Ensemble “Rustavi” Administration Press Release, January 4th, 2020
Connecting with the 50th anniversary of the Ensemble “Rustavi”, there has been published a very important anthology – “400 Georgian Folk Songs”.
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From the book
“The Theater of My Life”
In 1975, in Spain, there was held a festival of the musical folklore of the peoples of the world. At the festival there was invited the Ensemble “Rustavi” under the guidance of Anzor Erkomaishvili. After the festival, within a month and a half, the Ensemble had to visit main regions of Spain (Catalonia, Castile, Andalusia, Galicia, Baskonia, Asturias…). For these were very long tours, I, as the First Deputy of the Minister of Culture and the head of the concert delegation, was allowed to take a 30-day vacation and leave fifteen days late from Georgia. Before leaving, at the “GOSCONCERT” they gave me only twenty francs (which I had to give back upon my arrival) supposing that from the airport of Paris (Le Bourget) I had to travel to Charles de Gaulle Airport by a special bus, and from there, I would fly to Madrid. They told me – they would meet me at both airports.
After the brilliant performances of the Ensemble “Rustavi” in Spain, the culmination was the winner groups’ final concert in the city of Santander that was held in the open air. The “Rustavi” was to give a concert at 12 p.m. and for several hours they captivated the audience that gathered in the square and was made up of thousands of people. After the concert, members of a Scottish ensemble arrived at the hotel. They were accompanied by choreographers, painters, and musicians. The Scottish women singers were astounded and shocked because of Hamlet Gonashvili. They made Hamlet to sing continuously, after each song, they rushed to him and kissed in the neck. At last they almost went mad, they sat on his legs and didn’t let him go. Excited and embarrassed with exaltation, Hamlet shouted us with trembling voice: “Help me get rid of these girls, do you think I have water in my vessels?”…
A costume from Khevsureti, its silhouette, or cabbalistic texture, crosses embellished with beads and jewelry and other sacral signs caused a special interest in the painters. They asked us to let them repaint the costumes.
Traveling to Spain familiarized me with the members of the Ensemble very much, especially with Anzor Erkomaishvili, with this wonderful and lovely person who left an indelible track in the Georgian culture.
I knew Hamlet Gonashvili from the Theater Institute. He studied at the department of arts. He was very well-bred, quiet and even-tempered. During the first two years, I saw neither a role played by him nor his delivered speech at the evenings of artistic reading. But he never refused to participate in the concerts held by students. He would bring a chair and a panduri by himself, bow his tufted head naturally and no artistically to the audience, fit a greenish tunic in which he looked wonderful by himself, sit in the middle of the foreground and began to chant. Frankly speaking, many of us didn’t comprehend the phenomenal uniqueness of his voice and his rare talent in music. Even more, when he sang at the state ensemble (at the same time he led a program in Russian during the tours to Russia), he was only one of the outstanding soloists among others. I am not a musician, but in spite of this, I dare to say: Hamlet Gonashvili’s true greatness was revealed at Anzor Erkomaishvili’s ensemble to the utmost. Exactly Anzor chose for him such a repertoire, which gave an impetus to evince and bloom the gift of the singer to the ultimate level. Of course, Hamlet had solo parts at the big ensemble too, but there Anzor Kavsadze, this very talented choirmaster had arranged the sheet music (the partita) according to the group principle of the parts (tenors, barytones), and individual features and characteristics of the singer were not revealed so apparently. But the ensemble in whole, left a great impression. We are lucky Hamlet didn’t have an artistic talent. In this case, Georgia might lose such a great singer. That is Mikheil Kveselava’s merit. He directly told Hamlet that he wouldn’t become an actor, that his job was singing and advised him to move to the conservatory. Though it is true he didn’t have an artistic talent, but if you can imagine, he was very artistic and attractive on the stage – he had meaningful, smart Georgian appearance, prominent, beautiful features of face, a slightly aquiline, wide-nostril nose, bright eyes, black wavy hair combed behind, elegantly cut moustache, the chin expressing strength and patience finished his visual portrait. Any color cape suited him well. He appeared on the stage standing straight. He had broad shoulders (muscled and strong constitution). He walked with light and bold steps, on the stage and in life he spoke with exquisite diction, which for the most part was the merit of the Theater Institute.
I often stood next to him at big concerts. He performed on the stage at least one thousand times, and it seems he had to overcome the fear of the stage and the audience, but in spite of that, he used to be anxious, his face turned pale, the nostrils of his nose trembled like of a blood-horse and he shook at the same spot (I have never met such a true artist, who wouldn’t be excited before going to the stage. Even Ramaz Chkhikvadze by himself, this free and highly gifted actor, was not free from this feeling). Hamlet was deeply literate and educated person. He was moderate in everything, felt the mystery of nature like Mindia (a male character in Georgian folklore who was able to perceive the secrets of nature) – he could speak endlessly (and he liked to speak very much) about plants, grass, vine breeds. He always brought different young plants and flowers from abroad. At his grave, in Saburtalo (by the highway), there is carved a grape-vine on the erected stele.
It was unexpected and shocking his decease. In Anaga, in his own yard, he fell off a tree and dropped on an iron stake stuck in earth with his chest as a result of which the main artery was deadly damaged.
