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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

The energy of Kyrylo Karabyts’s music

“Ukraine is an open field for launching non-standard creative projects”
9 October, 2012 - 00:00
Photo by Kostiantyn HRYSHYN, The Day

It is both easy and complicated to present Kyrylo Karabyts. It is easy to start: he is a son of famous composer Ivan Karabyts and noted music expert, pedagogue at the NMAU Marianna Kopytsia. He was taught by legendary personalities, Roman Kofman and Lev Venedyktov. In 2009 Karabyts became the head of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (Great Britain). He has performed with such famous ensembles as Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra (Japan), Sydney Philharmonic Orchestra (Australia), Lyon National Orchestra (France), Stavanger Symphony Orchestra (Norway), Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra (Finland), Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento (Italy), Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (New Zealand), etc. Mr. Karabyts was shortlisted for a Royal Philharmonic Society award. The maestro frequently comes with concerts and fresh ideas to Ukraine.

It is more complicated to convey the feeling of unbelievable energy of light radiated by this young handsome man with European manners, or his sincere living openness and amicability to the interlocutor. Kyrylo avoids loud phrases and false notes, both in music and in life. When asked about the goals he sets before him, he replies: “To enjoy what I am doing and bring pleasure to others,” and mentions an Englishman who looked at musicians in surprise, “I don’t understand why they are endeavoring so hard, music is fun.” The rhythm of Karabyts’s life is phenomenal: several days in Kyiv, full of rehearsals, an evening launch of the art project “Mova.My” at the National Philharmonic Society, and next morning at 6:00 he had a flight to Moscow, where at 11:00 he was having a rehearsal of La Boheme at the Bolshoy Theater. On September 28 Karabyts gave concert at Lviv Kontrasts, and on September 29 he took part in Gogolfest. I asked him about his source of inspiration, and he replied: “I get inspiration from rehearsals, concerts, people, acquaintances, journeys. It is often very hard. But I can’t do otherwise. I chose this path.”

The project “Mova.My” was realized owing to the cooperation of Kyrylo Karabyts, the National Chamber Ensemble “Kyivski solisty,” singer Olha Pasichnyk (soprano), and artist Zinaida Lykhachova. The flawless performance, pure solo of the singer, fantastic work of the conductor, dynamic cosmos of the Ukrainian embroidering in installations and musicians’ clothes… The concert was a full house, it was met with ovations, and if it becomes an impetus for contemplations for the audience, it will be possible to assert the authors of the idea, conductor and painter, have completely realized their idea.

During the break between the rehearsals Kyrylo Karabyts answered The Day’s questions and we started the conversation with the new creative project launched recently in Kyiv.


“From the stage we appeal to people in the languages of music and painting,” Karabyts said. “The language of art is universal. It was my idea to add the word ‘My’ (We) in the title: in this way I wanted to express my feeling that the process of exploration is underway in Ukraine: Who are we? Where are we from? What language do we speak? I have been traveling much around the world and I have noticed the following trend: orchestras want most various people to listen to them, so they create situations that will be interesting for various social groups. I wanted to make it clear for myself whether Ukraine is able to do this on its own, whether I can grab the audience, who could have come for the first time to the philharmonic society, and realize this through an unusual project. To appeal to people and not be giving answers, but think together. The culture of our country should be supported and constructed and I am trying to do so.”

How did you select the program?

“Ukraine of the time of classicism had its own heroes, Bortniansky and Berezovsky, and I wanted to play their works together with Mozart’s and see the difference of styles. When I was looking for classical works to perform within the framework of the program and works that refer to Ukraine, I was looking through Haydn’s symphonies by titles (Haydn has got 104 of them), there are more famous and less famous compositions. And suddenly I came across the symphony no. 63 La Roxelane. What Roxelane was that? Ours. Our famous Ukrainian woman, a beauty, a wife of Turkish Sultan Suleiman, and Haydn dedicated one of his works to her. When I met artist Zinaida Lykhachova, she suggested making installations which would turn an ordinary philharmonic concert into an art project, which is more than a simple concert. She showed her works where she modernized the idea of Ukrainian rushnyk, and I felt immediately that I needed to dilute classical works with modern ones. Therefore I included in the program Oleksandr Kozarenko’s Irmologion, based on Old Slavonic text for liturgical singing, for these are our roots from where we are drawing the energy for our life these days. I also included Farewell Serenade by Valentyn Sylvestrov [composed in 2003, it is dedicated to composer Ivan Karabyts. – Author]. As a result we had a play of styles united by the Ukrainian themes on various sides.”

What was it like to work with Kyivski solisty?

“This is our third joint concert in recent two years. At the rehearsals I feel as if we don’t come to work, rather we come to play music together just for pleasure. First, we speak our native language, which is important for me. Secondly, we are all young, there are a lot of my peers in the ensemble. We can rehearse for five to six hours and don’t notice this. It is good when time passes so quickly. We don’t have a scheme ‘conductor-orchestra,’ we have got an open work and very precious energy.”

Share the secret, do you have any concerts scheduled in Ukraine for the near future?

