Ensemble “Rustavi” Administration Press Release, September 14th, 2019
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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State Ensemble “Rustavi”
November 15, 1886, is a golden day in the history of Georgian folk art. It was on this day that Lado Aghniashvili’s ethnographic choir performed the first concert of Georgian folk music in Tbilisi. The Georgian public responded with great enthusiasm. Ilia Chavchavadze wrote of the event: “Many thanks are due to Mr. Aghniashvili, who took upon himself this truly laudable business, formed a choir, gave us a Georgian concert, and delighted us with long-forgotten voices of our ancestors that the audience so enjoyed on that evening… There was endless ovation and applause. I hope that we may be delighted often by such highly pleasing performances, as we were on that Saturday evening.” Thus was born the Georgian folk concert, which is now more than a century old.
Indeed, Chavchavadze would not be disappointed. As political storms, social changes, and industrialization had forced Georgian folk music away from its natural, nourishing environment, it had found its way to the concert stage, followed later by Georgian folk dance. Here it has been shaped, safeguarded, and immortalized by many wonderful artists.
The Rustavi Ensemble was founded in 1968 by renowned musician Anzor Erkomaishvili, People’s Artist of Georgia, Laureate of the Shota Rustaveli and Zakaria Paliashvili Prizes. Later it was merged with a choreographic group, which was headed by a very talented young choreographer, today a well known artist, presently already deceased Rezo Chokhonelidze. The “Rustavi” was distinguished for its high artistic features from the very beginning, and it gained popularity all over Georgia soon, then it successfully gave concerts abroad. A few years later, by the government’s decision the Ensemble “Rustavi” was designated by the status of “State Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance of Georgia”.
Since 1982 the chief choreographer of the Ensemble has been in the past a legendary dancer Pridon Sulaberidze whose mastership and high artistic traits have had a very significant contribution to the recognition of the Ensemble “Rustavi”.
The ensemble has led the folk concert movement almost for half a century already, tirelessly popularizing Georgian folk music and choreography, and winning international acclaim. The ensemble’s style and performance manner have evolved gradually and naturally. The performers’ tireless labor and devotion reflect their sense of responsibility to and love for their art, as well as their high level of professionalism. These traits have passed from generation to generation, ensuring the ensemble’s future.
A n z o r Erkomaishvili remains the ensemble’s artistic director today. Born into a family of renowned singers and choir directors, he inherited his ancestors’ knowledge of folk songs and sacred hymns, as well as their gift for choral direction. A distinguished and active public figure, Anzor is intuitive, energetic, and willful in a way that is both charming and powerful. His patriotic approach to his work has given him remarkable focus, and he has realized many remarkable projects in the sphere of Georgian folk music.
One of Anzor’s greatest contributions to the revival of Georgian folk singing is his discovery of early recordings of Georgian folk song in various archives around the world – many of them recorded by the Gramophone Company of London in the pre-Soviet period. Thanks to modern sound technology, Anzor has given these recordings, the voices of old Georgian singers, new life, and has published them on LP records and compact discs for future generations to enjoy and learn from. This way he brought back the names of the greatest singers, choirmasters and other famous figures to Georgian people. Among them there have to be mentioned: Vano Sarajishvili, Philimon Qoridze, Ia Kargareteli, Ioseb Tomashevichi, Nato Gabunia, Vaso Abashidze, Akaki Tsereteli, Levan Asabashvili (Mother’s Levana), Sandro and Mikheil Kavsadze, the Khukhunaishvilis, Gigo Erkomaishvili, Samuel Chavleishvili, Varlam Simonishvili, Rema Shelegia, Noko Khurtsia, Ivane Margiani and others.
Apart from their historical value, the priceless recordings also document Georgian polyphonic song’s unique, modal harmonic system, which has been gradually dying. Anzor has added many of these rediscovered gems to The Rustavi Choir’s repertoire.
Young generations met with ovations the unique sound recordings of our predecessors, they studied and used the songs performed 100 years ago in their ensembles, and if today our youngsters perform the variants sung by our old singers wonderfully, it is a great endowment of Anzor Erkomaishvili.
Rustavi is quite active, performing in concerts and festivals, participating in Radio and TV programs, contributing to documentary films, and making recordings for compact discs and anthologies of Georgian folk songs. Since its inception, Rustavi has performed more than 5,000 concerts in about 80 countries, and in some of the world’s most prestigious concert venues: London’s Royal Albert Hall, Olympia Paris, New York’s Beacon Theater, The Vienna Philharmonic Hall, Berlin’s Grand Philharmonic Hall, Tokyo’s Grand Concert Hall, The Bolshoi Theatre, The State Kremlin Palace of Congress, St. Petersburg Grand Philharmonic Hall, The Auditorium in Rome, and concert halls in Rome, Milan, Madrid, Lisbon, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Kiev, Minsk, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Stockholm, Helsinki, Israel, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, India, and the concert halls of other countries.
For today, the ensemble has recorded more than 900 songs and hymns. Rustavi has always aimed at reviving and popularizing lesser known folk songs and variants. The repertoire of the ensemble is diverse, including unique songs, dances, and instrumental pieces from throughout the country. The group strives to present the rich and ancient folk art of Georgia in all its originality, diversity and richness.
Besides, the “Rustavi” successfully performs works of outstanding Georgian composers. Among them there must be mentioned: Otar Taqtaqishvili, Revaz Laghidze, Gia Kancheli, Jansugh Kakhidze, Bidzina Kvernadze, Joseph Bardanashvily, Vakhtang Kakhidze and others’ wonderful creations.
In recent years, the “Rustavi” tightly collaborates with the well known “Cloud Gate” Dance Theater of Taiwan and participates with them in ballet plays the name of which is “Songs of the Wanderers”.
The ballet was created on old Georgian folk songs that are performed by the Ensemble “Rustavi”. The play was made by an illustrious ballet-master all over the world Mr. LIN, and it is performed with great success in prestigious theaters of many countries in the world.
Like the choir’s repertoire, Rustavi’s singers also come from different parts of the country, and most of them from traditional families of singers, each bringing the performance traditions of his native province to the group. This close link to traditional sources intensifies the ensemble’s diverse national qualities.
Throughout the years, there have been more than 60 different singers in the ensemble, including such well-known Georgian soloists as Hamlet Gonashvili, Bondo Gugava, Ramin Mikaberidze, Tariel Onashvili, Lado Tandilashvili, Irakli Matikashvili, Gaioz Arabashvili, Amiran Goliadze, Amiran Mamaladze, Boris Sordia, Zurab Ninua, Jumber Kolbaia, Nugzar Gelashvili, Geno Mujiri, Saliver Vadachkoria, and Badri Toidze (Rustavi’s choirmaster and People’s Artist of Georgia).
Today the members of the ensemble are Giorgi Bugianishvili, Giorgi Alexandria, Badri Chikhiashvili, Davit Gvelesiani, Giorgi Natroshvili, Merab Samkurashvili, Ilia Kurashvili, Davit Qaliashvili, Giorgi Manoshvili, Gedevan Jincharadze.
These singers continue in the finest tradition of their predecessors.