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Oksana LYNIV: “I’m balancing between the East and the West”

Why the head of the Graz philharmonic and opera orchestras (Austria) comes to Ukraine every two months
22 February, 2017 - 17:57
Photo from Oksana LYNIV’s Facebook page

Recently a concert with the participation of the chief conductor of Graz, Austria, Oksana Lyniv, took place at the Lviv Philharmonic Society. The program featured the world classic masterpieces, Symphony No. 2 by Robert Schumann, two fragments from the Faust Symphony by Franz Liszt and Concerto for viola and orchestra by Bela Bartok. The performers include the Academic Youth Symphonic Orchestra INSO-Lviv and one of the most highly demanded viola players at the classical stage, Oleksandr Zemtsov.


At the beginning of the interview Oksana Lyniv noted: “Lviv is the culture capital of Ukraine. It has never been a province.” As for Kyiv, she cannot compare yet, because she hasn’t been invited for cooperation. But she added that she would gladly accept an invitation from the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. As for the Academic Youth Symphony Orchestra INSO-Lviv, Oksana Lyniv emphasized that in her opinion it is one of the most creative teams.

“It engages young people who still have the ambition to play well and get great satisfaction from their creative work. They also have a good technique school, because they get auditioned, tour a lot with very good conductors, both Ukrainian and foreign ones. This is an orchestra that tries to keep in good shape all the time. It is interesting for me to work with such a team. I don’t feel any monotony, unlike with experienced orchestras.”

Your work record is extensive and really impressive. What is it about, hard work, extreme love for music, or personal ambitions? Are you afraid that you won’t have time to accomplish something?

“I hurry to live. Creative work is the sense of my life. And the possibilities for creative work are boundless. The more my career develops, the more possibilities emerge to realize my old dreams. I live in two poles. I’m building a career in the West and at the same time I’m trying not to break ties with Ukraine, come here all the time. This is very hard, because I’m very busy. So, I use my leisure time for Ukrainian projects. Sometimes people tell me, ‘Don’t burn out too early.’ But I won’t change, because this is who I am. Sometimes I feel great exhaustion, but it passes, I live through the catharsis which I feel during a successful concert or play, and a successful concert for me is not the audiences’ ovation, but whether I feel the goose bumps, when I find the performance of a brilliant music piece meaningful, as it reveals (more or less) the content and depth of these classical masterpieces. This is my personal success. After this I feel an extreme influx of energy. Of course, I feel physically tired, but soon it goes away due to the new powerful influx of emotional energy – as a gratitude for what has just happened.

“By the way, Kyrylo Petrenko asked me, too, about my work record at our first meeting, when I came to the Bayern State Opera to meet with him. I told Kyrylo that no one was helping me, that I had to do everything on my own, and it meant to get as many contacts with teams, orchestras with the help of my work, grow non-stop, so that my achievements spoke for me later.”

Over my career of a journalist, I have talked to many celebrities, including those who are living and working abroad. They all told me that they consider promotion of Ukraine as their duty, in terms of music as well. You’ve said this many times, too.

“I don’t just say so, I do so. In 2015 I recorded for the Bayern Radio with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra a CD with symphonic works by Borys Liatoshynsky. We recorded his Symphony No. 3, the symphonic poem On the Banks of the Vistula. That was a historic moment, because for the first time a German orchestra was performing a symphony by a Ukrainian author.

“On March 15, I will perform The Hutsul Triptych by Myroslav Skoryk with the New Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. Skoryk will attend the concert, too. Moreover, the lineup of the New Munich Philharmonic Orchestra will include 20 students of the Kyiv National Music Academy – we have succeeded in organizing of such a tour. At this concert, A Hero’s Life by Richard Strauss will be performed as well, so, in terms of technique, the program of the evening is very complicated. I am also thinking about presenting some Ukrainian opera productions in the West. Maybe in Austria, maybe somewhere else. I will definitely perform Valentyn Sylvestrov’s works.

“On August 25 a joint concert of the National Youth Orchestra of Germany and newly established Ukrainian Youth Orchestra is going to take place. After that we will give a performance in Kyiv, maybe in Odesa and Kharkiv. Later we will perform at the Beethoven Festival in Bonn and Berlin. Specially for the Bonn premiere, Ukrainian author Bohdan Sehin is writing a work ordered by the Deutsche Welle. So, I am planning a vast number of projects with an aim to promote Ukrainian music in the world. And I have been realizing them, for a long time – since I went to study at the Dresden Music Academy.”


Female conductors are not numerous. What drew you to this profession?

“In my family I am a conductor in third generation. My father is a choir conductor. My father’s father was a choir conductor as well. Obviously, I have an inborn gift conducting. Besides, you should take into consideration my versatility in terms of music development. I have always liked to sing. I have played the piano, then the sopilka [a special kind of flute. – Ed.]. I loved to sing in the choir. I have also taken violin lessons, because I like it. I have also taken interest in visual art, theater productions, and costume design. As for me, all these factors are the constituents of the profession of a conductor. When I was recommended to take this profession after I graduated from a music school, I was hesitating. I thought it was like an army service, where they accept only men. But then I felt an electric shock, and suddenly I understood that this specialization would gather all of my talents.”

