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Henry M. Robert

Music, violin, and… a brand

Valerii Sokolov’s successful performance in Kyiv
19 June, 2017 - 17:52
Photo by Yurii SHKODA

The concert took place at the National Philharmonic Society. That night, music lovers were treated to a wonderful program offered by musicians of the Kyivski Solisty National Chamber Ensemble (conductor Vitalii Protasov) and soloists Valerii Sokolov (violin) and Marcin Sieniawski from Poland (cello). The first part featured Sextet No. 2 in G Major, op. 36 by Johannes Brahms while the second part of the night concert featured Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major by Ludwig van Beethoven. It should be noted that the Kyivski Solisty Ensemble, created by the legendary Bohodar Kotorovych, has lately been on the up. It has been largely thanks to the cooperation with a young, but well-known musician, one of the few violinists who play an instrument created by the famous master Antonio Stradivari and belong to the Top 10 performers in the world – we mean Sokolov. The Day had an opportunity to talk to the musician, and he described to us his ambitious project which is designed to last until the end of the 2017-18 concert season.


What is next for you and the Kyivski Solisty Ensemble? Have you known this team for a long time?

“No, I have not. Ironically, it is the only orchestra in Ukraine which I had not played for.”

Why have you chosen it, then?

“I have always associated the Kyivski Solisty Ensemble with the great personality of their founder, and I am a student of Serhii Yevdokymov, who belongs to the Kotorovych school. I would like to continue and build on his good work. All we could do in my time was to go to study abroad. However, we need to repay our debt to the homeland as well. This is perhaps a naive idea, but multiplied by the work effort, it will lead to something. I am frankly fed up with coming here and saying that the West has it better. I want to see some development here as well.”

So, you do see the potential in this team, don’t you?

“Of course! They are talented people. I just do not want to see it all confined to a local phenomenon. I would like to see us really moving towards Europe! And it applies to visiting musicians first and foremost, of course. I like to play music with Europeans at home. Maybe the public is not so capricious here, as there are so many interesting things!”

Who invited you to join the Kyivski Solisty Ensemble?

“It started with a strange coincidence. Nobody invited me, I just offered the option of cooperation. I have always imagined an orchestra with a performing manager – not a conductor but a leading performer. Since I am still in a state of development myself, I thought it would be very useful to me. I want to bring something new to creative activities of the team.”

Do you plan to master the conductor’s job?

“No. I never do a job which is not mine. Musicians who have become conductors are many, and I am not going to go in that direction. I work with the orchestra during rehearsals, convey my artistic ideas to the musicians, and invite soloists with whom I have a good relationship and who are willing to come here and perform with the team for free. I work as a concertmaster. We are an ensemble of soloists and have no conductor at all. Our creative objective is to improve our skills and move to a new and higher stage of chamber music.”

A series of eight concerts has been announced. Three of them have already taken place, the last one at the National Philharmonic Society of Ukraine on May 31.

“Yes, this is my personal season-long project, which is being gradually implemented. It is about filling the Kyivski Solisty Ensemble’s season with interesting musicians, because we have few famous people coming here.”

In April, your concert featured the French violist Gerard Causse, while most recently, it was the Polish cellist Sieniawski. Who else do you intend to invite?

“My wonderful friend, laureate of many violin competitions Nikita Boriso-Glebsky will come. Then we will go on a tour of Ukraine with the orchestra: Kherson, Zaporizhia, Odesa, and Dnipro, I think – it all has already been organized by my managers. After Boriso-Glebsky, I expect Harry Hoffman. He comes to Ukraine quite often, but I love this cellist and seize every opportunity to play together.

“My strategy for the season calls for performing something for the soul before Christmas, that is, on December 22. I have come to know a unique Egyptian oud virtuoso who lives in Australia, Joseph Tawadros. He is a stunning musician! He has his own concept of the program which he implemented with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Tawadros has never been to Ukraine, and he gladly accepted my invitation. Of course, it will not be for free, but I intend it as a gift to myself and hope that the Kyivites who will come to the concert will appreciate it, too.

“At the beginning of 2018, St. Petersburg-based pianist and winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition Vladimir Mishchuk and excellent Serbian pianist Aleksandar Madzar will visit Kyiv. They will perform clavier-bands with the orchestra. And then we will have the culmination of our cycle, which I hope will involve music practice in the south of this country, as this is my long-held dream. The sea, the sun, you get out and the feeling is that you work and relax at once: a summer festival in Odesa. It will be hosted by the opera house, perhaps.”


