“News from Ukraine”. 1994. ¹ 41-42
Art festival of international importance
The performance of the immortal masterpiece, “Symphony of Psalms”, a classic of the XXth century by Igor Stravinsky, has concluded the Fifth International Music Festival, whose reputation is well-known among the world community. What was it like, what memories did it leave, what new features did it bring to Ukrainian and world art? This writer offers here a panorama of festival’s events.
Even a superficial enumeration of musicians taking part in the festival, not to mention people who supported the festival, testifies to the festival’s wide geographic participation: the USA, France, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Poland, Argentina, Macedonia and so on. With each passing year, the number of Ukrainian participants is increasing, new traditions appear, and the festival gains in prestige.
The alogan proclaimed at the beginning by Ivan Karabyts, the festival’s music director, — Ukrainian music in the context of the world culture — has remained unchanged. However, while at the beginning it was not clear whether Ukraine could cope with such a difficult task, and whether it would be able to meet the competition with foreign colleagues, one can now say with confidence that Ukrainian music is on a par with the rest of the world in the realm of culture.
The festival’s eight symphony, four choral, 12 chamber music concerts provided striking illustration of this. Not all the works were masterpieces, but there’s no denying that men of genius are born once in hundred or thousand years.
Unlike previous festival’s at which greater emphasis was put on the music from diaspora, music by composers of Ukrainian origin who live in different countries, “Kyiv Music Fest ‘94” aimed at showing the best works by Ukrainian composers of recent years in comparison with the achievements of foreign musicians. And, as is the case at each festival, it produced leaders, the rating of whose works was much higher than that of all other participants. Among the greatest discoveries at the festival were: John Corigliano (USA) with his Symphony No1; Yevhen Stankovych (Ukraine) with his symphony, “A Poem of Grief”, dedicated to the tragic famine in Ukraine in 1932–1933; Olexander Kozarenko (Ukraine) with his chamber cantata “Pierre Loops the Loop” to the poems of Mykhail Semenko for countertenor (brightly performed by Vasyi Slipak) and an ensemble of soloists: German composer Bemd Redmann (”Fiasco”) and Sakae Sakakibara from Japan (vocalisation for soprano and ensemble).
These and some other noteworty works confirmed the idea that modern music abounds in styles, genres and forms of expression. But not only conceptual modern works were represented at the festival.
Compared with similar cultural events the world over, “Kyiv Music Fest‘94” is unlike some festivals, for example, The “Warsaw Fall”, which has a 40-year tradition and tries to represent the most original and sometimes shocking works of avantgarde music. The festival in Ukraine shares an approach to modern music with the festival in Edinburgh (Scotland). “Kyiv Music Fest” not only shows a panorama of composers’ activity in recent years, but it also clears the way for new performers and groups, invites representatives of other arts, initiates joint artistic projects, and stages seminars, thus providing a much wider sphere of activities. The concerts included classical works, along with variety pieces and jazz elements. This diversity of styles was reflected in the varied personalities of the performers. Among the best performers were: piano players Yuri Kit and Mykola Suk (Ukraine); Sabine Lakoarret and Gerard Beckerman (France); saxophone-player Michael Leonard (USA); singer Nan Huges (USA); cellists Marina Chaikovskaya (Russia) and Valentyn Potapov (Ukraine); and violinist Anatoly Bazhenov (Ukraine). Also impressive were performances by Trio Terroni (Great Britain), Trio Buenos Aires (Argentina) and the well-known Ukrainian chamber ensembles “Archi” (conductor Ihor Andrievsky). “Kyiv Camerata” (conductor Myroslav Skoryk), Kyiv saxophone quartet, headed by Yuri Vasylevych, and the “Kyiv percussion” ensemble.
Also worthy of mention are the Ukrainian choir ensembles: the National Academic a capella choir of Ukraine “Dumka,” Revutsky State Men’s a capella choir of Ukraine, the Women’s choir of Dragomanov Ukrainian State Pedagogic University, and Chamber choirs “Khreshchatyk”, “Kyiv,” and “Vidrodzhennia”.
