Well they’re not really here, in fact they were Ukrainians. Yesterday afternoon, we went to The Lehman Arts Center and watched the most amazing performance of Russian classical music expertly performed by The National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine.
The land of the Czars and Tzars has given us some of the greatest composers in the 19th and 20th Centuries. To name a few and some of their more well known concertos and symphonies: Pyotr Iliyich Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, 1812 Overture. Igor Stravinsky – Rite of Spring, The Firebird, Petrushka. Dmitri Shostokovich – Suite on Finnish Themes, Sergei Rachmaninoff -Rhapsody on a Theme of Pagagnini, Monna Vanna, Piano Concerto I and II, Sergei Prokofiev – Peter and the Wolf, Romeo and Juliet, The Love of Three Oranges, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsokov-Capriccio Espagnol, and my favorite Scherherazade. So much talent!
The first piece was Rachmoninoff’s Symphony No.3 and it was an elaborate production with full orchestra and three movements. From where we were seated, I had a full-on view of the whole orchestra. Besides the usual violins, violas, cellos, oboes, French horns, clarinets and bass fiddle, Rachmoninoff included a harp, a triangle, symbals, a tambourine, and percussion. Most of Sergei Rachmoninoff’s work is complex, especially his piano concertos, and in this Symphony it was quite evident.
The real highlight of the concert was Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with soloist Dima Tkachenko. He was a child prodigy playing the piano and the violin before he was six!! He has won numerous competitions and was awarded the Guildhall School Concert Recital Diploma (Premier Prix). I was overwhelmed and swept away by his mastery of his instrument. Like most virtuosos, in his hands the violin becomes an extension of himself. Pure genius. Under his expert manipulation, the violin sang, I mean really sang. In his intensity, he broke at least 8 strings on the bow. The violin is a wondrous instrument capable of producing an unbelievable number of sounds and notes in rapid succession. The standing ovation lasted long enough to convince Dima to give us an encore. And OMG, he played for at least another 10 minutes. I don’t know what he was performing but it seemed to incorporate every nuance of sound and technique known to man and violin.
The Firebird Suite is one of Stravinsky’s better known compositions. I have heard it many times however, the technical proficiency and emotional commitment of this orchestra is quite extraordinary.
Lastly, we were treated to a brief and informative talk by the conductor, Theodore Kuchar, who gave us some history of the conflicts his country has undergone for 100 years. He explained that pure Ukranian music existed outside of better known Russian composers and proceeded to introduce a famous Ukranian piece. We also were treated to a beautiful excerpt from a movie soundtrack created by Ukranian born Myroslav Skoryk.
All in all, I can’t think of a better way to have spent this gray, rainy and chilly Sunday afternoon. It was a peaceful and joyful break from the daily stress of the political shenanigans going on.