United into an exceptional orchestra, great Ukrainian musicians go to the “cultural front”

published on Saturday, July 30, 2022 at 09:43

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, when Sviatoslav Yanchuk plays in his hometown of Odessa, sirens punctuate his concerts with impromptu high points, during which musicians and spectators have to take cover.

But during August, this percussionist from the Odessa Philharmonic will perform in countries at peace, with the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra (UFO), which brings together the cream of Ukrainian musicians.

Members of musical ensembles from the four corners of Europe and Ukraine, from the Opéra National de Bretagne to the Kherson Opera, are together during the tour and will play twelve performances, in the name of the freedom of Ukraine.

Anchored in Warsaw where his opening concert was held, UFO will tour England, Germany, France, Ireland and the Netherlands, before ending up across the Atlantic in New York and Washington.

The project was led by Keri-Lynn Wilson, a Canadian conductor who has conducted, among many others, the Bayerische Staat Opera, the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra and the Bolshoi in Moscow.

Keri-Lynn Wilson grew up in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba and of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, where her grandparents came from.

While living in Warsaw at the beginning of the war, Ms. Wilson saw Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland, and felt called to action: “It gave birth to a dream in me: to unite Ukrainian artists into an artistic force, fighting for our freedom as a nation,” she said. is she.

The project won over the Warsaw Opera, which decided to perform the project together with the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

– disrupted careers –

In Russian interspersed with Ukrainian words, Keri-Lynn Wilson congratulates her musicians: between the walls of the Bolshoi Theater in Warsaw, they carved out a program in just ten days without ever having played together before.

This includes Chopin’s Concerto No. 2, Brahms Symphony no. 4 and the aria “Abscheulicher” from Beethoven’s opera Fidelio.

At the opening, and in memory of the war victims, the musicians interpret the seventh symphony of Valentin Sylvestrov, the master of the Ukrainian composition.

“And there is no Russian music,” underlined several artists, whose lives and careers were disrupted by the war.

“Russia has genius composers, but what comes from Russian culture has to be put on hold for now,” explains Mark Kreschensky, the young bassoonist of NLO.

Mark Kreshchensky and his brother Dmytro, a violist, played for the very prestigious St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra for eight years. “We left Russia in the first days of the invasion. It was difficult, but there was no other decision,” Kreshchenskiy told AFP.

Two brothers flew to neighboring Estonia overnight, with a bassoon and a viola in storage.

Other UFO members came from Ukraine, after receiving temporary permission to leave the territory.

“I was able to see my 10-year-old daughter again, after five months of separation, as she is a student at the Gdańsk Opera,” in northern Poland, says Dmytro Ilyin, UFO timpanist and musician from the Kyiv Philharmonic Orchestra.

But at the end of the tour, Dmytro Ilin will return to Kyiv, as well as his fellow percussionist Yehven Oulianov: “My son is waiting for me there (…) he entered the fifth month at the same time as the war,” explains the young father.

– Cultural front –

Like many of their colleagues, Dmytro Ilin and Yehven Oulianov intend to continue practicing in their native country after the tour, despite the conflict.

“We have to wage a war on the cultural front,” UFO’s first bassist Nazar Steps told AFP.

Living in Kyiv, N. Steps is dedicated to playing the Ukrainian repertoire: “If we don’t revive the works of Ukrainian composers, no one will. (…) I’m thinking of artists like Evgeni Stankovich, Valentin Silvestrov, whom we interpret here, and other young contemporary composers,” he explains.

In UFO’s promotional videos posted on social media, Keri-Lynn Wilson proudly presents her “Music Soldiers”.

Is music really a weapon? The question makes percussionist Dmitri Ilin smile.

“Music, since childhood we don’t know how to do anything else. We have to behave one way or another,” he confides.

“I think Keri-Lynn Wilson has timed the tour perfectly because I feel that the attention on the war is falling overseas,” adds Mark Kreshchenskyi.

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