“In September at the Lviv International Festival ‘Contrasts’ with the Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra we will perform symphonies by Borys Liatoshynsky, Yevhen Stankovych, and the Ivan Karabyts’s Third Concert. At the Gogolfest we will show one more time together with Kyivski solisty the project ‘Mova.My.’ And for December we are having a concert in Kyiv with the orchestra of the National Philharmonic Society, where An Alpine symphony by Richard Strauss will be performed, as well as Leopold Mozart’s Concert for alphorn. The solo will be performed by a French horn player from France, he will bring a huge alphorn, and I think it will be the first time that Kyivites will see this instrument on the stage of the philharmonic society.

“In January I will go to Canada to perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 and Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 in Ottawa. And a week later I will perform Sibelius’s Symphony No.2 in San Francisco, and later – a concert in Berlin. My schedule is arranged for two years ahead.”


Today you have more plans abroad. Are you being prevented from creative realization in Ukraine?

“In the West everyone is working in the system which is hard to leave. And Ukraine is a fallow field and space open for launching non-standard creative projects. So far in terms of making a serious career, Ukraine gives too few chances. We give local concerts, but few people know about them, the audience from abroad does not come to these projects. Unfortunately, Ukraine is absent on the cultural map of the world so far. Today many people in the world don’t understand what kind of country Ukraine is. We don’t understand this to the full either. When asked whether Ukrainian music is known in the West, it is hard to answer. Every country knows its own music above all and wants to perform it. We should start from the fact that you need to take interest in yourself, understand what you are and who you are. Then you will be interesting for other people, you will be on equal terms. But depending on others’ interest to you is a totally impossible way, not only in music, but in life as well.”

Your cooperation with Bolshoy Theater started from the new production of the opera Eugene Onegin which you conducted, and which evoked contradictions and outrage among the adepts of the conventional approach and high style.

“I have been invited to the Bolshoy Theater to conduct a quite traditional production of La Boheme. But Eugene Onegin was staged by Volodymyr Chernyakov, called scandalous by critics. However, his Onegin is not so much scandalous as his production of Ruslan and Lyudmila, which I will conduct in April. In opera there is no such notion as scandal. At some point directors should stir the society, they should not be ‘feeding’ the audience with what it is accustomed to, but shake it. Then an interesting vibration starts: people start to think over the reasons, the means, and the purpose. This is an absolutely necessary thing for our post-Soviet theaters, because today it is impossible to watch standard opera productions. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to drink vodka on stage or create a brothel, like in the production Ruslan and Lyudmila – there is one, though in a mild form. In London, for example, there are two opera theaters with different target audience, which are operating simultaneously. So, the Royal Theater in Covent-Garden makes more conventional productions, and the English National Opera is a ground for director’s experiments. And the audience has a possibility to choose where to go, depending on the preferences.”

Then answer the eternal question: what to do?

“To educate our own opera directors, give them a ground for experiments. Today Ukraine is lacking non-standard interesting events in the music domain.”

How is this done in the West?

“You suggest an idea and involve people in projects. For example, with the Bournemouth Orchestra, where I am the chief conductor, we have invented the following thing: one Saturday evening we leased a disco and invited a DJ, Sergey Prokofiev’s grandson. His name is Gabriel, he resides in London. And we created a whole program which attracted people who had never before listened to a symphonic orchestra and we were playing classical music for them, then Gabriel played his works on his equipment. All this had a huge success among the audience.

“With the Radio France Orchestra we organized concerts for children in Paris with the help of a puppet theater, with the puppets dancing Bartok’s ballet The Wooden Prince. In many countries there are many programs when orchestras cooperate with schools. They prepare the children, switch audio recordings, after which the children come to the theater, see an orchestra, and they are being explained: this is a violin, this is a cello, thus they are being involved in high music since childhood. Children’s impressions are the purest, you always come back to them. I think it is more important than usual concerts.”

In summer you took part in the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Please, tell about this event.

“The festival is taking place in England, not far from Brighton, an hour away from London. Imagine a theater standing on a green field, where sheep graze, a beautiful building with amazing acoustics. Glyndebourne was founded by the Christie family, who started with home performances in the 1930s, now it has become one of the world famous festivals. A company of actors gather for summer and invite the world’s top performers and stage five-to-six operas during the season (the festival is a private initiative, it receives no state funding). The English greatly appreciate Glyndebourne, they buy the tickets in advance, come by cars, some even by helicopters. This summer Rossini’s Cinderella was staged, Yanacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen, two baroque operas, and I have conducted Puccini’s La Boheme for 14 times. At the festival I met Andrii Bondarenko – this is a young Ukrainian singer with a huge talent. He started in Kyiv, made a serious career, and now he goes on tours all over the world.”

You can be called a cosmopolitan, where is your home?

“I reside in Paris with my family: my wife, a music administrator of an ensemble of ancient music, and my two-year-old son. I named him Ivan – after my father. I work in England and often go to France to my family. But Kyiv, where my mother and sister live, and where I made my first steps in music, is really dear to me. This is my homeland and I will keep returning here.”