Cellist and Composer Zoltan Almashi: Ethical Issues are More Important than Music and Art Translated by Lesya Lantsuta Brannman

Zoltan Almashi is widely known and one of the most accomplished Ukrainian cello players. On stage, he seems very focused and serious, but at the same time, he is a man of light, joy, and rebellion. In addition to playing cello, Zoltan composes music and considers cello playing and music composition mutually enriching.

During our interview, the musician spoke about mushrooms, meditation, culture and Russian propaganda, composing during the war, adrenaline in creativity, and how he invented dodecaphony.

Золтан Алмаші. Фото Аліни Гармаш
Zoltan Almashi. Photo by Alina Harmash

I’ve noticed that many of your childhood memories are related to mushrooms. Why are they so important?

Zoltan Almashi: When I came to Kyiv, the city and its surroundings were very comforting in terms of mushrooms, because Polissia [a region in northwestern Ukraine – L.B.], the border with the forest-steppe, is incredibly interesting nature. I’m terribly bitter that many forests are now ruined, destroyed and dangerous because of the katsaps [ethnic slur for Russians – L.B.]. This is another reason why we, including me, hate them so much. Back to mushrooms: it so happened that in my family it was a very important part of life, especially for my father’s family (my Hungarian and Transcarpathian line).

Unfortunately, I haven’t explored the theme of mushrooms in my art, but I think it’s all coming together.

— In our family, mushroom picking is also a tradition. It’s a kind of meditation.

Zoltan Almashi: Meditation is the key word. This switching of consciousness is necessary. Silence. You hear music in your head, and it is so unclouded.

— When you go mushroom picking, do you have creative ideas in your head?

Zoltan Almashi: Absolutely. When you go into the forest, you get a lot of new musical ideas in your head. This is probably a disadvantage, but my creative process is non-stop. The main thing is that it doesn’t cause discomfort, because you could end up in a mental institution.

— It’s great that you are always in harmony with your creativity.

Zoltan Almashi: If I were out of harmony, I would have big problems.

— What was the key to your music composition, performance, and personal development during your studies?

Zoltan Almashi: I studied as a cello performer at the Lviv Krushelnytska Music School and did not immediately achieve success. I was drawn to composition since childhood, and it manifested itself in a strange way – I simply liked writing notes. My father was a violinist and had many scores. I especially loved Paganini’s scores, where there were a lot of double stops of thirty-second notes, sixty-fourth notes, and hundred-twenty-eighth notes.

— Yes, when everything is black.

Zoltan Almashi: In the sections with hundred-twenty-eighth notes, yes. Once I wrote down all those hundred-twenty-eighth durations, and not a single note was repeated. That’s how I invented dodecaphony [laughs]. I asked my father to play it. He appreciated it and sent me to a composition faculty member, the daughter of the famous composer Dezydorii Zador, Isabella Zador.

She taught a music composition elective at the Lviv Krushelnytska Music School. I didn’t get along with her because I would bring pieces in A minor, C major, and she would say no: “That’s not interesting. It should have a Hutsul mode. It would be more interesting.” I didn’t understand this. Then she also said that there should be a climax. This word scared me a lot, I didn’t know it.

After school, I liked to play soccer. I would come to Isabella Desydorievna all sweaty and tired, and she would tell me about the climax, and the Hutsul mode. I would look at her, catch my breath, and understand nothing. Yet, during these times, I wrote three sketches and a theme for solo cello.

It was my first official work – Three Sketches for Solo Cello. I even played them to border guards when I was accepted as a pioneer [compulsory Soviet organization for children – L. B.] at the Lopatina outpost [it became famous during Soviet times for its allegedly heroic defense during WWII, but this story was eventually discovered to be a Soviet myth – L. B.]. It’s kind of surreal, right? When we were driving back and stopped in the woods, I tied a pioneer red neck scarf to a stick and ran around with it. Then I was scolded a lot because I wasn’t showing respect to that red scarf.

It sounds like a plot for a post-opera. 

Zoltan Almashi: One hundred percent. It’s also interesting that the last straw for me to part ways with my music composition teacher was her suggestion to write a vocal piece on Soviet themes. Of course, I couldn’t do it. “Well, I don’t know if there’s any point in continuing your studies, you probably don’t have a talent for composition,” she said. I remembered this, thinking, “Well, no, I don’t.”

Did you take it very seriously?