Do you need any special traits of character to become a conductor?

“A conductor must be not only a top musician. A conductor must be a psychologist. Maybe I have such a gift. Maybe this is the trait of a woman’s character, because the woman’s power is in her flexibility. My tactics is about observation and certain analysis of the situation. Yes, you are controlling the situation, but at the same time you make people want to do this, the way you need it. Without any coercion. My style of conducting is rather about preserving my femininity. A woman will never look naturally if she makes herself look like a man. My profession is about responsibility, the ability to organize the process, the exigency to myself and others, but you should never lose your woman’s charm, because then you will lose.”

Is it more interesting for you to take up the productions of operas and ballets rather than conduct symphonic work?

“You cannot divide these things. You must conduct all kinds of works, because they are intertwined. In every symphonic work there is dramaturgy, development, expression, psychological analysis of the character. In every operatic and ballet work there are clear structures as well as symphonic facture and technology. Everything is interconnected.”

Do you have time for personal life with such a frantic pace of life?

“For most musicians creative work and personal life are indivisible. They make the whole thing. Therefore we should always be open and emotional. You get inspiration from infatuation, love, tenderness. And it pierces your entire creative work, not going anywhere. Take any opera for example. There is no plot without great feelings. Where are you going to find it if you are a cold hearted person in life? It is a great luck to be surrounded by friends, people who give you creative impulses. And these are not necessarily personal relations. I get immense inspiration when I come for several days to Lviv, when I start attending the workshops of my favorite artists, such as Mykhailo Demtsiu, Viktor Shmak, Viktor Stohnut. I simply inhale the smell of paint, look at the colors. All this is music for me. These artists are very different. But the scores of the works I conduct are different too. Therefore what I have just mentioned is of great importance for me.”

Many young people, even with good basic education, can’t find themselves in Ukraine and go to work abroad. But they cannot find work by their specialization and agree to any work. You are young and very successful. Maybe you can advise something? What is the recipe for your success?

“It’s hard to tell. I set me on my feet thanks to the belief in the sense of art. I have always understood that I wouldn’t sell myself. So, I have had years when I was literally surviving. The 1990s, the collapse of the USSR, the financial crises. I was saved by my belief that I wouldn’t leave the thing I love, even if I would have to starve, I wouldn’t be able to live without music. So, I made my inner choice, understanding that I couldn’t live otherwise. After that the opportunities began to open for me. I am saying that you need to feel intuitively that this is your kind of thing and go to your goal.”

You have been living for a long time abroad. People like you are called “people of the world.”

“You see, these are two different worlds, two different mentalities, and it is impossible to unite them. Abroad there are many different organizations and life there is scheduled at least five years in advance. I think that sometimes they lack spontaneity and emotions which we have in abundance, but we lack pragmatism. I am balancing between the East and the West. For me I have clearly understood that I must come to Ukraine every two months, to get a psychological and emotional reboot and return to work again. It is even better to come more often, but I don’t have such an opportunity. And I don’t think I will be able to tell myself that I am fully living here.”

 The Day’s FACT FILE

Oksana Lyniv comes from Brody, Lviv oblast. Her parents are musicians: her mother is teaching a piano course at a music school and her father is the head of the folk music choir. Oksana graduated from the Stanislav Liudkevych Music School in Lviv (folk instruments). Later she graduated from the Lviv-based Lysenko Music Academy (Bohdan Dashko’s class). In 2004 she took the third place in the first Gustav Mahler Conductors Competition at Bamberg Philharmonic Society. After that she became an assistant of conductor Jonathan Nott at the Bamberg Philharmonic Society and studied at a postgraduate program at the High School of Music “Carl Maria Von Weber” in Dresden. In 2007 she started to attend the master classes at Ekkehard Klemm. She is a winner of the fellowship of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Goethe Institute, and the Oscar and Vira Ritter Foundation. In 2007 through 2009 she was supported by the Forum of Conductors of the association of German musicians. Since then she has been attending the master classes of such famous persons as Hartmut Haenchen, Hurt Mazur, Georg Fritsche, and Roland Seifert.

In 2008-13 Lyniv worked as a conductor at the Odesa-based National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet.

In 2013-14 she worked as a music assistant of the general music director Kyrylo Petrenko and conductor at the Bayern State Opera, where she conducted the operas Le comte Ory and La clemenza di Tito.

In 2015 Lyniv was named the best conductor of the Bayern State Opera House in the Classical Music Category.

In February 2017 Lyniv was selected as the successor of Dirk Kaftan on the position of the chief conductor of the Graz Opera and the Graz Philharmonic Orchestra for the season 2017-18.

Lyniv conducted concerts and operas in Ukraine, Germany, France, Romania, Estonia, and Switzerland.

By Tetiana KOZYRIEVA, Lviv