Center Presents: Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine
The Palladium // Friday, Feb 24, 8 p.m. ET
Established in 1902, the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine has collaborated with many of the world’s great composers and musicians. The orchestra regularly performs at top international festivals and has released acclaimed recordings on major labels, including Naxos and Brilliant Classics. Ukrainian-American Principal Conductor Theodore Kuchar will lead the orchestra in a program of Brahms, Grieg and Dvořák, featuring pianist Oksana Rapita.
It was one of the highlights of my career to interview Maestro Theodore Kuchar. He provided wisdom and insight to current events as they relate to the arts as well as thought-provoking historical references that have made a lasting impact on me, both as a journalist and as a member of the human race.
Janelle Morrison: Maestro, what an honor it will be to have you and the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine perform at the Palladium in Carmel, Indiana. The fact that you have included our city on your tour is a testament to the faith you all have in our audience.
Theodore Kuchar: It is a great honor for us. I know Europe and America very well, and both have been extremely good to me. This is the first time that the orchestra as a whole has been able to have such a tour.
JM: I would like to convey to my readers how incredible it is that the entire company is touring, having survived the pandemic and now, as the war in Ukraine wages on. How important is it to you and your fellow musicians to continue performing under such challenging circumstances?
TK: We are living in a new world, but at the same time, I think about the world that we’ve come from. I think during the nearly 2 years of COVID, we were the most active orchestra in the world, performing every Friday or Saturday doing online concerts. I was very proud that there was at least one orchestra that was trying to keep a sense of normalcy about its existence, and this orchestra, under the most sever obstacles and circumstances, just like the Siberian Huskies … we mush! We just keep on moving.
JM: What has your reception from audiences been throughout this tour?
TK: The orchestra walks out, and the public is standing on its feet and screaming. People who are not Ukrainian bring Ukrainian flags. Let’s face it, this tour was organized long before the war started, but with what is happening now, there’s a whole different, emotionally charged message with our presence. Even in December, nobody was completely sure that we would be here. This [war] is nothing new … it is a historical evolution … a continuation, except it’s growing to a different level. Ukraine is in a geographically difficult position and has always maintained its identify and its need for the language to exist under various politically occupied systems. Stalin didn’t start [this] during the war of 1932–33. This [current war] is a continuation of what has been going on for the last 500 years [regarding Russia], and the Ukrainian spirit and the language have always been prevalent in western Ukraine, and the biggest obstacle or barrier of any oppressive regime is nationalism.
JM: You were born in New York, raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and have had directorships in the U.S., Australia and across the globe. What compelled you to go back to your family’s place of origin in western Ukraine?
TK: My father always said, “You don’t know how lucky you are to be an American and to have this life. You have to go back [to Ukraine] and do for those people and give them what you were fortunate to have.” At 24, I thought, “What better time to go and try life in Europe?” And the 5 years that I lived in Helsinki were the most productive in my life. I earned the credentials to have that first music directorship in Brisbane, Australia, at the age of 27. The Soviet Union went kaput, and suddenly, many Ukrainian elites who had emigrated after the Second World War were going back to Ukraine to try to help in whatever ways possible to redevelop the country. At the same time, various people were asking Ukrainians from America if they knew of any symphony conductors who would like to come back and give to their mother country. My name, Theodore Kuchar, came up.
In 1994, I became the principal conductor and artistic director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Those 10 years were the most fruitful 10 years of musical existence in Ukraine, because those were the first times that Ukraine was a free nation and was able to negotiate with the West, for itself, to do musical business. People very quickly found out that Ukraine was not some provincial culture. So, from 1991 up until February 25, 2022, it was the most joyous and fruitful existence for Ukraine.
JM: It is not lost on me that the date of this concert falls on the one-year anniversary of the official start of the war in Ukraine, albeit it was scheduled more than 2 years ago. What do you want the audience at the Palladium to take away from an evening with you and the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine?
TK: We will be presenting a rather well-rounded symphonic program for the people of Carmel to enjoy. We are not coming seeking pity because of the war. The point of this tour … I see myself and the orchestra that travels with me as being ambassadors for an international awareness to what not only exists in Ukraine presently but to what has existed all along but has been suppressed and hidden from Western awareness. We’re still 32 years into this democracy, but I would say the world is still largely unaware.
Sock Drive for Ukraine
February 24 is the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine and also the date of a performance at the Palladium by the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine. In conjunction with the concert, the Center for the Performing Arts is assisting the local nonprofit organization Indiana Supports Ukraine in its mission to provide supplies to military personnel and civilians at the front lines of the ongoing conflict.
One critical need in Ukraine is thick, heavy socks for men and women that can be worn with boots. Through February 24, donations of new socks only will be accepted for delivery to Ukraine.
Donated socks can be dropped off at the west entrance of the Palladium. In Zionsville, Robert and Rose- Marie Goodman have graciously agreed to have their store, Robert Goodman Jewelers, located at 106 N. Main Street, Zionsville, 46077, as a collection point.
Purchase tickets for the concert at thecenterpresents.org.
More information on the aid effort is available at IndianaSupportsUkraine.org.