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

Music, war, and peace

Dirk BROSSE: “Ukraine and its people must gather the harvest of their talent”
25 November, 2015 - 17:43
Photo courtesy of the Del Arte PR company

The National Opera for the first time celebrated the Day of the King of Belgium. This holiday “Classics for peace” was organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium, and personally Luc Jacobs, Ambassador of Belgium to Ukraine, and the academic symphony orchestra INSO-LVIV (artistic director: famous Myroslav Skoryk), and world renowned composer and conductor Dirk BROSSE put a lot of effort to organize this event.

Dirk Brosse’s repertoire includes 400 works, for symphony orchestra and soloists, music for theater and cinema, etc. As a conductor he is known in many countries, ranging from Belgium to South Korea, from the UK to Japan and the US. Mr. Brosse found time in his tight schedule to talk to The Day and I am very thankful to him for this.

Mr. Brosse, today, on the one hand, Ukraine is incredibly popular in the world due to the sad events that are taking place here. On the other hand, it has had a negative influence on the tours of the musicians. Why did you decide to come? Why is Ukraine interesting to you?

“I know Ukraine, I know many Ukrainian musicians. They tell about Ukraine with admiration. Wonderful performers, for example, cellist Artem Shmahailo, who performed solo at the concert, once in a conversation with me said that he dreamed about performing in Ukraine. A kind of a triangle was created. First, Artem got in touch with the orchestra with which he performed when he was studying in Lviv, and the manager of this orchestra contacted the Belgian Embassy. When all of the sides of this ‘triangle’ connected, this became possible. At first we were speaking only about music for cinema, because I also write for theater productions and cinema. But since the title of the event is ‘Classics for peace,’ I changed my mind. I decided to recall my classical groundwork and figured the compositions that fall under the umbrella of the classical music and namely the concept, classics for peace. The first part consists of two forecast compositions. I have an experience of working with a chamber orchestra in Philadelphia. As I was going there, I was thinking about a present. But instead of a banal box of Belgian chocolate I wrote a hymn, specially for them. I expressed my impressions from Philadelphia in Philadelphian Overture. The second part is a concert for cello. I love cello. When I think about this instrument, work with it, I can’t help thinking of love. Therefore the seven sides, seven reflections of love are the concept of this work. One of the works in the second part of the concert is quite interesting. It is for soprano and orchestra, is combined with music recreation of Japanese poetic forms, written by Mr. Van Rompuy (President of the European Parliament). Two more compositions: one of them is dedicated to the Unknown Soldier. Belgium has a monument, and the whole world has monuments to the Unknown Soldier, which were unveiled for the soldiers killed either in World War One or World War Two, or in all the wars that have taken place, they gave their lives for their Fatherland. No one knows their names, but all of them are physically buried in these graves. I dedicate this composition to them.”

You said once: if Beethoven lived in our time, he would be writing music for cinema, in order to unite as many people as possible. But music for cinema is mostly about popular music, whereas serious music stays in concert halls, which as a rule are not very big. You must know the famous composer Giya Kancheli, who used to live in the Soviet Union and write very interesting music for cinema, but this was a forced measure, to earn his living so to say. And only now, in the new time, his music started to be performed in a broad sense all over the world and his Fatherland. What interests you namely in music for cinema and what peculiarities and disparities for you as a creator exist in music for symphony concerts and music for cinema?

“Basically, there is no difference for me. Again, jokingly and not much jokingly, I consider the composers whom we know from the past, in particular, Mozart and especially Beethoven would of course continue to write classical music, but they would have also turned to cinematography, and I don’t exclude pop music either. You need to broaden the notion of classical pop music. Mozart, when he was writing for example Don Juan or Requiem was wiring serious music. But, pardon me, can The Marriage of Figaro be called serious music? (Laughing.) This is comic music, today it would be called pop music. I have several concerts for violin. I think that the second concert for violin is if not competing, but at least can be compared to famous concerts for violin by Sibelius or Beethoven. It has been performed for 30 times in my lifetime. And this is very gratifying. Two years ago I wrote music for a program from the BBC series, and this music gathered a large audience. That was very pleasant as well.”

You have worked with great Garcia Marquez. How did it happened?

“This is hard to be expressed with words. I was much younger and had not had any experience of international cooperation, but I had to compose an overture for an exhibit that was taking place in Seville. That was 1992. Then the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America was celebrated. I thought, why not impress the Spanish-speaking audience with not just music, but also text inserted there. Because when music is combined with the text, the effect of perception is considerably more powerful. Marquez won the Nobel Prize in 1984, I admired this writer. Five years later I called him and proposed to create the text part of this work. That was how the creation of the composition we now call The Solitude of Latin America began.”

You work a lot in the world with various national ensembles. And though people think that music is the common language for the entire world, can you name some national differences in different corners of the world?

“Basically, I would divide these principles by the music principle of genres. Because even when we say jazz, it is not considered a merely classical manifestation of music, I ascribe it to what I called Western music, and what doesn’t get there, non-Western music. All these differences are connected with notation. Pythagoras found out that every sound has its harmony. Let’s take harmony C for some octave. How to divide this harmony? The Western principle is half-tone, 12 half-tones accordingly. In China they divide into five tones. The Arabic music has even quarter tone, so 24. And in India they have 66 tones. So, in the Western understanding of music which roots back to Sebastian Bach, such manifestations of classical music as jazz, funk, bebop, hip-hop were developed – these are the vectors of Western classical music. When you start working, for example, with Chinese performers, they have pentatonic principles, different instrument and different approach. This combination, enrichment with this experience is incredible. There is also the notion of groove, which means the rhythm. When you work with London Symphony Orchestra, where the musician is playing an Antonio Stradivari’s violin, – of course I don’t want to offend a Ukrainian performer who plays a usual violin – but the sound is considerably better, not because the musician is better, but because he is playing a different instrument with different possibilities.”

You have spent several days in Lviv. This is one of the best cities of our country. Now you have come to Kyiv. What are your first impressions?

“I will be frank. I don’t have much of experience of communicating and staying in Eastern Europe. I have been to Russia, worked there, but this is something different. I was pleasantly impressed with what I saw in Ukraine, clearly, you have culture. It is present even in the buildings I have seen. It is also present in people, the way they work and their attitude to what they do. What more would I wish you? Of course, possibilities. To later gather harvest of your talent and experience. Especially the young people I have met. I think a day will come when everything will be fine in this country.”