Overall 17 of the master’s premieres were performed by singer Inna Halatenko and pianist Roman Riepka. Reception frequenters know the story of a “marvelous bunch of grapes,” which was given to the favorite composer by museum workers five and a half years ago as a present for his 70th birthday. Museum research worker Kira Pitoieva reminded of that during her foreword: “The house is always full during Valentyn Sylvestrov’s concerts, and this means that his music consolidates, it shows that beautiful art phenomena truly unite people. This makes Sylvestrov’s music full of hope, and today the moment of ‘expectation of music’ unites the composer and us.”
Two elegies to the lyrics by Lev Mei From Goethe and From Heine, five songs to the poems by Afanasy Fet “At Dawn,” “Whisper and Tender Breathing,” “Faraway Friend,” “The Only Thing in the World,” “Take My Heart Away,” songs to the lyrics by Emily Dickinson “I’m Nobody,” songs to lyrics by Yosyf Brodsky “The One Who Has No Place on the Earth” and “Forever,” songs to lyrics by Paul Celan “Do Speak Too,” “Stand till the End”; “Postlude” to Olha Sedakova’s lyrics, “Bell Tower” to Iryna Hubarenko’s lyrics, “Serenade” to Afanasy Fet’s lyrics, “Lullaby” to Fyodor Tyutchev’s lyrics, and “I Stood and Listened to the Spring” to Lesia Ukrainka’s lyrics were performed during the evening.
Laureates of international contests Inna Halatenko (soprano) and Roman Riepka (piano) extracted “quarks of expressiveness” from every sound, thus making the quiet music unending. The air was filled with deep and tender voice, streams of melodies, woven out of shades and pauses. The candles were alight, music seemed to grow out of nowhere, and worlds appeared in the darkness. All this means that beauty is not lost yet.
After the concert, while enjoying the treat of pancakes, Sylvestrov told about his happy student years at the hills of Richard’s Castle, carried out an ordinal analysis of Pushkin’s “Bacchic Song” in a conversation with Kostiantyn Sihov, director of the Dukh i Litera Publishing House, and translator Marko Belorusets (his translation of Paul Celan’s poem was sung during the concert). Let us remind the readers that Dukh i Litera Publishing House presented two first-class books during the last two years: Wait for the Music. Lecture Conversations by Sylvestrov and YMПION: Meetings with Valentyn Sylvestrov.
After the concert, the composer answered a few of The Day’s questions:
It is the second time you participate in the museum reception. What attracts you to Bulgakov and this museum?
“I visited this house for the first time in 1967. Natalia Horbanevska and I came to see the Bulgakov and Turbin house after the publication of Viktor Nekrasov’s essay in Novy Mir. I remember we entered from the side of the backyard, and Inna Lystovnycha lived in the house back then… Today, this is a very live museum in which I see Mikhail Bulgakov as a Kyiv writer.
“I used to be very fond of Master and Margarita once, but the Kyiv-based novel The White Guard is much closer in spirit to me because of the location. Bulgakov describes places where my childhood and youth passed: the Sinny Market and nearby streets, Great Zhytomyrska Street, ravines near Richard’s Castle and the Historical Museum. I read and I recognized everything, the atmosphere of the city was captured perfectly! We are on the border between the city and eternity in Kyiv: you leave your house and come across pieces of history. I have lived in this city for my whole life and all my music relates to it, even the avant-garde. I am a Kyiv composer in semantics, attitude towards poetry, the special state of the sound. Hopefully, the spirit of the place is present in my music as well, and this makes me a co-author of The White Guard in some sense too.”
What is your secret, of writing songs?
“All my songs are made without any intention to make something up. I never sat down and thought, ‘Now I am going to invent something!’ My music comes when I accidentally come across favorite poems. I knew Pushkin’s poem Prisoner by heart since I was a child, and when I opened it today, it turned into a song, the only thing left is to write down the notes. ‘Prisoner’ is a jail song, almost a colonial one. It was 1822, Pushkin wanted to go abroad, but he was not allowed to. When I wrote “Bacchic Song” I thought, why it was ‘bacchic tunes.’ It did not sound right to me, perhaps, Pushkin was in some kind of poetic panic when he wrote that. ‘Long live the mind!’ always reminds me of Serhii Krymsky. It is a drinking bacchic song which seems to be full of madness, rough fate, but no, it has nobleness, moderateness, and a call ‘You, holy Sun, keep shining!’ So I called my song ‘Hymn.’ It ends with a sort of conclusion ‘Long live the sun!’ But for us the words ‘long live’ became insipid ever since the Soviet time, that is why I sing the final part in sotto voce, and this creates Pushkin’s ‘long live,’ and not the official one.”
Tell us about the works that you performed during the concert.
“A small series Three Waltzes written in 2012 is one of the bagatelles. This is the 208th opus, and I have a total of 213 series made of 3 or 4 pieces. I have been writing bagatelles since 2004, and now I have a gigantic collection of them, like the one in Scarlatta, and finally, I felt that the theme is depleted. That is why I decided to finish working on bagatelles and move on to symphonies. The songs are easier to count, I have over 200 of them written to the classical lyrics. There are 600 songs written by Schubert, and only 100 of them are still alive and performed. Hlinka wrote 70, Tchaikovsky – 100, Schumann – 150, so, I have too many. By the way, Schubert wrote everyday songs for dances, a lot of his songs are written to the lyrics of second-rate poets. Some people think that it is harder to write a nice song to quality lyrics, while it is easier to work with weak ones. But I think that it is quality text that brings life to quality music. Today, song ‘Bell Tower’ was performed, it was written to Inna Hubarenko’s lyrics. She is very little known as a poet, but this poem is really good.”
By the way, when Sylvestrov was asked to pose for photos at the buffet, he eagerly responded, came up to an ancient piano, opened the lid and started playing. This piano is known as Hlaholiev’s: it is from Bulgakov’s confessor’s house, professor of the Kyiv Spiritual Academy, Rev. Oleksandr Hlaholiev, who became the prototype of Father Aleksandr in The White Guard. Also, Sylvestrov played the white grand piano during the concert closing and the final part of the reception. He was talking about his works, and then he suddenly sat at the piano and played three waltzes. There is so much of benevolent brightness in everything he says and does that it makes life instantly full of meaning and lit up with his smile.