Maestro Kenney’s Adventures in Ukraine – part 6

Concert day. The dress rehearsal on the morning of the performance is shortened to 3 hours (with a 30 minute break.) When I arrive at the hall I’m again met by the executive director who says he needs another 5 minutes of time to talk to the orchestra. This time he brings the sobering news that tonight will be their last concert in a while. I’m told later that he referred everyone to the book Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, literature he is reading currently, and drawing some parallels in the process with the current world condition. 

Not exactly the best way to start a rehearsal, but as with all musicians, we take solace in our art and once the music begins the distraction is pushed to the back of people’s minds. Everything goes well with the Barber. At the end before we move onto the piano concerto, I tell the orchestra how much I’ve enjoyed working with them. That tonight is very special for the music, but also for a lasting memory as we go forward into the unknown. The Tchaikovsky goes very well, but that upper octave in the piano remains unstable. Leslie and Anastasia are in the audience this morning listening and give me some thoughts on balance and ensemble, and we make the adjustments. We run the Dvorak with the orchestra showing the depth of music they are capable of. It is going to be a great evening. 

After rehearsal Leslie and I return to city central to gather up souvenirs.

The chocolate factory is a must! We grab a quick midday lunch then rest during the late afternoon. Concert begins at 7 pm and as we walk up to the hall, an orchestra manager asks me how I would feel about the piano being put into place for the concerto at the start of the concert. I voice my concern that the strings for the Barber may not fit if we do this. They decide to leave the piano on the stage but off to the side. I understand their concern as the instrument is just below my dressing room and I can hear, even 5 minutes before downbeat, that the high Ab is an issue. The technician plays it over and over and over! Fast, slow, loud, soft. We can only hope for the best. 

In the European tradition, the orchestra members come out onstage en masse, take their places, and then tune. There are no programs for this concert, but a woman acting as an emcee comes out and announces each piece and the artists. The Barber is performed with a crackling electricity which excites me to no end. A great start to what would be a memorable night. The piano is then moved into place. The Tchaikovsky Concerto gets a terrific performance by Bohrdan and miraculously the intonation holds throughout. The enthusiastic audience starts clapping in rhythm and I encourage our young soloist to play an encore, which he does: A Liszt Transcendental Etude. Bohrdan is given multiple bouquets which I hold for him so he can bow. Unfortunately he is not fully steeped in stage etiquette so I can’t get the orchestra up for a bow — they certainly earned it! 

Many well-wishers come up to the dressing room adjacent to mine to wish this incredibly talented soloist well. The former Artistic Director of the Lviv Opera comes to my half of the room and gives me kisses on either cheek (obviously the virus is not a concern to him!), then telling me in perfect Ukraine something about how moving the performance was. Parents, teachers, and more thank me as well. Bohrdan has quite a following already!

The second half Dvorak performance becomes an extraordinary musical experience. The orchestra is fully flexible in their attention. The second movement in particular is a rendition I will not soon forget. The excitement carries to the end and the audience gives the orchestra a well-deserved standing ovation. As it may be the last performance by this group or me for the near future, it is a thrilling way to go out. 

After the concert, Marco the concertmaster comes to my dressing room and thanks me for the work adding that he hopes to see me again soon. This is the sentiment I was hearing from several of the musicians. Considering that our visit to the Ukraine is being cut short, I hope that it is not in the too distant future. We have certainly enjoyed ourselves in this quaint and interesting city. 

For a post-concert celebration Leslie and I go with Tobias (who came to the concert) and Anatasia for a BBQ rib dinner. This restaurant is located inside one end of the Lviv Fortress. Thus we are surrounded by large stone rooms separated by old wooden arches. There are no utensils for anyone; everything is eaten by hand. The racks come to our table, are cut up by our server’s heavy and sharp meat cleaver, then disappear quickly along with roasted vegetables; cheese; a most interesting tear open, dip, and eat salad; plus wine and beer. 

It is a great way to cap off our week in Lviv before we depart for Kyiv the next day. We say good-bye to our new found colleagues with the hope of seeing them again soon. Back to the hotel for some well-earned rest! 

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