The Music and Spirit of Ukraine

As the situation in Ukraine worsens, all of us are aware of the great music that has come from Ukraine, musicians like Vladimir Horowitz, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Bernstein; The Carol of the Bells, one of our most ethereal Christmas songs, is a Ukrainian folk song. We have compiled several of these in the entries that follow.

Valentin Silvestrov

As our wonderful Artistic Advisor, Pedja Muzijevic, writes, Valentin Silvestrov “has defiantly written unabashedly tonal and often serene music through his entire career. It has even more impact in the current tragedy. At age 84 he has decided to stay in Kyiv as an act of solidarity with his people.” On March 8th, he was evacuated by journalists coordinating with the pianist Alexei Lubimov, and is now in Poland.

Silvestrov: Prayer for Ukraine (2014)

Vladimir Horowitz

Horowitz’s transcription of Stars and Stripes by John Philip Souza began the tradition of pianists performing their own virtuoso transcriptions. Many pianists today play Horowitz’s difficult Sousa arrangement, which initially they sounded out by ear; the music is now published. Here it is, with his trademark cluster chords and lightning octaves, from his 1945 Carnegie Hall concert on March 28. World War II would continue for another five months. Horowitz played it as a gesture of support for his adopted country, having been born in Kiev in 1903.

Vladimir Horowitz : Stars and Stripes Forever

Vadym Kholodenko

Anton Batagov’s 1993 recording of Bach’s The Art of the Fugue has been called “the most stunning interpretation of Bach since Glenn Gould.” Here, the Kiev-born pianist Vadym Kholodenko plays Batagov’s redoing of Henry Purcell’s Ground in C Minor. Michael Nyman’s music for Peter Greenaway’s extraordinary 1982 film, The Draughtsman’s Contract, is based on this piece. Henry Purcell died at 36, in 1695.

Vadym Kholodenko (Kyiv): Purcell, Ground in C Minor

Isaac Stern

Born in Kremenets, the great virtuoso violinist Isaac Stern emigrated to San Francisco in 1921, when he was 14 months old. Here he performs Mozart’s Adagio for Violin and Orchestra in E major, K. 261 with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, under the direction of Alexander Schneider.

Isaac Stern: Mozart adagio in E

Leonard Bernstein

The great American composer Leonard Bernstein was born in Massachusetts to Ukrainian-Jewish parents, who emigrated from Rovno. Here, Barbra Streisand, whose paternal grandparents emigrated from Ukraine, sings Bernstein’s “Somewhere (There’s a Place for Us).” Of the crisis in Ukraine, Streisand has said “My heart breaks for the courageous people there fighting this Russian invasion.”

Leonard Bernstein: There’s a Place for Us

Sergei Prokofiev

Born in 1891 in Sonstsovka, here is a performance of the 4th Movement of the Lieutenant Kijé Suite, the composer’s first commission and film music.

Sergei Prokofiev: The 4th Movement of the Lieutenant Kijé Suite

Bob Dylan

Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, Bob Dylan’s paternal grandparents emigrated to the US in 1907 from Odessa, following the pogroms.

Bob Dylan: Blowin’ in the Wind

Vadim Gluzman

Ukrainian-born, Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman performed at Tippet Rise in 2018.

Vadim Gluzman: The Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A Minor, at Tippet Rise

Mykola Lysenko

Lysenko was the Bartók of Ukraine, collecting folk songs to create a national musical identity. As an ardent champion of Ukraine, his career was thwarted by Russia. He composed some 120 songs and the great opera, Taras Bulba.

Mykola Lysenko: A Moonlit Night

Mykola Leontovych

“Carol of the Bells” is a popular Christmas carol, written during the first World War in 1914 by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych. The song is based on the Ukrainian folk chant “Shchedryk”.

Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra and Choir

Shura Cherkassky

Shura, born in Odessa, came to America to escape the Russian Revolution in 1917. Mary Louise Curtis Bok had started the Curtis Institute of Music in 1924, and she asked Josef Hofmann to head it. Hoffman taught Shura there. Shura played Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata as the soundtrack for the 1946 Bette Davis film, Deception, and was a link to older performance traditions all his life, bringing a Romantic portamento and lushness to his concerts that was out of fashion until it wasn’t.

Shura Cherkassky: Kaleidoscope, by the great Polish virtuoso Josef Hofmann

Roman Borys

A friend of Tippet Rise, Ukrainian cellist and producer Roman Borys is a co-founder of the Gryphon Trio, along with Annalee Patipatanakoon and Jamie Parker. Roman leads the Classical Music Summer Programs at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. He won the 2013 Shevchenko Medal Award Culture and the Arts, the highest degree of recognition granted by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Throughout his elementary and high school years Roman participated in the Plast National Scout Organization of Ukraine activities including summer camps, international jamborees, the Zolota Bulava leadership camp, and later volunteered with the New Haven Connecticut branch of Plast when he was at Yale.

Roman is Artistic Director of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society since 2007. Its annual Chamberfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America, features over 100 concerts and attracts over 70,000 visitors to the Ottawa area each summer. He conceived and launched the Gryphon Trio‘s flagship outreach project Listen Up!, a nine-month project that teaches middle school participants the skills needed for a lifetime appreciation of classical music through a hands-on workshop in basic musical composition.

Roman Borys: Andante from Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E Flat

Violinists from around the World

94 violinists in 29 countries play the old Ukrainian folk song, Noise. It became popular as the soundtrack of the 1965 Ukrainian film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, the most internationally heralded Ukrainian film in history.

Ukrainian Folk Song, “Noise”