On the 31st of December New Year’s Eve, the restored St. Andrew’s Kyiv Church hosted known musical guests: Maksym Berezovsky, the Kyiv Soloists Ensemble, and Kyrylo Karabyts. Significantly and symbolically, they performed three symphonies of Ukrainian famous composer Maksym Berezovsky, two of which have just been found — an amazing gift beneath the Christmas tree-2021.
The figure of Maksym Berezovsky can be explained almost apophatically: telling certain facts of the biography amongst his geographical relates to several countries; giving scientific evidence of the primacy of his symphony and opera in the Ukrainian cultural space — all this and other unmentioned, of course, plays a valuable role. The 275th anniversary of the composer’s birth, chosen with the consent of the world community because it has not yet been possible to remain the true historical date, is not a final fact that only provokes scientists and musicians to further knowledge.
However, for all the controversy and highly desirable research, we have no right to ignore the reality noted by the performers of Berezovsky’s heritage: ‘Berezovsky is one of the greatest geniuses of Ukrainians, humanity in general. He is the only composer from Ukraine who has received the status of an academician of the Bologna Academy during its entire existence’, says Mykola Hobdych, a leading Ukrainian choral conductor. ‘Berezovsky’s figure fully embodies the ideas of European Ukraine’, says Kyrylo Karabyts. Influencing the culture of Eastern Slavs and the world, Berezovsky remained born in Ukraine — and with years more and more efforts of its musical community are made to return the artist to the stages, educational institutions, and the national memory of Ukrainians.
Since his student days, Kyrylo, the son of the composer Ivan Karabyts and the musicologist Marianna Kopytsya — has been involved in returning musical heritage. Already in adulthood, he as a recognized conductor for the first time in Ukraine performed Berezovsky’s Symphony in C major. This early work of the composer at that time was already appropriated by Russia. And further achieving his goal, interested in the hypothesis of musicologist Larysa Ivchenko, ‘ten days’ before the December concert, the conductor found the full version of symphonies XI and XIII, their orchestral parts in the music archive of the Paris National Library. Impressively short time required for hard work on editing, printing, and preparation for the found scores. The Kyiv Soloists also kindly contributed to this, providing an excellent performance and renovation of the historical truth and pride of Ukraine in such a short time. However, as Ivan Karabyts said at the beginning of the century, ‘the time has come when self-affirmation, pride, and dignity are not an ambition, but a necessity, without which we do not know the world, and the world does not know us’.
Another Ivan Karabyts’s prediction was the following: ‘I have a feeling that something is buried in the depths of Kyiv… And it attracts people to this city’. During the winter evening before the beginning of the next year and the farewell of the first twenty years of the new millennium, three Ukrainian relics came together: St. Andrew’s Church, music by Maksym Berezovsky, and Ukrainians — performers, listeners, organizers, without whom the highest-level event could not take place. Previously noted that this performance will not be historically informed, it will also not be performed by period instruments, Kyrylo Karabyts led the musicians in his usual bright and individual manner.
Until now the mysterious figure and work of Maksym Berezovsky has given the whole world a unique legacy of powerful talent. In its secular part — symphonies particularly, he mostly turns to the Italian tradition. However, even in the first symphony (XIII) of this concert, itself tonally framed by a festive major, the intonations of Ukrainian melody appear, reflected mostly in the lyrical episodes. Like the next performed work, it has four parts, where after the solemn first part were the skillfully sounded second (built on the courageous idea of string echoes), the third (scherzo-dancing and mysterious in the middle section), and the fourth (full of virtuoso movement and the beauty of orchestral music, picked up by conductor’s passion). The composer’s symphonic mentality also absorbed certain principles of constructing his choral concerts, in particular the thinking of antiphonal singing. The greatest decoration of the performance was its juicy expressiveness, subtle emotionality, and total courage to lead the orchestra — the music was dominated by an open and confident gesture of Kyrylo Karabyts. Perhaps this was the wave of Berezovsky’s pen, which decisively differentiated each orchestral part: the strings have melodies, the winds — harmony and motive answers, which are often not inferior to the role of strings, basso continuo — functional support, flexible phrase completion.
‘I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time’ — this is how Karabyts responded to the extremely valuable discovery of two symphonies of the Ukrainian classic in his sincere speech at the concert-concert, ‘I hope we will be able to draw attention to this composer and make his music and creativity began to be studied systematically’. The Symphony in G major (XI) is more surprising for its grace, which grows into a first-rate disturbing drama equal to Antonio Vivaldi’s — it is subtly resolved through a thoughtful conversation of the orchestra with basso continuo (second part) in a lively dance with gallant intonations. Bravely slowing down the tempo of the short middle part in it reveals special colors of the magical dialogue of oboes and violins. The apotheosis in its classical sense comes in a dazzling, joyful finale.
The soft acoustics of St. Andrew’s Church contributed to the articulatory rounding and figurative resemblance of the themes of the first part of the Symphony in C major, which mutually enrich the general sublime tone of the known and popular in Ukraine work. Karabyts’s performance gradually comes to an increasingly rich and embossed sound, which captures new horizons musically and emotionally. Ostinato that permeates the entire symphony brings us closer to the presentiment of the holiday, from the pastoral intermezzo of the second part — and to the heroic finale, where a miracle ritual of New Year’s Eve is performed. It does not mark the end of 2020, but a new path of the endless way that gives us our very past, teaches us to value this moment and share unjust losses and actions, changing them into famous discoveries. A new joy has come!