Seventh Days of Ukrainian Music in Warsaw. Dialogue on High Cultural Levels

Although the world has entered a new era with a bunch of dangers and restrictions, where people are increasingly moving away to the depths of the virtuality dimension, Ukrainian cultural diplomacy is moving towards pandemic barriers with consistent and positive ardour. Only the most recent events of 2021, which took place within Ukraine, include the release of piano works by contemporary Ukrainian composers Sviatoslav Lunyov and Oleksiy Retynsky performed by Ukrainian pianist Antonii Baryshevsky on the independent label Golka Records; CD-presentation “Bridges” by the Inso-Lviv orchestra with works of insufficiently known Antin Rudnytsky, Andriy Hnatyshyn and Vasyl Barvinsky; Stefania Turkevych’s great festival return with “Space Symphony”: after all, many iconic and well-known works of Ukrainian music from the time of Independence (read a survey here) still have to be heard more than once so that their authors do not bear the eternal stigma of permanent premieres.

This requires (country policy and funding, of course) passionary figures to suggest and promote music to performances outside of Ukraine. We have already written about the primacy of Ukrainian Oksana Lyniv as a female conductor during the Bayreuth Festival; have paid tribute to the American achievements of the Ukrainian violinist Myroslava Khomik. This September, the seventh “Days of Ukrainian Music in Warsaw” became the most significant event on the international music scene.

In a pre-concert commentary for one of the Ukrainian newspapers, Roman Rewakowicz, the organizer of the “Days”, said: “At the high cultural levels, such as activities of the theaters and philharmonics, Ukraine in Poland, unfortunately, can not be found. We are trying to break this ice of absence with our festival”.

So he, a Polish conductor and musicologist of Ukrainian origin (a descendant of the victims of Operation Vistula), created this unique opportunity of acquainting with Ukrainian music. When the Warsaw Autumn Festival plays such a role for Polish music all over the world, and Ukrainian festivals (of modern music) here gather far from full halls, the “Days” and other projects of Rewakowicz — in particular, “Polish-Ukrainian musical dialogues”, performed this year in Lviv, Kyiv, Khmelnytskyi and Odesa, perform a particularly honourable artistic mission.

It should be noted that the awareness of neighbouring Poland with the music of our country is achieved by such actions. In different years of its complex, but, as we can see, persistent existence (1999, 2001, 2004, 2012, 2019, 2020) the festival presented from 2 to 5 days of music by Ukrainian authors: each time giving an epoch-making panorama from Dyletsky to Bibik, Koshyrs and Ilnytska, Domaratsky and Shumeyko, displaying the work of permanent residents Lyatoshynsky, Silvestrov, Stankovych, Skoryk, Almashi, Sehin and Frolyak. The only foreign exception was the 5th festival, which featured music by Witold Lutoslawski. Since 2019, the event has become an annual thanks to the financial support of the City of Warsaw and other Polish institutions: the ZAiKS (Polish Society of Authors and Composers), the Magovox Union and the Stoart Copyright Society. In addition, the co-organizer, the Pro Musica Viva Foundation in 2021 began cooperation with the Ukrainian Institute (public institution of Ukraine that represents Ukrainian culture in the world).

This year, art lovers could expect 3 days of the well-structured drama of the Seventh Days. Also, there were available online concerts of choral music (4.09), chamber (8.09) and orchestral (11.09). Focusing on the first and the last, we will point out that the second concert is a performance of the renowned Warsaw Royal String Quartet, which now has Ukrainian music in its repertoire: works by Yevhen Stankovych, Zoltan Almashi, Oleksiy Retynsky and Valentyn Silvestrov.

The Lviv ensemble “A capella Leopolis” performed works by Ukrainian baroque composers under the direction of Liudmyla Kapustina. The beginning of the concert on monodic singing from the Lviv Irmologion (1709) (solo Taras Grudovyi) felt like symbolic. After there were fragments of the eight-part concert by Mykola Dyletsky, then a masterpiece by an unknown author, “Side Adam Pryamo Raya”, a vivid example of the flourishing of the genre. Thus, from Dyletsky, who marked the second half of the XVII century, the concert opened a thematic group of “cries”. Later, the program included samples of works by Maksym Berezovsky, Artem Vedel, as well as Stepan Dehtyarevsky and Dmytro Kotko, edited by Porfyrii Demutsky and Mykola Leontovych.

A cappella Lepolis. Photo by Olga Rainka

The orchestral concert on September 11 occurred with the participation of the Ukrainian National Ensemble of Soloists “Kyiv Kamerata” under the direction of Roman Rewakowicz. A star program of extraordinary works was formed. Four of the five songs in the program are Polish premieres.

Chamber Concert of Volodymyr Zagortsev (version of Oleksii Voitenko) opened the evening (Maria Kiyakh — flute, Kyrylo Bondar — violin, Yaroslava Neklyaeva — harp, Dmytro Tavanets — piano). Undoubtedly, the complex score, which thoughtfully absorbed the achievements of the music of the second half of the XX century, is part of the macrocycle of the composer’s nine chamber concerts. Concert №3 (1984) by a representative of Borys Lyatoshynsky’s school, the youngest of “Kyiv Avant-Garde Group”, which in the 60s also included, in particular, Leonid Grabovsky, Valentyn Sylvestrov and Vitalii Godziatsky, combined a striking rhythmic integrity of Zagortsev’s writing method with s special melody. That is a feature, which has crystallized after the author’s most radical searches. The timbre also plays an important role in the work: the recognizable material constantly appears in the parts of selected soloists, further introducing it into a state of infinite tension, which later, from the solo horn, gradually dissolves…

Kyrylo Bondar — violin, Maria Kiyakh — flute. Photo by Olga Rainka

Igor Shcherbakov is an artist of a later generation, whose first works were published in the 1980s. And the Chamber Symphony II, called “Aria Passione I”, belongs to the period of Ukraine’s Independence (1992). Probably, this spiritual music is connected with the time of changes, renewal, inner uplift. It was determined by the high level of expression and the most perceptive performance of “Kyiv Kamerata”.

The second part of the concert contained works by Volodymyr Runchak, Oleh Kyva and Oleksandr Kozarenko. Runchak is one of the most successful Ukrainian composers and conductors of our time. Chamber Symphony No.1 (In Memory of Lyatoshynsky, 1986) is a work that relates as the examination part of the author’s studies at the Kyiv Conservatory and received a low mark. But music has nothing to do with that fact: according to the lexicon of the best modern achievements of time, the mature handwriting of the artist there reflects deep philosophical thoughts.

Chamber cantata No.3, poem by Pavlo Tychyna (1982) is one of the most important genre examples in the work of Oleh Kyva, the author who is most characterized by the sphere of lyrical, emotional expression. The cantata was written for the folk voice (soloist Oksana Nikitiuk), and is perceived to the romantic type: in intonations close to folklore, their variation over three parts, Kyva reveals the idea of ​​eternal glorification of nature and emphatic touch to it.

Olexander Kozarenko’s “Concerto Rutheno” (1991) was a final piece, containing an amazing spectrum of the ancient and postmodern (pianist Dmytro Tavanets). It is interesting that these days in Odesa the author brilliantly performed his concerto himself, but in Poland such a finale created an unsurpassed impression of the human rebirth into the ethereal. The whole festival became a successful presentation of iconic works of Ukrainian classical music of various genres for the Polish (and worldwide) listener. The highest quality of performance has contributed to the discovery of the treasures of our culture: from the oldest examples of choral singing to the most modern achievements of chamber and instrumental music.


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