(A certain Iosep Djugashvili, later known as "Koba" and "Stalin", also studied in the seminary in Gori, and was a contemporary of Sandro's.) In 1893, after finishing his clerical studies, Kavsadze formed his own choir and performed concerts for charity; he also formed choirs in Tbilisi (in 1896) and Poti (in 1897). In 1911, Sandro left his group under the direction of his brother Mikheil, and moved to western Georgia. He formed several choirs there, in Satchkere, Tkibuli, Chiatura, Zestaponi, and Kutaisi, and Kavsadze also taught Georgian folk music in schools and high-schools. In all, he spent twenty years in the region of Imereti, where he made an enormous contribution to the revival of traditional music and folklore. Almost twenty years later, in 1930, Sandro was given the (rather Soviet) title of "Artistic Figure of Merit", and the thirtieth jubilee of his work was celebrated.
In 1935 he was asked to move to Georgia's capital Tbilisi, where he was commissioned to set up and prepare an Eastern Georgian Folkloric Ensemble for the "Decade of Georgian Culture", an art and folklore festival which was to be held in Moscow. In 1937, Kavsadze and his ensemble travelled to Moscow, where they performed to great acclaim, winning an award. After Moscow, Sandro and his ensemble were bidden to travel onwards to Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg, and now St. Petersburg again).
However, shortly after the festival, Sandro (by then 63 years old) fell ill, and was hospitalized in the Kremlin. Lying in the hospital, Sandro received a letter. On the envelope was written "To Comrade Alexandre Kavsadze, from Stalin." The letter read: "Greetings to Sandro! ["sandros gaumardjos!" in Georgian] I happened to learn from Egnatashvili that you are in the Kremlin hospital. This is bad news, but the doctors tell me that you will get better soon.
If you need anything, please let me know, for I am ready to help you in any manner. May you live for a thousand years! Your Soso, 1937." Too ill to continue touring, Sandro remained in Moscow, and the Ensemble continued under the direction of his son, Davit Kavsadze (1907-1952). Having arrived in Leningrad, they repeated their success, and for his achievements Sandro was awarded an Order and was named "Honoured Artist of the Georgian [Soviet Socialist] Republic". Sandro returned to Tbilisi shortly afterwards, where he died on 12 June 1939. He was buried in the city's Vake cemetery, in Georgia's Pantheon. In 1986, the Russian "Melodiya" label re-issued 16 old recordings of Sandro Kavsadze and his Ensemble ("Sandro Kavsadze – Georgian Songs from the Archive", Melodiya M30―46085―86).
I believe this record has itself been re-issued as a CD. Most of the songs on this record were recorded by Sandro and his Ensemble in Moscow in 1937, but the quality of several of Sandro's 1909 (London Gramophone Company?) recordings (of which there are four on this record) remains unsurpassed to this day, most particularly his solo renderings of an "Urmuli" – a Kakhetian cart-driver's song – and of "Mtao, gadmishvi" ("Let me pass, O Mountain"). The two are considered to be masterpieces. Read more on Last.fm.
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