Odessa Classics 2018 festival is a 10-day marathon of classic music performed by incredible world music stars on the Black Sea coast. Festival can be called a significant one without an exaggeration. No other related festival in the Eastern Europe cannot boast of such participants as Odessa Festival can. Aleksey Botvinov, a founder of the festival, managed to return to Odesa its former glory of the classics Mecca, the cradle of the best performers.

There are people who argue whether the country needs festivals during the war, in particular classic music festivals, but there are people who just create a quality and so needed by people and the state project. The first festival took place in such a terrible for the country 2014 year. It was extremely hard to gather good musicians then. However, it did not stop the organizers. It is the fourth time when the festival gathers people who appreciate classic music.

Except for Odesa citizens, many people from different regions of Ukraine and other countries came this year. Early announcement of the program, the fact that performers were known ahead, and there was a possibility to buy tickets in 6 months before the festival encouraged more people to come as they could plan their trip. Roughly estimated, about 20 thousand people could enjoy a real art on different locations. This is during trees are blooming, the sea is warm and people claim that nobody needs classic art.

This year, the audience could enjoy the music performed by the best world musicians. People also joked that Aleksey Botvinov is likely to have world stars’ relatives as hostages because it is hard to explain why they have dared to come to the country where it is advised not to come to participate in the festival, which is not so famous yet. Despite all the obstacles, the stage of the festival witnessed several concerts of world-known violinists Daniel Hope, Michael Guttman, Maxim Vengerov, Zakhar Bron and Roby Lakatos, leading pianists Sebastian Knauer and Stefan Vladar, the most famous cellist Antonio Menses and clarinetist virtuoso Dmitri Ashkenazy, and vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher.

This year’s message of the festival is that classic music has a prosperous future and can sound modern. The festival has successfully managed to convey this message to the audience. Except for the famous classic pieces of music, there were also different re-masterings, which only proved that classic music is eternal and always relevant.

The concert Ensemble Nostri Temporis, New Ukrainian Soundscapes – 2: HAND MADE program. Photo by Mykola Vdovenko

As a part of the festival, except for the main program, late at night, a new spacious space Urban Music Hall hosted the program New Ukrainian Soundscapes – 2: HAND MADE. Seven concerts of new Ukrainian and European music were aimed to catch attention to a chamber music as a unique and virtuoso way in comparison with serial music. The feature of these nights was an interactivity; the audience was involved in creating music.

The “Atonal reality” exhibition. Photo by Mykola Vdovenko

Traditionally, the Museum of Western and Oriental Art hosted an art exhibition. This year it was the “Atonal reality” by Victor Sydorenko.

Oleg Vergelis’s master-class. Photo by Oleh Sinkov

There were also literature and cinema events, master-classes and lectures, which took place in the creative art space Invogue. Odesa citizens were mostly excited about a meeting with Sonia Koshkina and the master-class of Oleg Vergelis “Ukrainian scene between the past and the future”. The event was gloomy because the day before, Kira Muratova, an ingenious director, had died. A big part of the event was spontaneously dedicated to the great contemporary.

However, the main events took place in historical halls of the Odesa Theatre of Opera and Ballet and the Odesa Philharmonic.

The concert of Maxim Vengerov and Polina Osetinska. Photo by Mykola Vdovenko

Maksim Vengerov, a violinist, and Polina Osetinska, a pianist, opened the festival traditionally at the Theatre of Opera and Ballet. They performed compositions of Brahms, Ravel, Saint-Saëns. Tickets became a real treasure as there was a total sold-out a month before the event. There was a crowd of listeners. They called musicians for an encore several times.

The main event of the festival was a Berlin Chamber Orchestra performing. They came to Ukraine for the first time, but we hope not for the last.

They took part in three concerts. Each of them was a great success. It was kind of the festival equator, which concentrated all the best.

Daniel Hope. Photo by Mykola Vdovenko

On June 6, the Odesa National Theatre of Opera and Ballet hosted the concert of the orchestra and Daniel Hope, one of the Top-5 the most popular world violinists, who has been four times nominated for “Grammy”.

Except for the well-known Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, musicians presented a new vision of this masterpiece by a British composer Max Richter. The next day, Oleg Vergelis, recalling that performing, will say, “There was something mystical about the concert yesterday. It was a farewell music, wasn’t it? Vivaldi, “Four Seasons” and that minor, which finally ended in a celestial pressure… There was a strange feeling, nobody staged it, nobody made it on purpose. At about 9 p.m., when the soul of Kira Muratova was already flying away, Hope’s violin didn’t just cry, it was mystically “screaming” as it knew that the time had just ended, the time of life… Saying that Daniel Hope is a virtuoso is the same as saying that the sky is blue. He is not only virtuoso, but it seems, also a hostage of his violin. If somebody could only write a play in Zweig or Kafka style.” Everybody who was at the concert agreed that Hope’s violin was crying badly that night as if it was saying goodbye…

Sebastian Knauer and the Berlin Chamber Orchestra

On June 7, this time in the Odesa Philharmonic Hall, the Berlin Chamber Orchestra performed an eternal music of Bach “The Art of Fugue”. The Orchestra with Sebastian Knauer (piano) also performed the Concert for Piano and Orchestra (d-minor). Odesa audience was impressed with the performing and mastery of the guests in such an extent that they were applauding not only after the concert but during it as well. Before the second part where UberBach project was presented (a new view on Bach by Arash Safaian), Sebastian Knauer thanked for emotionality and asked to listen the whole part without any applause so to be able to enjoy a modern interpretation fully. In the second part, an artistic Pascal Schumacher joined the musicians. He played a vibraphone, its sounds resembled a summer rain falling down on crystal. Viewers called them for an encore three times. They were applauding for several minutes.

Aleksey Botvinov, Michael Guttman and the Berlin Chamber Orchestra, open air on the Potemkin staircase

On June 8, the most expected traditional event of the festival took place on the Potemkin staircase – an open-air free concert, which was streamed online. The Berlin Chamber Orchestra, Aleksey Botvinov (piano), Jing Zhao (cello), Zakhar Bron and Michael Guttman (violin) performed compositions of Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, popular classics and film soundtracks. It should be mentioned that people’s affections were different: some were excited about the first serious part of the concert, others were fond of popular compositions. The concert was open not only for people who are really keen on classics, but for people who are making their first steps towards this music. However, the point is that everybody received what they came for: an incredible joy from music.

Except for the world-known stars, a young Roman Fediurko also took part in the concert – the winner of the Serafima Mohylevska competition for young pianists, which was arranged as a part of the festival.

Roby Lakatos. Photo by Ivan Strahov

The audience was also very excited about the concert of a Hungarian musician Roby Lakatos with the La Passion program. The violinist performed famous classic compositions (hits from the Fiddler on the Roof, favorite Csárdás, Dark Eyes and Dark Night) with a mastery, grace and an incredible airiness. When listeners heard the first sounds of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, flavored and changed with a cimbalom of Jeno Lisztes, they started applauding badly. After the concert, an impressive mastery of “the king of the Roma violin” was being discussed for long.

Describing the festival events is a thankless task as even the best orator is not able to convey the least of that pleasure which the audience could get.

It is better to hear and see once than to read many times. If you appreciate classic music, please be welcome and plan your time in Odesa in the first ten days of the June 2019 at the V Odessa Classics. Especially given the fact that after the festival Daniel Hope agreed to become an artist in residence of the festival. It means he will perform two concerts in the next three years. The decision of the world-star musician will definitely make other stars take part in the next festivals.

By Svitlana Bondar

Photo given by Odessa Classic Press Service

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