Ensemble Basiani has now returned to Tbilisi, having brought to American shores the rare opportunity to experience the power and precision of Georgia's polyphonic musical heritage in a program of secular and sacred music.
Here is a slideshow with highlights from the road, accompanied by the ensemble's recording of the Kakhetian table song, Mravalzhamier.
Audiences, music enthusiasts, and critics were all amazed by Basiani's performances, echoing the commentary of James Oestrich and Vivien Schweitzer in The New York Times when the ensemble made their American debut at the 2010 Mostly Mozart Festival. Adding to the chorus of praises were these superlative comments in response to Ensemble Basiani's October 2012 performances:
Former WQXR radio personality and current Sarasota, Florida classical music maven June LeBell wrote for The Observer:
In Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, John Frayne noted in The News Gazette:This chorus of a dozen singers sports some of the finest vocal musicians I’ve ever heard. Using little vibrato, they produced impeccable pitches that made perfect fifths and even minor seconds seem like the steppes of Central Asia.... Their antiphonal singing, solo melismas and a couple of eerie but effective yodels on an open fifth — strangely reminiscent of European police sirens — added to their special effects throughout their performances of Georgian folksongs. Would that more vocal ensembles had that kind of control and musicianship.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Clayton Parr remarked on AnnArbor.com:The brilliant and stirring contrapuntal interweaving of these voices left a moving and memorable impression on me. A variety of scale was achieved by varying the number of singers delivering the pieces, from trios to songs involving two singers working against a group of five or six, and occasionally everyone got into the act. The results were sometimes akin to Russian liturgical chants or to Renaissance Flemish polyphony. My favorite number was "Shen Khar Venakhi" ("You are a vineyard,") the Iambus of the Holy Virgin. Here the soft singing of the group wove a magical spell.
David Eden Productions is delighted by this overwhelming response and looks forward to future opportunities to work with Ensemble Basiani and their ever-expanding group of fans in the US.Basiani’s program captured the essence of the various styles in Georgian folk music in splendid fashion, with the solo voices in particular displaying mastery of these specialized vocal styles.... Their set of six liturgical pieces, all in three parts, demonstrated their mastery of the varied sacred musical traditions.... The spirit, discipline, control and power of tone from Basiani is among the best Georgia has to offer, and the large crowd responded with multiple standing ovations.
Major support for Ensemble Basiani's US tour provided by the Trust for Mutual Understanding.