Maestro Kenney’s Adventures in Ukraine – part 3

Ukrainian Adventure, Part III

After another substantial breakfast in the hotel, it was off to the Lviv Philharmonic Hall for my first rehearsal. From the hotel it is only a 6-minute walk to the hall and when winding your way through some narrow streets, you pass right by the Lviv Conservatory where the sounds of vocal and other instrumental practice can be heard drifting down to the street.

Serhiy Khoravets is one of contacts at the Philharmonic and he meets me on the street with a big smile and handshake. We walk inside through a narrow hallway that leads to a set of stairs leading past the stage door and to the conductor’s room. It is an old building as most are in the downtown area, but the stage and room are made almost entirely of wood making for amazing resonance. The orchestra string section is quite large with 16 first violins, 14 seconds, 12 violas, 10 cellos and 6 basses. 

The program for this week is the Barber Second Essay, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, and the Dvorak Symphony No. 6. We start with the Dvorak Symphony and I discover quickly that this full-time orchestra has an outstanding set of musicians who want to make a considerable statement in their music making. There are four rehearsals this week and compared to U.S. orchestras, the rehearsals are much longer, with longer breaks. So typically it is 75 minutes of playing, a 30 minute break, 60 minutes, a 15 minute break, then another 45 minutes — altogether 3 hours and 45 minutes. As a comparison, American orchestras rehearse for 2.5 hours which includes a 15 minute break. The first segment we worked to get acquainted, but also accomplish a lot of detail on the first and last movements of the symphony. After the break we spend one hour working out details on the Barber which they have never played. They are pretty much sight reading because I brought the parts with me from the US, but it doesn’t take them long to sort out the intricacies of the piece. The final 45 minutes we go back to the Dvorak to look at the internal movements. I am exhausted at the end of the rehearsal, but very encouraged that it is going to be a great week. They certainly fill the hall with sound — almost to a point of my ears ringing!

After the rehearsal I meet with my soloist — a 15-year-old talented young man who has never played the Tchaikovsky concerto with orchestra before. He is very well-prepared, but there is no substitute for the experience of actually rehearsing and performing in live concert, so he will learn a lot this week.

I return to my room at the hotel to rest and study, but eventually go out to get some dinner and decide to stop at a place called Epic Burger. I mentioned earlier that hamburgers are prevalent throughout the area and I’ve stumbled upon this place as one of the best. In fact it is one of the best burgers I have ever had. It is the “EPIC” burger, BBQ relish, fried egg, brioche bun, lettuce, tomato. Oh my, probably 1100 calories and SO good. There is also gravy to dip the burger in along with fries. Incredibly satisfying and a fabulous end to a fabulous day.

Tomorrow Leslie arrives and from all reports her travels are on schedule. Little did I know what would transpire on the next day. . . .

Wes Kenney



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