Giya Kancheli was born in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1935, and from 1959 to 1963 studied composition with I. I. Tuskiya at the Tbilisi Conservatory. After graduating he worked as a freelance composer, a rather unusual career in the former Soviet Union. He later collaborated with the director Robert Sturua, and this inspired him to write a great deal of music for films and for plays.
In 1971, Kancheli was appointed Director of Music at the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi, where he wrote the incidental music for many of Sturua’s productions. In the 1960s Kancheli was hailed as a member of the Soviet avantgarde, though he subsequently dedicated himself to the development of a wholly personal musical style based on simple formulas which occur in the music of many different epochs, in ancient folk songs, and in certain kinds of contemporary popular music.
Recognised from his student years as one of the most radical thinkers in Georgian music, Kancheli was awarded his country’s State Prize in 1976 for his Fourth Symphony. Political upheavals in Georgia in the early 1990s prompted his move to Europe, first in Berlin and then Belgium where he is currently living, but returns regularly to the homeland that continues to obsess him. In 2008 Kancheli was awarded the Wolf Foundation Prize in the Arts.