Five symphony orchestras from different parts of Ukraine took part in the festival this year. Festivals provide a unique opportunity to follow the development of each orchestra and, for the orchestras, a chance to showcase their features and to achieve world standards in performing music.
Here are a few words about each orchestra: The Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of Donetsk, headed by Roman Kofman, showed a high creative potential and skillful interpretation. Until quite recently this orchestra has been regarded as a provincial group. Performed by this orchestra, the Symphony No6 by Georgian composer Gia Kancheli revealed to the audience the unique world of this talented composer and his tragic world outlook.
The Zaporizhzhia Symphony Orchestra (conductor Viacheslav Redia) produced quite a different impression. After the academic program of the first part of the concert, it performed variety and jazz compositions selected with good taste. The musicians in the audience seemed to love this music best of all. The orchestra’s performance of the suite from the musical “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein, and “Evening Music” by Ihor Shamo was brilliant and inspired.
The Dnipropetrovsk Symphony Orchestra, headed by Viacheslav Blinov, has been taking part in “Kyiv Music Fest” since their beginning. This orchestra is a recognized leader, and it always impresses the audience with its wonderful selection of music. This time, the orchestra performed, symphonies by four Ukrainian composers who had written their works specially for the Marian and Iwanna Kots Competition held this year for the fourth time.
The Honored Symphony Orchestra of State TV and Radio Company of Ukraine delighted the audience with its brilliant performance of Suit No2 from “Romeo and Juliet” by Sergei Prokofiev.
A major role was played by the National Symphony Orchestra. Despite the fact that the orchestra is now working without its chief conductor, it shows great flexibility. For example, in cooperation with two masters (Virko Baley from USA and Fedir Hlushchenko) they prepared the most complicated programs for the opening and clothing concerts which made a wonderful framework for the festival.
That’s all very well, but what about connection with representatives of other arts? And was everything in the festival so traditional?
An exhibit of 24 works by Ukrainian artists was dedicated to the opening of the Fifth “Kyiv Music Fest”. The exhibit was sponsored by the festival and was a joint effort of musicians and artists.
Two more artistic undertakings were dedicated to an event which will be celebrated on a wide scale by the Ukrainian public in January, 1995 — the 100th birthday of Borys Liatoshynsky, a noted Ukrainian composer. Traditions of Borys Liatoshynsky live on and are developed today in the creativity of his followers Yevhen Stankovych, Valentyn Sylvestrov, Ivan Karabyts and Leonid Hrabovsky and in the works of our talented young composers — Hanna Havrylets, Olexandr Kozarenko and Ihor Shcherbakov.
Actors of the Kyiv Plastic Drama Theater presented their vision of images in Liatoshynsky’s music and their implementation by means of plastic art. Their compositions to the music of the Third Quartet, fragments of the Third Symphony and music to the drama “Romeo and Juliet” produced a sensational impression, since, for a long time, music by this famous Ukrainian composer had been regarded as unfit for theatrical representation.
Presentation of the unique record collection of Ukrainian music of Stepan Maxymyuk (USA) and CDs with Liatoshynsky’s music recorded by well-known firms, as well as a seminar, “Ukrainian Music in Records of the World”, were also dedicated to Borys Liatoshynsky’s 100th birthday. The seminar was organized by the Ukrainian Music Department of the Tchaikovsky Kyiv State Conservatory of Music and its head academician, Ivan Liashenko.
These events are of great importance for Ukrainian culture, which during long years of social and political obstacles, was unable to familiarize the world with its best achievements and enrich itself with best achievements of world culture.
A drawing room became a special feature of the festival. It introdused some aristocratic notes to the atmosphere of this “Music Fest”, reminiscent of a kind of society gathering so popular in the 19th century. Drinking a cup of wonderful coffee or delicious tea, one could meet there with well-known composers or public figures, have an interview or simply share one’s opinions. Probably not a single festival of modern music can boast of such a drawing room.
“Kyiv Music Fest ‘94” has now gone down in history. It was a week of arts, a whirlpool of events, meetings, impressions and expectations. Of course, there were some drawbacks and shortcomings; not everything can go smoothly in an undertaking such as a festival of this level. But despite all this, “Kyiv Music Fest” has its own image, and it has become prestigious to take part in it. The festival has great future.