From 2019–2020 the Kyiv Virtuosi Orchestra in collaboration with the European Foundation for Support of Culture (EUFSC) and the Dmitry Yablonsky Foundation conducted tours of Ukraine, performing to packed-out halls as they demonstrated their energetic, vibrant and virtuosic approach to performance.
Directed by world-renowned cellist and conductor, Dmitry Yablonsky, and inviting soloists Anna Ulaieva and Shlomo Mintz, the Kyiv-based orchestra enchanted audiences and further cemented their reputation as an engaging and ambitious ensemble.
We spoke to the orchestra’s Director, Yuri Pogorezky, about the tours and the background to the formation of the orchestra.
How Long Was the Tour Being Planned for and Are You Happy with The Outcome of the Performances?
The tours in Ukraine were actually in two series of concerts, so essentially two smaller tours. The first took place in September 2019 and the second in February 2020. In the first series we collaborated with the talented pianist, Anna Ulaieva, and in the second series of concerts with the legendary violinist, Shlomo Mintz. These tours were planned six months in advance, and I must say that we really appreciated the organisation. On the part of the European Foundation for the Support of Culture regarding the planning of the performances, everything was impeccable and I would like to note the efficiency of the Foundation’s staff in solving technical problems, especially given the complex logistics of the tour. We toured several large cities including Kiev, Lviv, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Chernigov, Poltava and Kharkov, and enjoyed a very warm reception at all of these performances. In our time there are not many patrons of the arts — people who are ready and willing to lend a helping hand to culture. This is a problem all over the world of course, not only in Europe. But as such, things which happen thanks to the work of the Foundation are simply invaluable! I would like to express our thanks to the President of the Foundation, Konstantin Ishkhanov, for all the work he does and at such a very high level.
You Mention Your Collaboration with Anna Ulaieva and Shlomo Mintz. How was the experience working with these two celebrated artists?
Yes, we collaborated with these artists for the first time in fact. Dmitry Yablonsky offered us the opportunity and we really liked the idea. We made a programme and came up with the name, ‘Symphony of the Universe’. We are very glad that we managed to complete this before the recent changes seen globally. To carry out such a large-scale tour of all those cities and to be met with full halls was a great success.
“I must say that the tour with Dmitry Yablonsky and the Kyiv Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra was an incredible experience and a real highlight for me. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have performed so extensively in Ukraine and at the concert venues we visited, and I hope to collaborate with Dmitry and the orchestra again in the future. It was a pleasure to play ‘Travel Notebook’ by Alexey Shor — wonderful music and very touching. Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the Malta International Piano Competition 2018 organised by the European Foundation for Support of Culture, and I am really very grateful to them and Konstantin Ishkhanov for all their work and continued support.” – Anna Ulaieva, piano soloist for the Ukraine tour.
Can you tell us a little more about the Dmitry’s Yablonsky involvement with the project and the decision to organise the Kiev Soloists into the Kyiv Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra? What were the events surrounding this change?
The origins of the ensemble and line-up go back well over a year. It began in the ‘Kiev Soloists’ national collective, the founder and artistic director of which was the talented violinist, Bogodar Kotorovich. After his death in 2009 we nonetheless continued to meet, and for one of our festivals we invited Dmitry Yablonsky and Oxana Yablonskaya. After working together at the festival we realised that Dmitry Yablonsky was exactly what our team needed, as for a long time after the loss of Bogodar Kotorovich we were not able to find a compatible leader and musician of that level to lead us. We offered Dmitry the post of leading our collective as guest conductor and to our delight he agreed. It was 2013 and after that there were changes in the management of the orchestra, and in fact with the new management our relationship didn’t work out. We all wanted Dmitry Yablonsky to be our chief conductor but technically it was proving very difficult to achieve this. As a result, we made the decision that nobody should be able to impose on us ideas that we disagree with, and by that point we were already independent musicians who knew how we wanted to operate, so we decided to create our new ensemble, ‘Virtuosxos of Kiev’. It was a very successful decision and we managed to carry out a lot of concerts — more than 100 performances in the first year of our formation. It was a very good start. Dmitry Yablonsky is our chief conductor and this tour, ‘Symphony of the Universe’ was proposed by him. We immediately supported his idea, although it seemed at first that it would be very difficult to implement. However I must say that everything succeeded very well and surpassed our expectations.
“The tour with the Kyiv Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra across Ukraine was fantastic, a great experience! We were very lucky to have Anna Ulaieva perform with us in Ukraine; she plays the piano with real passion and virtuosity and is a pleasure to work with. I’m thrilled that the concerts in Ukraine were so well received, they were very special to all of us and it was very gratifying to programme ‘Travel Notebook’ by Alexey Shor. I can say that Alexey Shor’s music was a wonderful find: it is very fresh and beautiful and made a stunning impression on the audience. The audiences were very responsive to the performances and Ukraine was such an interesting place to visit. I wish to thank Konstantin Ishkhanov and the EUFSC for their organisation and hard work in making the tour happen.” — Dmitry Yablonsky, Chief Conductor of the Kyiv Virtuosi Orchestra.
I read that the average age of the orchestra is 30 — how do you think this contributes to the sound of the ensemble, the fact it consists mostly of younger musicians?
Today our average age is slightly more than 30 years — we are growing little by little. If we talk about our symphonic line-up then we always invite a lot of young people. There are really cool young musicians who are eager to play and perform with us, but yes as for the main chamber line-up the average age is a little more than 30 years old. In any case we have a young and emotionally-invested team, something which is reflected in the nature of our performances; they’re uplifting and everyone exhibits a great dedication to the music, and we look forward to many more years of music-making together.
“These tours have been a remarkable success, and myself and everyone at the EUFSC are very proud of the performances of this wonderful orchestra. The Kyiv Virtuosi is a fantastic ensemble composed of some of the finest musicians active today, and we look forward to more collaborations with them in the future. To collaborate with Dmitry Yablonsky again is of course a huge honour — his commitment to music and live performance is extraordinary, and is one of many reasons we have placed the ‘Wandering Music Stars’ Israel Music Festival in his hands. His dedication to this festival is exemplary, and we are very grateful for his input. We are also thrilled to have had Anna Ulaieva perform with us, an excellent musician who in fact was the winner of our Classic Piano Malta International Piano Competition 2018. It is very gratifying to be able to offer ongoing opportunities to our competition winners, nurturing talented young musicians as they continue on their musical journey. My congratulations again to everyone on these very successful and enjoyable tours.” – Konstantin Ishkhanov, President of the EUFSC.