Little Imber is a small, ancient British town that was evacuated of its inhabitants and used as a training site for urban warfare during the Second World War. For Giya Kancheli, its war-torn architecture and desolation were reminiscent of his native Georgia. His Little Imber is scored for instrumental ensemble, solo voice, and children's and men's choirs, and was originally performed as part of an arts festival in the deserted village. The music is infused with Kancheli's characteristic melancholy, minimalist tendencies, religious mysticism, and echoes of Eastern European folk traditions. This is terrain Kancheli has explored many times before, and its appeal will depend on the listener's appreciation of his low-keyed, bittersweet wistfulness. The piece may not break new ground, but it is lovely and ethereal, one of the composer's more persuasive and consistent works. Amao Omi (Senseless War) for mixed choir and saxophone quartet inhabits much the same sound world, but is less successful. It's an amalgam of moments of unearthly serenity and piercing beauty mixed with passages that are blatantly derivative (mostly of Philip Glass) or jarringly trite. It sounds unedited, as if Kancheli had put down any thought that came into his head, without passing it through a filter of critical discernment. Both pieces receive performances of intense dedication and musical sensitivity. The Nederlands Kamerkoor and Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, conducted by Klaas Stok, perform Amao Omi, and Nika Memanishvili leads the Matrix Ensemble, Rustavi Choir, and Children's Choir in Little Imber. The sound of ECM's recording, produced by Manfred Eicher, is typically pristine.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins