a documentary about the composer directed by Mariusz Grzegorzek.

The intervals between the subsequent parts of the concert programme will be filled with meetings with Rev. Wacław Oszajca SJ, led by Rev. Tomasz Dostatni OP, a reading of the Audio Bible by Jerzy Trela and Miłosz Reczek, based on the concept by Krzysztof Czeczot, and the screening of the film The Emigrants by Syrian director Mohamad Abdulaziz.

The programme of the 11th Nostalgia Festival Poznań will also include the premiere performance in one evening of all the pieces from ‘Pianohooligan’ Piotr Orzechowski’s album 24 Preludes and Improvisations, as well as the premiere of the album Taratil 'id al-milad, featuring Christmas carols performed in Arabic by Barbara Kinga Majewska and Marcin Masecki.