What kind of music will be featured in your upcoming concerts?

“It will be academic classics plus pieces composed especially for me.”

Do you intend to perform any Ukrainian music, then?

“Yes! We will be glad to perform pieces by contemporary composers.”

I know that Yevhen Stankovych dedicated a concert to you.

“I love Stankovych’s violin pieces because he feels that instrument, more so than anyone else.”

Other than him, which Ukrainian composers have you worked with?

“I have performed Ukrainian composers’ pieces only infrequently; it includes Stankovych’s compositions, and now I am preparing the premiere of Valentyn Sylvestrov’s concert with Kyrylo Karabyts as the conductor.

“For the Kyivski Solisty Ensemble, I will try to organize foreign tours as well. We have already scheduled two interesting ones for 2018. The first one will be a concert at the Munich Philharmonic Society featuring exclusively works by Vladimir Genin, a composer and my friend who lives in Germany and was a student of Georgy Sviridov. It will be followed by a concert at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan.”

Do you like your stays in Ukraine?

“Yes, and very much so! I hope that my enthusiasm will never evaporate.”

I say it because the local conditions are, as far as I understand, incomparably worse than those which you enjoy abroad.

“I just do not compare them. On getting here, I just cut it off. People have different priorities here. The thing is, the period when talented young musicians were contacted by people who then did something for them – that period is over. One just needs to understand it, accept it. Nothing will be done until you do it yourself. One should learn to be part of the process one is creating.”

It is commendable that you want to be part of that process.

“I am far from thinking that we will get numerous offers coming our way out of nowhere, I am ready to fight for some new attitudes, but above all, for a decent musical level so that we always have something to present. We cannot live only by our Ukrainian flavor. We should strive to do our job as a business. I am not a political person, but if we want to be free, we need to raise our level as well. I have set as my top priority my personal musical development in dialog with the orchestra.

“I try to apply a European approach to the job on a Ukrainian foundation. We will see what happens. I myself do not know it yet. At least we will try to make these upcoming concerts into something interesting, and not another mediocre performance.”

Do you come home frequently?

“I do it very infrequently, especially lately. I am totally immersed in my profession. Sometimes I want to leave everything and take care of myself, but it fails, because merely caring of oneself is boring. Also, if one stays at home all the time, what will they achieve?

“I do not want to spread myself too thin with many projects. I travel to Ukraine not to earn money, so I want to use my potential at something serious. I aim to be part of the culture to which we are accustomed and which we want to see.”


Valerii Sokolov is one of the world’s most popular contemporary violinists, who has gained recognition thanks to the technical excellence of his playing manner as well as emotionality and artistic maturity in the performance of the most complex pieces in the violin repertoire.

When Sokolov was 18, he had a film made about him, called Natural Born Fiddler and directed by the famous French filmmaker Bruno Monsaingeon, who created documentaries on Sviatoslav Richter, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Glenn Gould, David Oistrakh, and Yehudi Menuhin. The film has won a great many positive reviews and was broadcast on the ARTE TV channel.

Sokolov was born in Odesa in 1986. He studied at the Kharkiv Special Music School under Associate Professor Serhii Yevdokymov. Thanks to a good performance at the Pablo Sarasate Youth International Violin Competition in Pamplona, he received a grant enabling him to continue his studies at the Yehudi Menuhin Violin School in London in 1999, where he joined the class of Natalya Boyarskaya. Having graduated from the school, Sokolov was admitted to London’s Royal College of Music (the class of Felix Andrievsky). He completed a postgraduate course at the Higher School of Music and Theater/Kronberg Academy in Munich (the class of Anna Chumachenko). The musician is currently a postgraduate student of the Vienna Conservatory (the class of Boris Kuschnir).

The violinist has held solo concerts in Paris’s Theatre du Chatelet and the Theater on the Champs Elysees, London’s Wigmore Hall, Teatro Olimpico in Rome, as well as the Lincoln Center, the Festival Hall of Baden-Baden, and the concert halls of Vancouver, Hong Kong, Lyon, Essen, and other cities. In February 2008, Sokolov presented the American premiere of Concerto for Violin and Piano by Boris Tishchenko at Carnegie Hall. He is the author of the idea and the artistic director of the Musical Nights International Festival of Chamber Music (Kharkiv).

By Olha HOLYNSKA, musicologist