I’ve recently started thinking of history like the vectors of a Google Map. Begin with epoch-defining events and slowly enhance the perspective to discover what the grasshoppers were talking about last night. This way of seeing the continuity between levels of events is useful for constructing lineages in music. I bring this up because I attended a music conference this past week which started me thinking about composers who, for whatever reasons, don’t make the cut for Music History 101. I have a long list and I’d like to start with someone who continues to blow me away.
Sulkhan Tsintsadze (1925-1991) was a Georgian composer and cellist. I don’t know much else because there’s almost no information on him in the cloud aside from a minimal Wikipedia page. He composed a significant amount of music for orchestra and string quartet but he’s most known for the latter–though “known” is pretty relative here :). It would be easy to label him the Georgian Shostakovich or Bartok since his music also mixes modernist and folk elements, but that would undermine his strikingly original aesthetic and ridiculously idiomatic string music. (This last point isn’t surprising since it appears he was a member of the Georgian State String Quartet.)
I first heard his “Chonguri,” the second movement of Five Pieces on Folk Themes (1950) for cello and piano, some time ago, but only recently began exploring the quartets and piano preludes. By the way, his only works that seems even remotely popular are his Miniatures which are a good place to start. After listening to them, I recommend two very different quartets. The first was written in 1947 and reminds me of Kodály. The seventh of his twelve, from 1970, shrouds that folk influence with a dose of Shostakovich desperation yet retains moments of ecstatic beauty. No doubt a stunning piece of music, especially the last few minutes (listen below). The whole cycle is in desperate need of a someone to record and champion these attractive works. Will that someone be you?