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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A special mission

Bernhard WULFF: “For two decades a culture of Ukraine’s dialog with the world was taking shape in Odesa”
14 May, 2014 - 18:13

The 48-hour-long marathon of new music in Odesa ended just before the tragic events that have taken place in the city. The phrase from Bernhard Wulff’s speech at the opening ceremony of “Two Days and Two Nights of Modern Music” can be considered the summary of the 20-year-long existence of the festival: “For two decades the culture of Ukraine’s dialog with the world was taking shape in Odesa: tolerance of coexistence with other countries, absolute openness to new creative work, artistic exploration and, at the same time, desire to feel the identity of the culture of own country and own creative personality in the versatility of the music universe.”

The openness of the Odesa festival has become especially symbolical today. These days Odesa is probably the only city where the music of the US and Israel, France and Mongolia, Germany and Romania, Switzerland and Poland, Austria and Macedonia, Lithuania and Russia have been performed. Incidentally, the title of the bright work by the famous Russian composer Yurii Gontsov Toccata of Atonement was perceived almost symbolically.

Twenty years ago Odesa opened the floodgates for the world music (the informational seclusion of the previous decades had its effect) and each time filled it with new streams. Over two decades in this many-voiced space the new music culture of Ukraine presents its typical attributes and peculiarities of its culture, one of which is the innovative feeling of authentic national sources. The anniversary festival for another time confirmed this. For example, the works by Lesia Dychko, Hanna Havrylets, Viktor Tymozhynsky, Zoltan Almasi, Liubava Sydorenko, which have been performed here, recreate the folklore tune colors and intonation in the unique sound space for each of them. It is felt especially expressively in the choral singing, which is traditional for the national music culture.

Odesa-based youth female choir Oriana, conducted by the talented choirmaster Halyna Shpak, who is able to work with the most complicated composer’s technique, again surprised with its mastery. Oriana enriched the palette of modern Ukrainian choral artistic work with spiritual music. The composer’s interpretation of spiritual texts and century-long traditions add original author’s attributes to samples of this genre. That is why the works and canonic texts by Lesia Dychko and Iryna Aleksiichuk, Myroslav Skoryk and Mykhailo Shukh, Volodymyr Runchak, Hanna Havrylets and Yulia Homelska are so different.

This year the music by Ukrainian composers became the central theme of “Two Days and Two Nights,” as if summarizing the 20-year-long music dialog Ukraine has been leading with the world. After the traditional opening by the Percussion Ensemble of Freiburg University of Music the music portrait of outstanding modern composer Yevhen Stankovych was presented in the interior of the festival. To “paint” the portrait, the exquisite watercolors of his chamber instrumental music were chosen. The opuses, which embrace almost a 50-year-long period of time, recreated the music of deep feelings and philosophic lyrics. The performance of one of them, Sonata for Cello and Piano, was a world premiere and became a real discovery of the unknown gem of Ukrainian chamber music. Bravo to Zoltan Almasi (cello), Andrii Pavlov (violin), Bohdan Kryvopust (piano) for the bright portrait. Bravo to Music Ukraine for publishing the collection of chamber-instrumental works by Stankovych.

Another music portrait of the well-known Odesa composer Yulia Homelska was presented during the “Two Days and Two Nights.” Its close-up showed the openness and creative assimilation of various cultures in the lyrical style typical of Yulia Homelska and constant search of new sounding. Namely such impression was produced by her chamber works Hutsul Woman-Dance, Wings of Eastern Wind, and the newly created Pastels for bass-baritone, bayan, and piano to Sergey Yesenin’s verse (in German translation). Yulia Homelska’s music portrait was created by coryphaei of chamber performance in Odesa – the Harmonies of the World ensemble, a young, but well-known ensemble Senza Sforzando, and Austrian bass-baritone Rupert Bergmann.

The well-known master of modern chamber opera Rupert Bergmann productively cooperates with musicians from Odesa and Donetsk. In particular, due to his cooperation with Karmella Tsepkolenko, an extremely interesting chamber opera This Evening Boris Godunov premiered in Vienna’s Chamber Opera. Rupert Bergmann interprets any vocal work as a mini mono-opera. His imagination, singer and actor’s mastery seems to know no limits. At this year’s festival the Austrian singer presented his new creative project with Ukrainian composers – Mini mono-opera with Rupert Bergmann: Karmella Tsepkolenko’s A Clock to Reiner Brambach’s verse, Night Military Round by young Odesa composer Asmati Chibalashvili and interpreted as a mini mono-opera Three Songs to the verse of Reiner Maria Rilke by Mykhailo Shved. Micro opera Heretic for a guitar by American composer Richard Cameron-Wolfe also became a bright example of this genre. The duration of the miniature operas is between 7 and 20 minutes. This new genre emerged as an alternative to traditional grand opera. In Ukraine we owe its appearance to the festival “Two Days and Two Nights.” The orchestra in this genre is as well minimized at maximum – up to two or three instruments: everyone acts as a soloist. The talented musicians Oleksandr Perepelytsia and Maryna Mokhriakova (piano), Yevhen Pihuliak (violin), and Artem Nyzhnyk (bayan) showed themselves namely in this way.

