Many nations the world over have enormous respect for the resilience and determination of the Ukranian people in the defence of their country – a national characteristic which is also symbolised by the creative artists which it has produced – wherever they happen to reside. This is the background to the formation of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra – an ensemble founded and led by Canadian/Ukrainian conductor Keri-Lynne Wilson, which is about to undertake a tour which will include performances in Poland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the USA.
Under the auspices of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera, this orchestra features first-class musicians from ensembles such as the National Opera of Ukraine, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, the Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra and the Kharkiv Opera. They’re joined by recent refugees and Ukrainian members of European orchestras such as the Tonkunstler Orchestra of Vienna, the Belgian National Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
With the co-operation of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, and supported by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, musicians have been able to exchange their weapons for their instruments, in a palpable display of the triumph of art over adversity.
The programme includes the Symphony No 7 by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov whose music is described by the BBC’s Andrew McGregor as “…. profoundly beautiful, timeless, and unforgettable”.
Also on the programme is Chopin’s lovely lyrical Piano Concerto No 2. The soloist is Ukrainian pianist Anna Fedorova whose interpretation of Chopin is, according to Gramophone magazine, “…. unfailingly sensitive, poetic and tasteful ….”. In March, she and Interartists Amsterdam organised a charity concert with members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, cellist Maya Fridman, and percussionist Konstantyn Napolov, to raise humanitarian aid for the victims of the war in Ukraine.
There will also be a performance by Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska of Leonore’s aria Abscheulicher from Beethoven’s Fidelio. Plays to See International Theatre Reviews writes that in her interpretation of this role, her “… passion, fear, and anguish are articulated with pitch perfect intensity and coloratura”. Ms Monastyrska recently appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in the title role of Puccini’s Turandot.
The programme also features either the Brahms Symphony No 4 or Dvořák’s Symphony No 9, From the New World.
The Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra is currently in Warsaw, preparing for the opening night of the tour on July 28th. The Orchestra then travels to the United Kingdom for a televised performance at the BBC Proms, to Munich, to the Chorégies d’Orange Festival in France, to Berlin, back to the UK for the Edinburgh International Festival and a performance at Snape Maltings, then to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Festival, and Hamburg, before departing for three performances in the United States – two at Lincoln Center in New York, and the final concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.
Maestro Wilson grew up in Winnipeg, home of the largest concentration of Ukrainians in North America. With an international career spanning over 20 years, she has led some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras – such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks – and operas at major venues, including The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Bavarian State Opera, Bolshoi Theatre and the Vienna State Opera. In forming the Orchestra, she says she “…wanted to bring the best orchestral musicians of Ukraine together, from both inside and outside of their country, in a proud display of artistic unity …. This tour is an expression of love for their homeland and to honor those who have died and have suffered so much.”
Both the Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera have played leading roles in the cultural world in support of Ukraine against Russian aggression, and for the victims of the war. The Met was one of the first performing arts organizations to hold a benefit concert for Ukraine, conducted by its music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, on March 14th, and the Polish National Opera has not only been harbouring refugees from Ukraine, but also presenting benefit concerts in support of its neighbouring country.
Funds raised from the tour will go to support Ukrainian artists, and donations can be made to the Ministry of Culture.
Tickets for the individual performances are available from the venues listed below:
Thursday 28 July 2022 –Teatr Wielki–Polish National Opera, Warsaw
Sunday 31 July 2022 – Royal Albert Hall, London (BBC Proms)
Monday 1 August 2022 – Isarphilharmonie, Munich (MünchenMusik)
Tuesday 2 August 2022 – Les Chorégies d’Orange
Thursday 4 August 2022 – Konzerthaus Berlin
Saturday 6 August 2022 – Usher Hall, Edinburgh (Edinburgh International Festival)
Monday 8 August 2022 – Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Snape
Thursday 11 August 2022 – The Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
Saturday 13 August 2022 – Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
Sunday 15 August 2022 – National Concert Hall, Dublin
Thursday 18 August 2022 – Lincoln Center, New York
Friday 19 August 2022 – Lincoln Center, New York
Saturday 20 August – 2022 – Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.
Information sourced from: