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Classical Review: Abu Ghosh Festival
By URY EPPSTEIN
04/06/2012
Tbilisi Ensemble, Kiryat Yearim Church, May 26.
 
The Tbilisi Ensemble from Georgia, conducted by Robert Gogolashvili, was a highlight of the Abu Ghosh Festival.

This ensemble is a men’s choir. Its sonorous, forceful voices sound masculine indeed, with glorious low basses and radiant tenors.

Right from the start they expressed great solemnity, conveying a spirit of profound faith. Melismatic solo singing over a non-changing constant bass was reminiscent of Greek- Orthodox choral singing. Powerful masculinity was followed, as a sharp contrast, by almost whispered, caressingly soft, irresistibly seductive love songs.

Stunningly energetic work songs were rendered with electrifying rhythmic accuracy.

Melodic structures based on modalities different from Gregorian chant and also from major-minor keys sounded therefore unfamiliar to the Western ear, but despite of that – or perhaps because of that – uncommonly fascinating.

Deliberately emphasized impressive contrasts between loud and quiet, rhythmic splitsecond precision, clear-cut, clipped endings and perfect consolidation were proof of the ensemble’s thorough artistic training and high level of musical achievement. Moreover, the singing sounded vibrant, natural, full of joie de vivre, and convincingly in the spirit of traditional folksinging.

It is an ensemble of this kind, not commonly encountered in everyday concerts, that makes such a festival worthwhile.
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