Musicologist, Rustavi ensemble founder Anzor Erkomaishvili dies of Covid at 81

Anzor Erkomaishvili at the unveiling of a two-volume work on Georgia's cultural heritage and history in Tbilisi in 2019. Photo via Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia., 31 Mar 2021 - 16:21, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia's celebrated musicologist Anzor Erkomaishvili, founder of the Rustavi State Academic Ensemble of Georgian Folk Song and Dance, has died of Covid-19 at age 81.

The widely acclaimed artist and researcher of Georgian folk music had been on artificial ventilation at the University Clinic of Tbilisi since March 19 while struggling with the virus.

Known for his long-standing work as musical director of the Rustavi Ensemble since 1968, Erkomaishvili's efforts for preserving the folk singing heritage of Georgia resulted in hundreds of vinyl recordings released over his lifetime.

The distinguished artist's scope of activities also involved editorial work on Georgia: History, Culture, Ethnography - a major two-volume work covering the country's cultural heritage and history and unveiled in 2019.

The book was praised as "historic" by Mikheil Chkhenkeli, the then Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, while the publishers called it a "richly illustrated, genuine gift for the lovers of European culture and history".

Beside his founding of Rustavi, Erkomaishvili also established the Martve ensemble of folk singing in 1970s and was credited by Giorgi Donadze, Executive Director of the Folklore State Centre of Georgia, with "saving" the neglected heritage of the country's national singing tradition through his work with the group.

For his long-standing work on researching, compiling and safeguarding the folk singing legacy Erkomaishvili was awarded the Presidential Order of Excellence and the Ivane Javakhishvili and Shota Rustaveli state prizes, among other distinctions.