Yesterday I saw the culmination of the project that I had seen in rehearsal earlier in the week. The Ukrainian Art Song Project Summer Intensive presented 21 songs in a linked narrative about losing and regaining inspiration. It was staged in the round in the Temerty Theatre with the piano in the middle of the room and the action taking place all over. Pavlo Hunka directed. Albert Krywolt and Robert Kortgaard shared piano duties and there were eight young singers from Canada, the US and Ukraine.
Yesterday, for the second time inside a week, I found myself at a musical event celebrating a nation and a nationalism not my own. It’s a rather weird experience (1). The first had been a performance of Dvoràk’s Jakobin, not reviewed here as I was reviewing for Opera Canada, and yesterday was the launch of the CD set Galicians 1; the fourth instalment of the Ukrainian Art Song Project. This latter is the lovechild of British Ukrainian bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka. Indeed it’s almost an obsession. He has tracked down scores for 1000 largely unknown art songs by Ukrainian composers and has plans for them all to be recorded by 2020. The latest bunch are by Galician composers Denys Sichynsky, Stanyslav Liudkevych, Vasyl Barvinsky and Stefania Turkewich. The party line reason for the neglect of this music is, unsurprisingly, persecution under both Tsarist and Soviet regimes. This was mentioned in at least one of the many introductions and speeches of thanks yesterday and provoked a loud “Absolute rubbish!” from the rather scholarly looking gentleman two seats to my right. It does rather look a bit more complicated with composers holding prestigious conservatory posts but eventually falling foul of someone in the apparatus and getting sent to a labour camp for obscure reasons. I don’t think that was unique to Ukrainians.
Sunday, November 2nd at 3:00 p.m. in Koerner Hall, bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka launches the world premiere of Galicians I: The Art Songs, the latest recording in the Ukrainian Art Song Project (UASP). Hunka will be joined in performance by renowned Canadian opera singers Russell Braun, Krisztina Szabó, and Monica Whicher. They will be accompanied by pianist Albert Krywolt and featured artist, violinist Marie Bérard. The concert will feature the world premiere performance of selected art songs by four of Ukraine’s Galician composers.