Kyiv Symphony Orchestra in the Allgäu
“We show the culture that wants to kill Russia”
May 10, 2022 by Axinja Weyrauch
The Kyiv Symphony Orchestra is carrying out a special mission across Germany: using instruments as weapons, they are fighting on the cultural front against the aggressor Russia.
Image source: Axinja Weyrauch
It’s an unusual place for a symphony orchestra to rehearse: the Schützenhaus in Weissensee near Füssen is currently filled with music booths, and double buses lean on the kind of wooden chair you’re probably familiar with from every Bavarian club. In addition to the small bar, there is a theater where there is not enough space for the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra.
“It’s very difficult to focus on music,” says Oleksii Pshenychnikov, one of the violinists. This is not because of the unusual environment, but rather because of the bad news from the house. “I have an app that notifies me of Kyiv air alerts. It sends me popups every day. Sometimes twice a day, three times a day, even at night. Then I wake up and see an air alert in Kyiv,” says the 23-year-old.
The struggle on the cultural front
The Kyiv Symphony Orchestra rehearsed at the Schützenhaus in Weissensee near Füssen. | Image source: Axinja Weyrauch
But that doesn’t matter at the moment. Currently, approximately 80 musicians from the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra are rehearsing for a number of concerts in Bavaria. “We can’t exercise in Kyiv because the building is considered a strategic target,” says Oleksii Pshenychnikov. At the beginning of April, the violinist left Kyiv with the orchestra – by bus to the west.
Not because they wanted to escape, but because they had a mission, explains Lisa Sirenko, who is in charge of public relations for the orchestra. “We have special permission from the Ukrainian government to leave the country and represent Ukrainian culture,” says Sirenko. Men who are actually enlisted for military service are currently exempt from this. “Because we not only have to fight militarily and against false information, but also on a cultural level. We show the culture that Russia wants to kill.”
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Ukrainian music composers
That is why they are on tour in Europe – they have visited Poland and other parts of Germany. She has already played concerts at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg or the Kulturpalast in Dresden. They have now reached the Allgäu through connections and are rehearsing for a few concerts in Bavaria.
Their program is mainly composed of Ukrainian composers, such as contemporary artist Yevvin Stankovich. “We really have a lot of high-quality composers with high-quality music,” says violinist Oleksii Pshenychnikov. “Their voice must be heard, not only in Ukraine. Also in Europe and in the world. This is our mission.”
You can feel the existential necessity of each note.
Luigi Gugliero, conductor of the orchestra
Stringers work alongside Italian conductor Luigi Gaggero on contemporary work. Time and time again, someone picks up their cell phone when they are on a break. Some of the orchestras brought their families with them, but many relatives stayed at home in Ukraine.
Despite a lot of bad news, the mood is good, says conductor Gajiru. Music also gives a way to deal with the situation. “You can allow fears and pain to flow into the music.” He says work has intensified since the invasion began. “You feel the existential imperative of every tune they play. We play together.”
The end of the mission is uncertain
Musicians don’t know where they will be in two weeks. Either they can organize more concerts and stay on short notice, or they can go back to Ukraine. Since the violinist Oleksii Pshenychnikov is still studying, he was exempted from military service. But this could change in a few months. He says he is no longer afraid. “After months of this tragedy, after everything I saw myself and on the news, I was no longer afraid.”
Broadcasting: “Leporello” on May 10, 2022 From 4:05 pm at BR-KLASSIK