Written by: Pascale Joachim
The Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine performed at the Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts Monday, February 13. The orchestra has toured extensively around the world, visiting countries including Poland, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany, and are scheduled to perform at Carnegie Hall later this week. Theodore Kuchar is their principal conductor and has earned several accolades during his musical career. I was not only excited to attend this performance, but felt deeply grateful to take in a piece of Ukrainian culture.
Before the performance began, the interim Dean of the School of Fine Arts Dean Frogley welcomed the attendees and thanked us for our presence. He shared with us how he considered art to be “a beacon of hope and resistance,” particularly for the Ukrainian community as they continue to deal with unimaginable circumstances Russia has put them through for the past year. He commended The Lviv Philharmonic for their unwavering dedication to their craft and offered his gratitude for their presence at UConn.
It would be remiss of me to not mention Frogley’s serious concerns for the future of Jorgensen in light of Governor Lamont’s budget proposal for fiscal years 2024-25. He urged audience members to educate themselves on the matter if they felt so moved and to contact representatives, stating that “the future of our program depends on us.” QR codes to a list of local legislators and more information on the proposed budget were included in our programs.
As Frogley said his final words, I could hear violins tuning behind the curtains. When members of the orchestra made their way on stage, they were greeted by a standing ovation. On the program for the evening was Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych’s Chamber Symphony No. 3 for Flute and String Orchestra, Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 in G Minor (Op. 26), and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major (Op. 92).
To say that this orchestra performed beautifully is an immense understatement. They demonstrated an undeniable mastery of their craft and coaxed visceral reactions from their audience. Their fortes gave me bursts of energy, and their pianissimos soothed me. The way Theodore Kuchar guided them through the music was incredible. They all seemed to know that a swing of his hand meant this or that the stomp of his foot meant that. It was like watching a conversation at its grandest capacity.
I found the first piece to be the most evocative. The flute’s melody felt troubled and woeful as the strings raced and danced in accompaniment. Their harmony was tense as it rumbled forward, feeling both conflicted and meditative. I was moved by how the flutist danced around his instrument as he led the orchestra through three complex and powerful movements.
I was also intrigued by the choice to position one flute against a dozen-or-so other stringed instruments, but loved how its delicate melody shone through ever-so-slightly. There were moments where the peaceful tone lulled me, but I couldn’t shake the foreboding that lingered just beneath the surface. I felt confused as the piece fizzled into an inconclusive end. Where’s the rest of the story? Included in our programs were remarks by a featured flutist, one of which felt particularly necessary to understanding Stankovych’s work; “This music carries with it a dream: that mankind can one day reach beyond make believe boundaries imposed by ourselves…be free to see and exploit the endless possibility that life is when unrestricted and unconditional love are the heart of who we are.”
The Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra’s presence at UConn was a gift. It was a privilege to witness them do what they do best, and I wish them nothing but safety and success on the rest of their tour.