From the very beginning the festival gathered extraordinary and creative personalities that unite various music personalities. One of such personalities, discovered by the anniversary festival, was Israeli composer and pianist, Benjamin Yusupov, who amazingly performed his work Labyrinths of Subconscious. The world premiere of his work took place in Odesa, so it also became a discovery. Benjamin Yusupov composed this work at the order of one of the most prestigious world competitions – the International Competition for Young Pianists Arthur Rubinstein, where Yusupov is, by the way, a member of the jury. Owing to the Embassy of Israel to Ukraine, it is not the first time that Israeli musicians take part in the festival. The embassy provides both financial and moral support. In particular, at the opening ceremony warm greetings were said on behalf of the embassy.

Incidentally, the organizers of the festival express their big gratitude to the international organizations that support it in this complicated time, including the Bavarian House (Odesa) and Polish Institute in Kyiv, after a several-year break the International Foundation Renaissance, which was among the first patrons of the Odesa forum, joined them again. For another time Odesa oblast and local governmental bodies, charity foundations and patrons proved to be patriots. The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine promises to continue to support the festival.

There was one more discovery at the anniversary festival “Two Days and Two Nights.” For the first time on its stage the ensemble from Germany AVENTURE, which had wanted for many years to come to Odesa, showed its mastery. With its phenomenal performance of the works of various composers of the world, they opened new possibilities of so-called orchestra instruments – oboe, fagot, and clarinet. Romanian female composer Violeta Dinescu’s work performed by Wolfgang Ruediger on fagot sounded as a touching address to all people in the audience: the entire space of the hall, where the musician played as he walked along the aisles, became his stage.

The Swiss ensemble SOYUS 21 with new lineup came to Odesa as well: the accordion and guitar were supplemented by the sound of electronics, which has become a regular “instrument” of the festival. A separate festival block was dedicated to the possibilities of electronic music – “Solo with Vitalii Kyianytsia.” The talented Ukrainian composer and performer Vitalii Kyianytsia enriched its sound palettes, adding piano performance. Along with the opuses by Luigi Nono and Mark Andre his own work sounded quite well, as well as the work by Alla Zahaikevych, who is a pioneer and well-known figure in the sphere of electronic music in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the innovation festival in Odesa has already traditions of its own. One of them is every time luxurious presentation of the art of percussion. The fact that the president of “Two Days and Two Nights” Bernhard Wulff is a unique master of percussion, who passes on his creative experience to young successors, had its effect. The percussion artists surprise the audience with inventions and imagination. In particular, Surprise for nine tambourines, which finished the festival and at the same time opened its third decade, was just like this.



Benjamin YUSUPOV, composer and pianist (Israel):

“We know from history that the greatest civilizations were destroyed by Barbarians. The inability to protect oneself from primitive stupid force led to tragedies. The conflict I see now in Ukraine is connected with the fact that force, military force, is trying to dictate its conditions from this standpoint. In this situation I simply bow low before your country and the organizers of the festival for creation and holding in this hard time a show which is so escalated and refined, and which produced spirituality into the world. And I am admired by the people from all over the world who have gathered here. I judge by myself and the conversations I have had here. For in the information chaos regarding the events in Ukraine, ‘fed up’ to the audience, the many voices, it is hard to sift out ashes from cinders.

“They often ask us, how we live in Israel, for there is a war underway, terrorism, how can we live in this way? Yes, this country is amazing. The most important thing is not to give way to some dark instincts, fear, and humiliation. Primitive terror and provocation are aimed at spreading panic, and the main feature of intellect is the ability to resist it. That is why we all have come to Odesa. For if we surrender once, twice, or thrice, they will achieve their goal. You should not change your lifestyle, isolate yourselves, and stop creating. The correlation of elite music with mass culture is like relations in politics – free country, free person, the freedom of creative work. The person must be stronger than fear, stronger than violence. Torah reads that he should have a strong spirit. And Odesa has met us, in spite of all fears, with wonderful weather. The city is unusual: wonderful architecture, amazing and friendly people. There was a full house, and, what is especially pleasant, there were many young people there.