Zoltan Almashi: I don’t think I was traumatized. I took it quite calmly. I remember going into the woods, and I could hear the whole piece in my head, with intricate modulations. I didn’t write it down, and maybe it had something to do with the teacher’s comment about my lack of talent, or maybe I was just lazy. I still regret it. There were many such cases.

Did it take you a long time to write down works on paper?

Zoltan Almashi: At first, it was hard and long. The next stage of composition was typical for many. I loved to improvise on the piano. To be honest, I didn’t like the cello as a child. I was very fond of the piano. I loved it with all my heart.

My piano (my second instrument) teachers were delighted with me because I played well at my exams. I improvised in an avant-garde style. Sometimes my mother would come into the room in despair and say that the neighbors were on the verge of losing their minds, that it didn’t even sound like music.

— Where’s the melody, right?

Zoltan Almashi: Well, yes. But eventually I convinced her that that’s what I like. As a teenager, I expressed emotions with the piano. That’s how I started writing good pieces of music. One of them is the basis of my quite popular piece called Elegy. When I tried to enter the composition department, I was ashamed to show this piece because it was tonal and too lyrical.

The trend at the time was toward avant-garde music. It was the 90s, and all this music came to us through the Contrasts [ Kontrasty, international festival of contemporary music – L. B.] festival. I started studying with my teacher Yuri Laniuk and was ashamed to show him this piece and instead showed him something like Bela Bartok. I remembered the melody of this piece nearly 15 years later and decided to work on it. That’s how one hundred and fifty versions of the Elegy were born.

— Back in the 90s, when you started your composing career, it was unclear whether this profession would be promising. In one of the interviews, you said that at some point you decided that composing was your inner desire, which you had been harboring for many years. Were there any similar moments in your career when there was a lot of uncertainty and you had to make a decisive choice?

Zoltan Almashi: There is still a lot of uncertainty. I remember when a colleague, Oleksii Voitenko, dropped out of the Polytechnic University and decided to devote himself entirely to music, becoming a music academy student. Hanna Havrylets [famous Ukrainian composer – L. B.] said: “What a brave guy, as this is a beggarly profession.”

In the 1990s and 2000s, music composition was a very uncertain profession. When I told my future teacher, Yuri Laniuk, that I wanted to study composition (it was 1996), he first asked me, “Do you want to give up the cello?” I said that I wanted to combine the two professions. He replied that the second education would cost money [the first area of study, i.e. the first diploma, was state funded in Ukraine for all students at that time – L. B.].

My parents are far from being oligarchs; my dad is a violinist, and my mom is an economist, an accountant at an enterprise. It all depended on my dad – whether he was ready to pay for the second degree. He agreed immediately. It was largely thanks to him that I officially received my diploma in music composition.

Yuri Laniuk joined the Union of Composers while he was still studying composition (in the 1980s). His work was bought by the Ministry of Culture for a lot of money. This possibility, to have the state buy one’s compositions did not exist in the 1990s and the 2000s. Thus, during the 1990s and 2000s, being a composer was only a passion. Thus, we floundered and are still floundering. That is, very few people live purely on composing music, practically no one.

— What are the craziest ideas you would like to realize?

Zoltan Almashi: I have a crazy idea to write an opera that would be different from everything else in this genre. It shouldn’t be a traditional opera, and it shouldn’t be the newest opera I’m involved in today, Chornobyldorf [by Roman Hryhoriv and Illia Razumeiko].

— Speaking of Chornobyldorf. How did you feel during the performance? Did you turn off the composer and the critic in you?

Zoltan Almashi: This is such a specific work that you simply must include the composer when performing it. There’s only Bach in the musical text. I’m exaggerating, of course, but there is a minimum of music. The score of this opera is thin, but it lasts 2.5 hours. Without creative performers, it would not happen. The composers themselves are also creative performers, multi-instrumentalists. Each of those performing in Chornobyldorf has a unique personality. That is why this product is such a great success.

Without diminishing the importance of the two composers Illia Razumeiko and Roman Hryhoriv, I must say that without the team, everything would not have been so interesting. On the other hand, who created the team of composers? They did. These types of composers still need to be researched since they are demiurge composers, in the original meaning.

In the Chornobyldorf opera, I am also a composer to some extent, however more of an improviser. I have a blast there, improvising both avant-garde and non-avant-garde, playing a little Bach, and showing my universalism to the fullest.

