This visit to the Rhine’s banks brought a couple of major achievements for the Ukrainian musicians. First, this cohesive band of 10 virtuoso performers and nonconformist composers was able to expand its touring geography. Let me recall that the contemporary music ensemble Nostri Temporis already has to its name debut at the Warsaw Fall event, impressive projects realized at Moscow festivals and a training period spent at the Summer Courses of New Music in Darmstadt. Even so, performing at the WDR Hall in Cologne, located just a stone’s throw from the Cologne Cathedral, would be a great honor for any musician. Secondly, the Kyivites’ performance was part of Contemporary Music Season Ensemble Europa, overseen by musicologist Frank Hilberg and including monthly concerts of most renowned bands, followed by radio broadcasts in the whole of Germany.
Germans, for their part, showed a genuine interest in the young group, which was established six years ago in a single Eastern European country by a few enthusiasts and has performed hundreds of premieres and organized annual workshop COURSE for young composers in Kyiv. The western public’s attention to the political situation in a faraway country contributed to the interest, too. The question “European Future for Ukraine: Yes or No?” was often asked by the evening’s elegant host Cornelia Bitman, and the audience seemed to be worried about it no less than the proportions of jazz, blues and Salvatore Sciarrino style in Oleksii Shmurak’s premiere composition.
When asked by interviewers, the musicians replied that “to change things around oneself, one must first change oneself,” and focused on performing in a self-disciplined, artistic and minutely perfected manner.
The six-piece program, almost all of it conducted by Grzegorz Wierus from Poznan, included two compositions that could be considered true trademarks of Nostri Temporis. These were Maksym Kolomiiets’s impressively expressive Ashes of Frightened Rainbows and technically inventive Interaction of Forms by Bohdan Sehin. Mystery of exotic instruments played out in Granularity, a jewel of the concert, composed by Hanna Arkushyna, now studying under famed Beat Furrer in the Austrian city of Graz. Shmurak’s Mild Passions, conceived in August 2013 and finished, to his colleagues’ relief, before Christmas, staged a mass meditation session based on a simple repeating material.
Dusseldorf-based Sven-Ingo Koch’s Land seemed to exhibit almost Dovzhenko-like semantics (the composer swayed about as if at prayer during rehearsals, literally provoking the musicians to engage in relentless loosening of musical soil in his play). Carola Bauckholt, who lives in Freiburg and visited Kyiv with a master class a year ago, presented her trio Scythe which stealthily bored through silence...
When accepting farewell greetings and parting with each other, the ensemble members promised to perform yet again in such a landmark makeup. Given the current conditions, the promise is quite difficult to keep, because Nostri Temporis’s director Sehin doubles as deputy director of the Lviv Philharmonic Society, bassist Anton Zhukov discovers the world with Gidon Kremer’s orchestra, violinist Sonia Suldina concerts in Switzerland, composer and oboist Maksym Kolomiiets performs at prestigious European festivals, and pianist and composer Oleksii Shmurak spends almost half of his time in Moscow. Still, one can only hope that the wonderful concert in Cologne will become a new start, not the end of the musicians’ joint effort, as they continue with their meticulous work in Europe, long wide open for the Nostri Temporis team and the music they promote.