Numerous people arrived at his funeral. At the palace of trade unions there were made many moving speeches, lots of mourning letters were published in our press. All this was and I am still saying, – we, his contemporaries, did not completely realize what phenomenal thing we had a relationship with. For how I can explain the misunderstanding, awkward situation that took place while choosing the site for his grave?! The day of funeral was coming, but municipal or supreme authorities had not decided the question of his funeral yet. In desperate condition, Anzor Erkomaishvili was running up and down – “Have you decided at which cemetery you are going to bury this man?”, – he asked party and state bureaucrats. At last he told them directly: “If you think and worry about where I will be buried, know that I have no claims to be at Didube Pantheon. I will be buried in Makvaneti village, next to my predecessors”.
At last they decided: great Hamlet Gonashvili was buried at Saburtalo common cemetery!.. (Only a long time after, it became possible to rebury Hamlet to Didube Pantheon.)
Orphaned the great Georgian song and the Ensemble “Rustavi”. Only Anzor Erkomaishvili’s genius managed to keep the old artistic level and image of the Ensemble.
Existence of the Georgians like Anzor Erkomaishvili fills us with the hope that our nation will not extinct. I have met many renowned Georgians in my life, and I had close relationships with many of them, and I was always deeply inspired and impressed with their way of life. Among those outstanding Georgians Anzor Erkomaishvili is an exception and distinguished for his altruism, kindness, love of his motherland, high morals and great musical talent. I can say the “status” of a public figure and a musician, create a single harmonic unity in him being characterized with completely unusual feeling of responsibility, punctuality and methodism for a Georgian.
He chooses members of the Ensemble not only according to their musical talent and high vocal skills, but, first of all, for ethic, spiritual characteristics. That’s why, his Ensemble, first of all, is the group of people who are friends, have mutual respect in relation to one another and are distinguished for self-discipline, organizational traits and comprehension of the fact they are servants of the Georgian spiritual culture. I had an opportunity to listen to this Ensemble everywhere and in any situation – at the theater, on the stage in the open air, in huge squares, at sports palaces, great cathedrals and even at a small church. It was unforgettable when the Ensemble spontaneously performed chants at the Seville Great Cathedral. Guys standing under the arches of the cathedral got saddened as they had missed their motherland and suddenly in the hall full of local prayers and tourists sounded Georgian church hymns. And exactly at that time, under the arches of the very cathedral, for the first time in my life, I fully felt the deep spiritual nature of the melody sung for the One Who arts in heaven, harmony of the soul being at the house of God and man’s soul, I understood that the nation who created such music is as immortal as the One the hymn is dedicated to.
In 1990 the Rustaveli Theater and the Ensemble “Rustavi” were on tours to the United States of America one and the same time. The theater performed in Brooklyn, at the Academy of Music founded by Peter Brook, the Ensemble – on Broadway, at the Great Theater – Concert Hall. Anzor Erkomaishvili invited the theater actors and Georgian emigrants to a morning mass at a Ukrainian Orthodox church. There they chanted to honor the memory of the souls of the deceased who died on April 9th, and I saw how tears wet the faces of the believers in spite of their national origin. And this was caused by the Georgian chanting as the story of our tragedy was not known well for the believers gathered at the church. At that time, I understood that Anzor’s unusual care for the Georgian folklore is nothing else but an attempt to save our souls. Such a high moral aim defines his whole activities. He can give away last pennies, stay himself without food and help others selflessly. In Spain, for example, he bought nothing for himself but paid the whole fee for Rezo Laghidze’s drugs as he was badly ill. They told me that in Germany he returned already purchased car the very next day in order to pay for the heart operation of his friend from Rustavi.
Anzor has one more astounding quality, around him there always gather gifted people of high morals. He also has an inherent aspiration to such people, that’s why it is so fascinating and attractive to have a close relationship with his dearest and nearest.
Anzor Erkomaishvili doesn’t waste even a minute in vain – if he is in Georgia, he continuously elaborates and enriches the Ensemble’s repertoire, and in case he is abroad – he looks for old recordings of Georgian songs (he discovered numerous records or recordings unknown for us until present day, he brought them to Georgia, cleaned them, gave them new life through the performance of his Ensemble). Even when there are big concerts, between parts when there are some intervals, he conducts rehearsals.
Anzor forged his own as well as his Ensemble’s future with his own hands. The Boys’ Ensemble “Martve” created by him is the guarantee of the Georgian polyphonic song. Anzor Erkomaishvili’s cultural horizon was significantly broadened as a result of the numerous tours, personal invitations, participation in different forums abroad: – he has visited all the primary museums of the world, has been to numerous unique cities and towns, met and had relationships with outstanding people of the world. It turned out he has a diplomatic talent as well which he effectively used in his cooperation with UNESCO. He left no stone unturned to have the Georgian “Chakrulo” enrolled in the list of the samples of world civilization which the humanity has sent to the future into space.
In Spain, at the international festival of folklore groups (1975), the Ensemble “Rustavi” had a huge success, that I witnessed by myself. I will never forget the impressions got in those days.