— I read your witty notes on Facebook analyzing Haydn’s symphonies. How would you teach music history at a music school?

Zoltan Almashi: I have been criticized for using obscene vocabulary in a very cultural environment called Facebook. Of course, if I were teaching children and teenagers, I would not use these words. Teaching music history should be more fun.

Musical classics should appear to students as human beings – creative, interesting, and extraordinary. Then children would perform their music differently, like my favorite orchestra, Il Giardino Armonico. These musicians are not afraid to be hooligans and make stage performances each time they are in front of an audience, not only in the Farewell Symphony, but also in others.

However, I will probably never teach, because life is not long enough.

— Let’s get back to your works. The theme of the Carpathians is very dear to you. However, you tried to suppress it in yourself and once said that “I can do anything”. I noticed that this is one of the key postulates that guides you in your work – not to limit yourself to anything. What other musical impulses have you tried to suppress?

Zoltan Almashi: This is a super life story. Someone once tried to instill in me the Hutsul augmented second, and my childish soul protested. During my time as a student at the Lviv Music Academy, I wrote Rondo, which has a Hutsul melody. I reworked it, and this work now exists under the title In the Mountains. My teacher, Yuri Laniuk, used to say, “Why did you write something so irrelevant, it’s a piece a la Myroslav Skoryk”. Everyone respected Skoryk, but in the circle of young composers it was considered bad taste to write music in his style. We were supposed to compose in line with European trends, e.g. Lutoslawski, Stockhausen, Boulez, and Messiaen.

I believe that Yuri Laniuk was right, that composers should try everything. I avoided the Hutsul mode for a long time and it was a great joy when it broke through in me. I postulate that everything is possible in music. The only thing that intuition should tell you whether it is necessary at that moment.

It’s interesting that you might listen to classical music, for example Joseph Haydn’s, and then suddenly something like a Hutsul mode surfaces. I always wonder about Haydn’s ethnic origin and believe that he was Hungarian to some extent.

— There were a lot of folk musical influences back then.

Zoltan Almashi: I even came up with a Hungarian name for Joseph Haydn – Hoydu Jovzsef, but this is my own alternative musicology, and of course it’s heresy.

I believe that an artistic person should have freedom though I won’t say that this helps me a lot since it closes some doors to some extent. After all, creativity is like love. There must be sincerity. Whether an ensemble will perform or not your music, it must be sincere. I’ve come to this conclusion, and I feel comfortable with it.

— Did it ever happen that you acted on a whim such as, for example, writing music in a more promising style?

Zoltan Almashi: I spent a large part of my life collaborating with contemporary music ensembles. Sometimes I reflect and think, my God, how much time I wasted. When you play in a chamber or symphony orchestra, 80% of the music you play will be recognized masterpieces. You play classical music, you study these works from the inside, and it’s a huge school. When you play in a contemporary music ensemble, you play music written now, and 90% of this music is one-day pieces. This has always been the case and a large percentage of this music formed the basis for some timeless masterpieces.

Yes, I wrote music for contemporary ensembles, but I always worked against the grain. If I had to write something avant-garde, I would write a melody and vice versa. I was always on the edge. I liked to provoke, and I liked to play. Ensembles performed this music, but there were always moments of discussion.

I experienced an interesting incident when, in 2003, a piece I wrote was performed at the Gaudeamus Festival in Amsterdam. My work was melodic with elements of tonality, evidencing what I try to do now – combining different musical trends and looking for a kind of universal style. The audience had an interesting and ambiguous reaction to the composition, but the musicians said that finally there was a piece where they could just play.

This is true even with the cello. I’ve been learning to play cantilena on it for decades, looking for a noble sound, and so on. Contemporary music offers me to look for unconventional sounds, though not quite pleasant, to use the cello as a percussion instrument. Yes, it’s all great, but in combination [with traditional playing – T. N.]. At some point, I want to play a melody since you feel better physically, breathe easier, and your heart starts to beat steadily. You become healthier. It’s natural when you can sing on a string instrument or play something technical, traditional. There is a great skill in that, which you have been practicing for years. Then you’re offered to play contemporary music that cancels it all out.

I try to realize all these ideas of universalism in my works for contemporary music ensembles, especially for Ricochet [a Ukrainian ensemble playing contemporary music – L.B.]. I wrote about 15 pieces for them. In music for chamber orchestra, I sometimes did the opposite. The audience expects something melodic and beautiful, and they get it, but not quite.

