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25th anniversary of the death of Alexi Matchavariani

Hochgeladene Datei

On New Year's Eve 25 years ago, 31 December 1995, the composer Alexi Matchavariani died. The folk music of his homeland was always of great importance to the Georgian composer Alexi Matchavariani, who was born in 1913.  In his first works, written in the 1930s, he treated the rhythmic and melodic elements of Georgian folk songs.  But the progressive tendencies of Soviet contemporary music of the period also influenced his work.  Matchavariani’s style thus presents itself as a poly-stylistic dialogue, a mixture of traditional Georgian music and contemporary compositional techniques. 

The multi-award-winning musician studied at the Tbilisi Conservatory, where he graduated in 1936. Here he taught music theory from 1940 and was appointed professor of composition in 1963.  His creative output covers an extremely broad spectrum: chamber music, romances, symphonies, operas and ballets. The composer’s first great success was the Piano Concerto of 1944, but his real breakthrough came in 1950 with the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, a very lyrical work given a special charm for its combination of dia-tonic folk music and chromaticism. Matchavariani also earned recognition with the ballet “Othello” in symphonic style. The piece was performed several times abroad (e.g., Tokyo, Bucharest, Helsinki), as well as in Russia. 

Also noteworthy is Symphony No. 7 “Gelati” for mixed choir and orchestra. “Gelati” is the name of a church building located in the west of Georgia near the city of Kutaisi, which alongside its academy formed a kind of spiritual centre of the country in the High Middle Ages.  The Gelati Cathedral is dedicated to the Mary, Mother of God. The name “Gelati” is derived from the Greek word “Genati”, which means birth. Until the modern period, Gelati was a simple monastery, yet the most important kings of Georgia are buried within its walls. The archbishop of Gelati was called “Genateli”. 

Only a few years after the great success of his ballet “Othello” in 1957, Matchavariani decided to tackle an opera based on material from Shakespeare's “Hamlet”. He began to write a libretto in collaboration with Georgian director Meliva, based on a translation by Ivane Machabeli.  Interrupted by a long illness, the project proved to be lengthy and exhausting. The opera, in which a dramatic tenor sings the lead role, consists of two acts and requires an exceptionally large orchestra. “My father was a person of strong principles and values regarding truth and democratic ideals,” says the composer’s son, Vakhtang Matchavariani.  “He often came into conflict with the Soviet state.”  This resulted in the banning of Matchavariani’s works in Georgia.  But at the very moment when the Georgian government had stopped the opera “Hamlet” being performed, the Leningrad Kirov Theatre produced his ballet “The Knight in the Tiger Skin” in the face of all opposition.  In the 1980s, Vakhtang Matchavariani himself created a three-part orchestral suite from the Hamlet opera, which received its German premiere in Lübeck under his baton.

Alexi Matchavariani’s music can be understood as a reflection of his lifelong search for the synthesis of national musical influences and new compositional techniques. In 2008, Alexi Matchavariani’s book “Creator and Time” was presented, it had been completed by the composer shortly before his death and was published posthumously in Georgia.

Alexi Matchavariani
(23.09.1913 – 31.12.1995)
25th anniversary of his death
- Opera “Hamlet”
- Ballet “Othello”
- Symphonies no. 1-7
- String Quartets No. 1-6
- Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

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