Ukrainian Orchestra Pays Tribute to One-Year Anniversary of Russia’s Invasion
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine made their return to the United States, performing at the Metro Campus Auditorium in Cleveland on February 23rd. Under the direction of Ukrainian-American conductor Theodore Kuchar, who graduated from The Cleveland Institute of Music, the concert aimed to raise awareness of the ongoing war and to honor the resilience of the Ukrainian people.
The performance featured two renowned pianists, Emanuela Friscioni, director of Tri-C’s Classical Piano Series, and Antonio Pompa-Baldi, first prize winner of the 1999 Cleveland International Piano Competition and silver medalist at the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The beloved Cleveland Pops Maestro Carl Topilow also took to the stage as a guest conductor for one of the numbers.
The concert began with a speech from Dr. Baston, the President of Tri-C, who expressed the honor of hosting one of the world’s oldest and distinguished orchestras. “Lviv orchestra comprises members who are not only accomplished musicians but also the passionate defenders of the Ukrainian culture and society,” he said. “On this particular evening as the orchestra takes the stage, we can only imagine the emotion they must be feeling. While we listen to the beautiful melodies tonight, let us remember the courage and resilience of the Ukrainian people. Let us honor the sacrifice made by these musicians as they continue to fight for the preservation of their culture.”
During his speech, Dr. Baston also made an announcement inviting the audience to explore two exhibits on display, one of which was “100 Warriors of Ukraine.” This exhibit showcased Tri-C’s student’s Dmytro Hunchak’s portrait drawings of soldiers who lost their lives in the conflict with Russia. Alongside Hunchak’s art, the exhibit also featured “Unbreakable,” 21 paintings crafted by Ukrainian artists from different parts of the country and of various ages during the conflict. These artworks vividly captured the unwavering resilience of the Ukrainian people, who turned to art as a powerful tool to enhance their hope and faith in the midst of the adversity.
Timothy J. DeGeeter, the Mayor of Parma, also expressed his support for Ukraine, noting that the city has a deep connection with the country. “Parma is Ukraine, Ukraine is Parma.” He mentioned seeing the heartwarming readiness of the residents and businesses in Northeast Ohio coming together to raise funds for humanitarian aid and sponsor refugees in Parma. “Ukrainians are strong willed, and the word “quitting” is not part of their vocabulary”, he remarked, emphasizing the perseverance of Ukrainians to defend their country.
Marta Liscynesky Kelleher, President of the United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio, echoed these sentiments in her speech, thanking the orchestra for raising awareness of the conflict. “Our coming together tonight is a strident declaration that Russians assumptions [that Ukraine is not a nation and that Russian troops would be welcome] were wrong,” she said. “We in the West stand together in the defense of the fundamental values of freedom and sovereignty that underpin our own rights and prosperity. In solidarity with the people of Ukraine, let us stand and honor the Ukrainians who have lost their lives, ever made and suffering with a moment of silence.” The entire audience rose to their feet and joined Kelleher in paying their respects to the loss suffered by Ukraine, creating a powerful moment of solidarity and reverence.
The Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra, based in the medieval city of Lviv and first established in 1902, regularly participates in international festivals such as the International Festival of Musical Art “Virtuosos,” the International Festival of Contemporary Music “Contrasts,” and the Ukrainian-Polish Festival “Discovering Paderewski.” The orchestra has toured several countries, including Poland, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina, and China. This marked their first tour of the United States since 2017.
The performance commenced with Theodore Kuchar, who performed Chamber Symphony No.3, followed by the guest conductor Carl Topilow, with his rendition of Tragic Overture op. 81. The third performance was Piano Concerto No.10 from Mozart, where Antonio Pompa-Baldi and Emanuela Friscioni showcased their exceptional talent on the piano.
Throughout the concert, the audience showed their appreciation for the performers by clapping enthusiastically and waving the Ukrainian flag. The energy and excitement in the concert hall were noticeable, with the crowd fully immersed in the performances and showing their support for the artists on stage. The collective enthusiasm from the audience added to the overall atmosphere of the concert, creating a memorable and enjoyable experience for all in attendance.
At the end of the performances Theodore Kuchar talked to the audience about the Ukrainian war and his experience. He also emphasized the importance of USA’s help towards Ukraine by thanking the country on behalf of his colleagues. Finally he invited the audience to enjoy the concert’s closing piece, a traditional Ukrainian melody that perfectly captured the spirit of the country’s rich musical heritage.
The concert served as a platform to focus on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and to celebrate the perseverance and courage of the Ukrainian people. It highlighted the power of art as a medium to convey emotions and ideas that transcend language barriers. Through music, the concert brought people together and created a sense of solidarity and unity that resonated with all those in attendance.