“I am happy that I have come here. Odesa for Ukraine is like a window into the big world. And I think that people here, like maybe everywhere in Ukraine, have an unusual mentality, a mentality of free people. I hope for the best, because owing to modern ways of communication people can unite, understand one another, leave beyond their interests the efforts of the ‘court’ propagandists, ruining their best prepared ‘projects.’ And because of this, in my opinion, the value of human personality has incredibly grown, although the leaders of certain countries that are inclined to terrorism do not like this.”


Bernhard WULFF, rector of Freiburg Conservatoire, president of the festival:

“There is a question of identification: what it means to be a Ukrainian, a Russian, or a German in present-day world. At the concert I am interested the least in hearing the music from New York, Berlin, and Belgium. Such messages are not interesting for me. I want to hear the demonstration of an individuality of a concrete person. Why does he feel otherwise than anyone else? The sense of Odesa festival is in giving to a personality an opportunity to express himself, confirm the higher freedom of expression, the freedom of feelings and thoughts. This is a concept of open society, peaceful society. Here is actually what we are trying to do with the help of our festival. We underline the lack of aesthetic boundaries, promote the multiplicity of versions of self-expression, thus influencing the everyday life as well. For example, everyone sees Germany, which is actually a country of emigrants, as a society of close type. In fact, it is far from being true. Germany has a need for a many people outside of it, otherwise it will be impossible to maintain the existing standards of life. That is why lively discussions are underway in German society at the moment. On the other hand, there are groups of migrants in the milieu of German population, which are quite variegated in terms of character – this is a part of life of majority and minority in such country as Germany. Therefore you should always understand properly the essence of democracy. Democracy is not the power of the majority. It is the way majority builds its relations with minority. Namely this is the key to success – preserving of balance. The thoughts of minorities are respected. Our international festival may serve as an example of this kind of democratic and peaceful community of people. Everyone must listen to other participants, creating harmony. The responsibility is redistributed: it is taken, used, and returned. Everyone accepts the processes that are taking place in our mini society, but the freedom of one person ends where the freedom of another person begins. These processes are not static. This is a kind of partnership for which we must fight every day, like for democracy, but sometimes people start looking for a kind of a ‘strong person,’ having disappointed in the fruitlessness of the searches. As a rule, society pays much for such weakness.

“Wisdom, creativity, and fantasy are important for people to survive in this complicated world. We need various manifestations of intellect in the way which will allow us to sort out what we hear, what we are told. In case with Ukraine, you should probably experience a dream which will allow people of this country to identify themselves in this world. Apart from other things, it will teach people to be more tolerant and independent. But the thing is about their independent decision, without any pressure from the outside. For example, Switzerland is a very variegated country, where differences can be seen practically in every village. However, it is the most peaceful country, in spite of the differences – lingual, cultural, etc. There must be an understanding of joint actions and what influences the future of entire country. I believe in it!”


Wolfgang RUEDIGER, professor, member of the ensemble AVENTURE (Germany):

“We have been carefully following the development of the entire situation, all the events that have led to it, as well as the recent events in the south and east of Ukraine, including Odesa; we were very worried about the fate of the festival. However, when we came and saw everything with our own eyes, our fears have not been proved to be right. We have come to a kind of Ukrainian Paris with beautiful architecture which is in blossom all the time. With correct attitude and wonderful mood. I know many festivals of new music, I have visited many of them, and I want to mention the unique peculiarity of namely this one, because it is directly connected with life itself. Here one can listen and hear, get acquainted with composers from the entire world, observe individuality in all of its manifestations. For example, in the afternoon we listened to performances of several choir ensembles, and in the evenings enjoyed the creations of avant-garde composers.

“All kinds of instruments are used. We learn and reveal new things every day: new names and new works. Most importantly, the festival lasts for two days, but it will leave an imprint for entire life, because it is life in all of its manifestations. The audience is very warm. The contact with the performers is excellent. I would call it a kind of a utopia of an ideal organization of the world. After we come home we will try to reproduce this wonderful atmosphere, stylistics, and mood which were reigning here.

“I think it is wrong when Europe and Russia are involved in struggle for Ukraine. I think agreement should be achieved by way of joint peaceful efforts. Only in such a way it will be possible to determine the future of the country like Ukraine. We can see that Ukraine is doing everything for this. Your country is a part of European civilization. Odesa is an absolutely European city. The culture of Ukraine, its music and literature is on a very high level. We should not forget about this.”

By Svitlana AGREST-KOROTKOVA, Lesia OLIINYK. Photos by Viktor SIVAK