“Culture triumphs over evil”: Kyiv Symphony Orchestra woos Warsaw and performs for first time since invasion
Given special dispensation to leave Ukraine, last night saw musicians from the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra take to the stage in Warsaw for what was their first proper performance since war broke out.
Marking the start of a nine city tour, the orchestra will now perform in Łódź tomorrow before then journeying on to Germany where they are scheduled to play in Dresden, Leipzig, Berlin, Wiesbaden, Freiburg, Hanover and Hamburg.
In a public statement, the orchestra spoke of their responsibility to carry their message of hope and humanity beyond their nation’s borders: “for eight years Russia’s war against Ukraine has been not only a brutal attack on the peaceful and independent Ukrainian people, but also a barbaric encroachment on the values of humanism, democracy and law, on which the modern civilized world is built.
“Today, during Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukrainian people continue to courageously regain the unconditional right to live in their own sovereign territory upholding European world-view principles at the cost of our own lives. Therefore, Ukrainian musicians must become the voice of Ukraine and the voice of those Ukrainians who, due to Russia’s military aggression, no longer have it.”
Continuing, the orchestra underlined the importance of this tour and its fundamental mission to spread awareness of the conflict.
“We have to protect and spread Ukrainian culture,” they wrote, “and encourage people to hear about the Ukrainian fighting for European peace.”
Carefully picking their music to reflect Ukraine’s European outlook, the program presented Ukrainian orchestral music its early beginnings in the 1770s to masterpieces daring from the 20th century.
“The Ukrainian works in the program are wonderful evidence that Ukraine has never stayed away from the main European cultural processes and its heritage fits organically into the diverse map of a large European family,” they said.
Led by the baton of conductor Luigi Gaggero, the orchestra was also accompanied last night by Polish violin virtuoso Janusz Wawrowski who performed the works of Henryk Wieniawski.
“It should be emphasized that the Kiev Symphony Orchestra has received permission to leave its war-torn country thanks to this exceptional initiative,” wrote the Warsaw Philharmonic.
“This was the Orchestra’s first performance since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, preceded by a few days’ rehearsals at the Concert Hall on Jasna Street and at Polish Radio. So this is a unique, unprecedented project, the musical and wider value of which is difficult to compare to any other undertaking.”
The philharmonic added: “this is an incredibly important and resonant event, the significance of which cannot be overestimated. It also manifests our real, strong and tangible support for Ukraine. And we wait in hope – along with the whole of the civilized world – for the muses to be heard in Kyiv once more.”
With several of the orchestra’s members taking part in the military campaign, its 100-strong staff required a special permit issued by both the ministers of culture and defence before being able to embark on the now hazardous route to Warsaw.
Allowing them the rare opportunity to find a moment of peace of safety, the performers were further allowed to bring their families and children.
Anna Stavychenko, the orchestra’s executive director, said: “In the last weeks we were scattered all around the country, yet today – united – it is with pride that we can begin to tell the tale of our fight for independence. We want our concerts to give us all hope for a peaceful future, and faith that Ukraine will rise stronger and more beautiful than ever before.”
Piotr Gliński, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and Heritage, said: “these Ukrainian artists have an important task – they must carry this sad information about what is happening in their homeland convince European public opinion, or even more Europe’s politicians, that we must act decisively.
“At the same time,” he added, “these musicians are carrying an optimistic message – that culture is winning. That good will triumph over evil.”