— No matter how much you experiment in your music, neo-romantic influences still penetrate it. Don’t you think this is your magic formula? Such music is interesting for both academic listeners and a wider audience.

Zoltan Almashi: The first aspect is that the music must be interesting to me, and it must be interesting to play. The second aspect is that the music must resonate with the listener. The wider the audience is, the better. This is, of course, utopia, because my music is too complex to be interesting to everyone. At the same time, I want there to be more interest. As a rule, if I like the music I’ve written, then listeners also respond to it.

Regarding influences, there’s a traditional musical folklore, where a certain ideal musical formula that everyone likes was polished for thousands of years, resulting in a distilled form. I don’t see the point in giving it up. No matter what we call it, neo-romanticism, neoclassicism, traditionalism, it’s there and you can’t get away from it.

I generally believe that the so-called era of romanticism continues. The complete rejection of it is also a manifestation of romanticism. Whenever there is a thesis, there is an antithesis, and the antithesis becomes a new tradition. Nowadays, to be a neo-romantic is to be in opposition. But being a pure neo-romantic is also very boring. There must be something in the music that originates from the avant-garde. There must be a balancing act over the abyss. Then it’s interesting.

— It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of balancing act you have.

Zoltan Almashi: Yes. Music must have adrenaline; it must have something that breaks the well-established. That is why people like it when I say something on stage. It’s a little bit absurd when some guy goes on stage at a symphony, especially when he stands somewhere near the second cello stand and says something, everyone is shocked.

— That’s a performance.

Zoltan Almashi: Yes, and that, I think, is the secret of art. There are some traditions that you learn for a very long time, but when you create something new, there should always be 90% of tradition and an important 10% that breaks from tradition. It’s very boring when there is complete traditionalism, such hermetic music.

— Yes, we learn rules to break them. Did you invent any rules?

Zoltan Almashi: I had a musicology teacher at the Lviv Music Academy, Milii Kobulei. He was also Yevhen Stankovych’s teacher at the Uzhhorod Music College and a very modest man. He had an interesting concept on the difference between the work of a musicologist and the work of a composer.

A composer can write as a musicologist, and a musicologist can write as a composer. The work of a musicologist is when you fill ready-made models with music. A composer’s creativity is when you create models yourself in the process of writing music.

When I write a piece, I have a general plan, but it can change, and the result can be something completely different from the original plan. For example, I might start in A minor and may end up in some kind of C double-sharp quasi major. The music can be sonorous, but it can suddenly appear in A minor. I can have anything.

— How do you write music during the war and on such a terrible topic in particular?

Zoltan Almashi: When the full-scale invasion began, I couldn’t create anything. I received an offer to write a piece for a string orchestra. This idea was criticized, including a little bit from your side [it is not known what publication Zoltan Almashi was referring to – ed.] This idea for the string orchestra piece came from Oksana Lyniv. The very way this commission was presented caused a negative reaction from the Ukrainian music community. Its essence was to take Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings as a model. This idea caused some indignation. I thought, why be indignant? A composer must create something new, but the newness is not at odds with having a model.

For example, I really like the transition from the third movement to the finale in Beethoven’s Hammerklavier. It’s complete surrealism. There’s just a search going on. Oh, this is the finale, we think. No, it’s not the finale yet, the composer rejects it. This must be the theme of the finale. No. That is, Beethoven decided to embody the compositional process in the work itself. This episode from Beethoven’s work was a model for me when I was writing another piece for the Ricochet ensemble, but my piece does not resemble Beethoven in any way. Such worldwide musical hits inspire me a lot.

Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings has a kind of mystery and I adore it. Starting from it, I came out of a creative stupor and eventually wrote The City of Mary and dedicated it to the city of Mariupol. In all my annotations, I write and still postulate that for me the title and dedication are more important than the work itself. Humanity forgets everything very quickly. It forgets the facts surrounding terrible crimes, and they need to be reminded of these facts. Every normal musician is interested in title and dedication of works they play, and the title and the dedication of The City of Mary are the keys to remembrance.

Returning to your question about how I write during the war, I had a very serious breakdown of consciousness. For me, the war is a moment beyond music, a moment like this… where a message is more important than the music itself. I gave in to the pride of the composer a little bit, because there are more important things. There is an existential turning point now. The question of humanity’s existence is being raised. If humanity doesn’t destroy itself with the terrible weapons it possesses, then the associated ethical problems are huge and more important than music and art. This is the main change in my thinking: I stopped considering art to be something extremely important. There are things like ethics that are more important than aesthetics.

