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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

Semchuk and Seredenko: what next?

22 July, 2003 - 00:00

The idea of starting a Red Book for Ukrainian chamber ensembles no longer sounds like a bad joke. One can count such orchestras, particularly those playing Ukrainian music, on the fingers of one’s hand. Of course, the best of them are based in Kyiv, some performing practically free of charge. There are fewer such kamikazes in the provinces, although almost every regional philharmonic society has a chamber orchestra that usually performs precisely there. However, the very existence of all those rare musical birds is now and then threatened if some of the musicians decide they’ve had enough and leave the country to find a better living abroad. This hazard almost happened to the participants of one of Ukraine’s most spectacular popular Ukrainian ensembles, the duet of Oles Samchuk (violin) and Anna Seredenko (piano). These two musicians amazingly and organically augment each other; the outbursts of the temperamental, emotional Oles, bent on virtuosity, were guided in the required emotional vein, restrained, and balanced by the considerate, mature Anna. In fact, upon her rested not only musical, but also organizational matters, her having a more considerable life experience and a purposeful character; she took care of the further development of the duet. In late May, the ensemble was supposed to mark its fifth anniversary. Considering its previous renditions, five years of constant successful concert tours in Ukraine and abroad, five years and dozens of concerts add up to a very tangible attainment.. But then May passed and time, as well as the billboards of the National Philharmonic Society, ignored the event. Actually, that would-be anniversary served as the point of departure in the writing of this article.

The talented violinist Oles Semchuk went to work in Italy, as they say, leaving Ukraine his best regards. Of course, he promised he would visit, play, miss his country, but the fact remains that living here is difficult. Oles has an interesting job Italy and is paid decent money, so he can quietly dedicate himself to his work. What more does a musician need? Over a year passed. During that term the concert schedule of the Semchuk-Seredenko duet had become more transparent, mildly speaking, as only three programs were performed.

Anna Seredenko:

“Oles is working in Italy, but practically nothing has changed in our relationship, although the Semchuk-Seredenko duet has sustained some transformations. Perhaps we have been divided conceptually for some time. Perhaps some changes took place within each of us. Oles, for example, somehow very quickly acquired Western polish and absorbed the Western mentality. Of course, I can’t reproach him for that, he is a normal young man.

“Working in Ukraine has become harder, but those engaged in chamber music have never found their occupation easy. There is no secret that this sphere of activity is not profit-making, so organizing a concert requires a sponsor’s help, and getting money is increasingly difficult. Of course, not only our duet has found itself in this situation. As a rule, Oles and I would use the royalties we received for a concert to arrange for the next one.

“However, the past concert season turned out to be extremely complicated. But then, despite everything else, we did plan to mark the duet’s fifth anniversary by staging a concert at the National Philharmonic Society. On May 6 we were to play Beethoven’s third concerto with the NPS orchestra, conducted by Sirenko. Aleksandr Knyazev, a noted Russian cellist, had been invited, but the orchestra went on tour abroad and Knyazev refused to play with any other orchestra. NPS did its utmost and finally arranged for the world-famous Aleksandr Rudin to come, but he refused. However, we didn’t give up the idea for good, and we hope to play the program. In late May we were invited to Lviv, to attend the Lviv Virtuosi Festival. We practiced until the very last day, but on the date of departure the organizers started speaking about financial problems... So we went nowhere. Frankly, this was the last straw. Therefore, our having performed only three programs this year has a certain symbolic, tragic emotional coloration.

“Perhaps it’s time for all of us to follow our separate paths. In a way, this makes the situation really interesting. Now I have the right to act independently, I have an opportunity to broaden the circle of my partners and master more diversified music material. I will prepare a new program. True, it’s difficult to find a true partner for the ensemble; this performer must be like-minded, living on the musical and aesthetic ideas... But I’m not going to lose heart, I have pupils relying on my creative energy [Anna is a docent with the Chamber Music Chair of the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy — Author], I have my Ukrainian Watercolors, after my teacher and the author of the project Iryna Borovyk bequeathed the copyright to me. Here I can find vast creative opportunities.”

* * *

The situation with the Semchuk-Seredenko duet is characteristic of modern Ukrainian chamber music. Of course, there is no stopping gifted musicians wishing to leave this country, yet this very exodus of talent forces the performers choosing to stay in their native land to seek and cultivate fresh talent.