SILENCE, CUNNING, EXILE

FROM STRIFE-TORN GEORGIA COMES GIYA KANCHELI, WHO MAY BE THE MOST IMPORTANT SOVIET COMPOSER SINCE SHOSTAKOVICH

SINCE THE IRON CURTAIN FIRST started to tear in the early '80s, music lovers in the West have been exposed to a number of previously unknown composers whose reputations were obscured by the rigid Soviet system, among them Edison Denisov, Sofia Gubaidulina and Alfred Shnitke. Now comes a man who may well be the most important composer to emerge from the old Soviet Union since Dmitri Shostakovich: Giya Kancheli, 59, whose dolorous yet spiritually radiant music gives eloquent voice to the ongoing tragedy of his native Georgia.

"Music is a kind of self-reflection," says the staunchly nationalistic composer. "I don't try...

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