— During the war, more important things than art come to the fore, but I think that one’s own creative fervor should not be devalued either.

Zoltan Almashi: Yes. Art should return to its spontaneous manifestation.

Again, let’s take traditional folklore. It has always been applied to something. Music helped everyday work. There was a religious basis. We praised the sun and we felt delighted with nature. Similarly, reactions of music folklore to tragic events brought comfort. Involuntarily, we created art.

This involuntary manifestation, because of a sincere delight in something, is the essence of art that we must return to. It becomes somehow simpler and dearer. The arrogance is removed from it. It is especially notable when a state or an empire tries to use art for its own purposes. Art begins to manifest a devilish function to serve evil, like Russian art that was turned into evil by servants of evil who set the tone in the Russian empire from the very beginning.

— Oksana Lyniv still conducts Russian music. How would you comment on this?

Zoltan Almashi: I will comment simply. On the one hand, it’s a difficult situation, since Oksana Lyniv is contractually obliged to perform Tchaikovsky’s works because Europe and the whole world are captive to this music. The force of inertia is very great. This music will not go away and will continue to be performed.

Then, it becomes an ethical choice, to play Tchaikovsky’s music or not. However, I don’t think this should turn into general persecution since his music is not an obvious source of hateful ideas. Tchaikovsky’s music is rich, and it is about different things. In fact, the Overture of 1812 is an opportunistic piece.

It is not a glorification of the idea of Russian conquest. Also, it’s old music and it’s a bit of a stretch to extrapolate Tchaikovsky’s music to the current situation.

Oksana Lyniv in an interview with Neue Musikzeitung
: “Tchaikovsky is world art, not propaganda”

— We also know Tchaikovsky’s attitude toward Ukraine as Malorossia. For him, it was more of a resort where he could relax and write music. Tchaikovsky is, after all, a Russian brand, and we wish that influential figures like Oksana Lyniv would try to reject this.

Zoltan Almashi: This is good but there is another side to the coin, that no other Ukrainian conductor in the world has performed so much diverse Ukrainian music at serious venues in these past two years.

— Yes, no one is arguing about that.

Zoltan Almashi: Oksana Lyniv conducted not only Valentyn Silvestrov, Yevhen Stankovych, and Myroslav Skoryk. These are also composers of the younger, middle generation. On the one hand, there is an ethical dilemma. On the other hand, Oksana Lyniv is doing an incredible job in promoting Ukrainian music. She even has a request that in every concert, when she conducts a new orchestra, a Ukrainian work should be performed.

Our Ukrainian conductors do not take such risks. Here’s an example. There was an overture competition. The idea was that we could have Mykola Lysenko’s Taras Bulba and a modern overture that could be taken on tour all over the world. We have a winner, Bohdan Kryvopust’s Overture. Does the National Symphonie Orchestra perform it all over the world? No, they don’t. They continue performing either Mykola Lysenko or Dmytro Bortnyansky, which is time-tested music. For some reason, Oksana Lyniv does take such risks to conduct less known Ukrainian music. We are all not perfect, but you can focus on the negative, or you can note that a person is doing some good things. This is my position.

— Your Symphony No. 3, Victory, is about to premiere. Will it be more towards the light?

Zoltan Almashi: Definitely. I believe that our thoughts, the general mood embodied in music, are very important. People come to listen to music and leave the concert hall with a certain emotion. it’s important for me to convey the victorious emotion. It is a magical practice.

You can ridicule magical thinking, but I believe that it is present and helps me to feel joy in this life. When I go into the forest, I have magical thinking. I experience catharsis, or satori in Japanese. I love these states of mind very much. The only way I can share my state is by writing music. The message, that is embodied in music, seems to me very important.

Speaking of Ukrainian conductors, I would like to say good words about Ivan Ostapovych, who is doing tremendous things for Ukrainian music, bringing back to life unfairly forgotten Ukrainian composers and encouraging young musicians to compose music.

— Continuing the topic of famous Ukrainian conductors, what are the most valuable things that Valery Matyukhin brought to your life?

