Freedom, beautiful divine spark

Can art change life? Unanswered, as is so often the case, this question hovers over the touching project of a Unkrainian Freedom Orchestra, which unites Ukrainian members of European and Ukrainian orchestras with refugees from Ukraine to take a stand against war, Putin’s war of aggression in their homeland. “There shines an arc of color for me”: The light of freedom speaks from Beethoven’s Leonore when she has declared war on the despotic governor of a state prison: “Horrible! Where are you rushing to?”

Then in “Fidelio” she intones “the truest aria of hope”, as Ernst Bloch called heavenly music. Although the Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, with her super voice, fits better into the Italian repertoire, this aria is the purposeful center of the orchestra’s concert program under the principle of hope.

A week after its inaugural concert in Warsaw, the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra is making a guest appearance in Berlin. Sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera New York and the Polish National Opera, it goes back to an initiative by Keri-Lynn Wilson, the Canadian conductor with Ukrainian roots. She proves to be an authority on the podium.

Although adults make music here, the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra enjoys the supportive invitation of “Young Euro Classic” and is therefore the opening of the youth orchestra meeting in the Konzerthaus. Since experienced musicians sit at the leading desks, a miracle of harmonious interplay shines out of the newly formed orchestra. You listen to each other intensively, everything is commitment, attention and respect for the conductor Wilson, who shows special empathy in the accompaniment of the soloists.

Canadian Keri-Lynn Wilson has Ukrainian rootsPhoto: Olivia Kahler

With tender brilliance, the Ukrainian pianist Anna Fedorova plays Frédéric Chopin’s Concerto in F minor, bedded in the Larghetto on the euphony of a cautious carpet of sound. Brahms’ Fourth is more robust. This is not only due to Wilson’s enthusiastic interpretation, but also to the fact that the cast was actually too large.

It is understandable and quite impressive that so many want to play in the Freedom Orchestra. Of course, this also supports the Ukrainian compatriot Valentin Sylvestrov, who fled from Kyiv to Berlin with his daughter and granddaughter. His “Elegie” was recently on the program of the Berlin Philharmonic, and he enjoys an international reputation. He has left a twelve-tone phase behind in order to develop his own language of colorfully instrumented neo-romanticism and to follow his “music memory”.

Silvestrov’s Symphony No. 7, world premiere in Kyiv in 2004, leads from shrill, desperate calls to lyrical Mahler-likeness, which withdraws tensely into pianissimo. Ukrainian musicians, whether composers or pianists, are characterized by a special sensitivity to the innermost essence of the melody.

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