Zoltan Almashi: Well, it’s hard to overestimate his role in my life, because he believed in me and brought me to the Kyiv Camerata Orchestra. Leonid Hrabovsky once jokingly called me the Ukrainian Vivaldi. Perhaps this was due to the piece The Seasons and the mood of this music, which differed from the general trend. The name Ukrainian Vivaldi is probably also because I work in an orchestra and have been composing music for it for years, thanks to Valeriy Matyukhin, his friendly attitude, and his willingness to repeatedly perform each of my pieces.

For a composer, a chamber orchestra is a laboratory with a huge variety of programs: from classical to the latest music of various kinds. It seems to me that every conductor should become a little bit like Valery Matyukhin.

Conductors and performers should not be afraid to take risks. They should perform music by little-known composers as often as possible. They shouldn’t be afraid that the music won’t make the right impression. Moreover, there is a good trend nowadays that contemporary works are performed in the context of classical music. In fact, this is a very interesting play since you can build unusual concepts and look for interesting parallels from it. This is an inexhaustible topic.

Valery Matyukhin set a trend that other conductors should follow and not be afraid. He never was afraid of failure or being misunderstood. These are incredibly nice qualities, so key and genuine, very rare in a world of performance, especially when there is tough competition.

In Ukraine, music performance is not a business in this regard, and we are a bit of a wilderness. I use the phrase “wilderness” with a positive connotation, because it is not only anarchy and disorder. It is also a large field of opportunities for the manifestation of diverse creative efforts. It’s like the Zaporozhian Sich – freedom, nature, and a new reality being created.

— Do you help yourself as a performer, as a composer, by working in a national ensemble like the Kyiv Camerata?

Zoltan Almashi: Absolutely. This is a mutually enriching process. The only thing I pray for is my health, because I’m not getting any younger, and I don’t get any more energy.

I don’t like armchair composers who are completely abstracted from the performers, sitting at a table and inventing something. Real music composition requires a live process. You must feel the music with your fingers, and you must play it. Avant-garde gurus have imposed on us that writing behind an instrument is amateurish. Music is love and pleasure. You feel pleasure when you tactilely experience this music. You play your own melody or chord progressions on the piano. You try to play on a string instrument what you have written. Ideally, a composer should know all the instruments, just like in the Baroque and Classical periods, where this was the norm.

As a role model, I always cite Bach, who was a composer, a performer on many instruments, a manager, a director, an accountant, and much more. He was an absolute universalist. Creative universalism is natural, and we should strive for it. We can succeed in many manifestations of the musical specialty. The only question is the intellectual distribution of time, health, and energy.

— Yes, you need to be able to collect yourself in such a way that you can master many things without burning out.

Zoltan Almashi: It’s great when you burn up in a creative impulse. This is the norm for creative people. It’s better than rotting in inactivity and hopelessness.

— What achievements of Camerata are you proud of?

Zoltan Almashi: Camerata has everything ahead of it. I believe that our team is now going through a new stage of rapid development. Thanks to the active work of our new director, Bohdana Pivnenko, we have many offers and tours. At the same time, the general concept of Camerata’s development remains the same: the promotion of Ukrainian music. It is also embodied in orchestra’s foreign contracts.

The main achievements of the Camerata are that it has played a huge amount of Ukrainian music and that it has supported Ukrainian composers.

This is especially important in our time.

Zoltan Almashi: It was important the day before yesterday. We are terribly behind. Culture is our great weapon. We must stimulate culture and develop it. We must perform music by many Ukrainian composers very often. This is the only way for masterpieces to be born. Talented musicians should be stimulated financially. There should be commissions by orchestras and opera houses and not the way it often happens, when a conductor of a large symphony orchestra approaches a composer and says, “Why don’t you write symphonic music? Come on, write something, we’ll play you.” There’s not even a hint to encourage composers financially. Most likely, the orchestra has means to pay composers.

We need to create opportunities on the part of general management, such as the Ministry of Culture. It should be profitable for orchestras to commission works by Ukrainian composers. Orchestras should receive some benefits from this. For example, if they commissioned a piece by a Ukrainian composer, it could fulfill some part of their financial plan.

— Yes, this system should be set up.

Zoltan Almashi: The system should be simple. Culture is the face of the Ukrainian nation. It is very powerful, and we need to give it a boost. All the diverse creative potential that exists in this wild field should be monetized and developed. I want the profession of a composer to be prestigious, not beggarly so that talented musicians don’t suppress their impulses and go into pop culture. Then there will be an audience. There is a potential audience since there are a lot of people who are interested in what we do, and their number is growing.

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