The anniversary celebrations took place on the impressive stage of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. Before the concert, the Deputy Prime Minister, Natalia Kachanova, read a greeting from the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, addressed to the special fund laureates, scholarship holders and prize winners. It was a solemn and proud occasion where the families of the talented youngsters were able to enjoy congratulations and praise for their children and grand-children. To quote: “Your achievements are widely known not only in the homeland, but also far beyond, and your example serves as a good reference point for contemporaries and an acknowledgement of the opportunities available for talented people in our country.”
This is not the first time I have attended concerts by laureates, scholarship holders and prize winners of the fund. Each time, I have enjoyed the contact with the arts and admired the exceptional level of education of our musicians, singers and ballet soloists. I also respect their sincerity and the wholesomeness of youth. This occasion was no exception. The young winners of the republican and international competitions charmed the audience with dance, playing musical instruments, and with vocal performances. It is surprising that at such tender age, these young people can already play like experienced professionals. The patience and effort required on a daily basis to reach such high standards is truly remarkable.
The organisers pointed out that the concert was special in several ways. As well as those who recently received awards, there were also those artistes whose names are well-known all over the world, attending to congratulate the fund on its anniversary, from the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre.
The anniversary concert was opened by the piano duet of Darya and Anastasia Lukashenko
Charm of youth
The first part of the concert was opened by the piano duet of ten-year old Darya Lukashenko and her twelve-year old sister Anastasia Lukashenko. The pair have already won musical Olympiads not only in Belarus, but also in Russia, France and Italy, having claimed first prize at more than ten competitions at international level. Last year their names were added to the database of talented youth of Belarus. The two young talents appeared on the stage almost skipping, holding hands, and beaming at the audience. Their demeanour immediately changed, becoming serious and concentrated as soon as they sat at the instrument. The hall filled with their beautiful music. Accompanied by the symphonic orchestra of the Belarusian State Academy of Music under the direction of conductor Andrey Ivanov, the girls performed an extract from the work of Aram Khachaturian entitled ‘Masquerade’.
Young pianist Vladislav Khandogiy
Vladislav Khandogiy, the next participant in the concert, is just several years older than the young ladies: he is 14 and already well known to the world press thanks to his victory with the Nutcracker at the televised International young musician competition of last year. Throughout the competition, the young participants were under the continuous scrutiny of the TV cameras. But Khandogy ‘outstripped’ all the other musicians from forty-eight countries, and received not only the main prize, but also the people’s choice award. For the first time in the history of the competition the ‘gold’ medal went to a Belarusian. Vladislav does not consider himself to be a ‘star’ artiste. During the celebration he looked outwardly restrained and quiet, but this didn’t prevent him from performing an emotional piano сoncerto with the orchestra of Camille Saint-Saëns.
What are the secrets of these talented youngsters? They have sincerity, childish spontaneity and the mischief about which I have already spoken. It is amazing to see these characteristics alongside adult diligence and a capacity for hard work.
Many of the performers at the anniversary concert already have long experience of the international stage. Among them is Andrey Kovalinsky, one of the first to receive an award from the fund in 1996. Today Andrey is known as a ‘leader’ among trumpeters of the new generation. His repertoire includes works by both classical and modern authors, while the artistry of his performance distinguishes him from other musicians. Kovalinsky tours the world with solo and chamber concerts. He has collected numerous victories at the most prestigious world contests: Citta di Porcia (Italy, 1999), Toulon (France, 2000), Maurice André (France, Paris, 2000), Ellsworth Smith, ITG (Germany, 2000) and Tromp Muziek Biennale (the Netherlands, 2002). He is the holder of the Timofei Dokschitzer Award (Moscow, 1992), Priza Riharda Wagner (Germany, 1998) and Karlheinz Stockhausen Award (Germany, 2003). Now Andrey is a soloist in the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra in Belgium. During the evening he performed the trumpet concerto in D Major with the orchestra by Giuseppe Tartini. At the end of his performance the audience exploded with applause and repeatedly asked him to return to the stage.
Yekaterina Oleynik dances the Nikiya variation from ‘La Bayadère’ ballet
Yekaterina Oleynik arrived from France to participate in the concert, in order to dance the Nikiya variation from ‘La Bayadère’. The ballerina is involved in several foreign projects. She does not need any special introduction as this Belarusian ballerina is famous thanks to her many victories in different competitions all over the world. In Belarus, Yekaterina is known as a unique phenomenon: even whilst a student she was given a solo part in the Bolshoi Theatre. Few ballet dancers have such fortune at the very beginning of their creative careers. A few years later, Oleynik became a leading master of the stage, confirming her status as one of the best ballerinas in the world. She quickly won the recognition of both the European and American public.
A collection of children’s clothes by the designer and Presidential Fund prize winner Veronika Kanashevich was shown to spectators in the foyer of the theatre during the interval. Her luxury dresses for young ‘princesses’ have won several design competitions and the brand ‘Veronika Kanashevich’ is now known abroad. In Belarus she is known as a ‘genius of domestic children’s fashion’.
Designed costumes by prize winner Veronika Kanashevich
Honoured Artist of Belarus Vladimir Gromov in the character
of Toreador, performed couplets from the opera ‘Carmen’
The last part of the concert was vocal. World famous hits of the classics were performed. The soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre, the Honored Artiste of Belarus and member of the council of the special fund, Vladimir Gromov, was the first to appear on stage. In the character of Toreador, he performed couplets from the opera ‘Carmen’. It was seven years ago that he was awarded the Frantsisk Skorina medal for outstanding creative achievements, high professional skill and merit in the development of the national culture of Belarus.
Anatoly Sevko’s bass and Yuri Gorodetsky’s tenor continue to win the hearts of fans of opera at home and abroad. At last year’s world famous Francisco Viñas opera contest, with a record number of participants — 607 soloists from 61 countries, Anatoly took second prize. He also became the holder of the highest scholarship award of the special fund for the third time. At that concert Sevko performed Mephistopheles from the opera ‘Faust’ by Charles-François Gounod with ‘devilish’ vigour. Yuri is a laureate of the International Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium and a finalist of the International competition of vocalists in Canada and the USA. During the anniversary concert he sang the Nemorino aria from the opera ‘The Elixir of Love’ by Gaetano Donizetti. During his sensual performance the audience appeared bewitched and waited with bated breath so as not to miss a single note.
Scholar of the fund violinist Oleg Yatsyna
This year’s concert was in a classical style, compared to last year’s participants who sang a variety of songs and even showed some circus performances. According to Victoria Ignatenko, the Head of the Department for the Support and Development of Cultural-Educational Initiatives of the Institute of Culture of Belarus, one of the organisers of the anniversary celebration, the Bolshoi theatre is a temple of classical art, therefore the programme for it was chosen according to the high status of the theatre and the significance of the special fund.
The anniversary year lasts for longer than one day of course, in the near future, the Minsk Historical Museum will hold an art exhibition of laureates, prize winners and grant-holders of the Presidential fund. Artists will show their skills and the year will end with a big variety concert to complete the celebrations.
The Special Fund of the President of the Republic of Belarus for the Support of the Talented Youth was created in 1996. Its purpose was to offer all-round aid to gifted children and youth, and also the formation of ‘gold reserves’ of the future creative elite of the country. In 2006 an electronic database of all winners of republican and international competitions held in Belarus and beyond was created. Twice a year the Ministry of Culture of Belarus holds sessions of expert-art commissions to select the very best. Council members consider the level of competitions, degree of professionalism and quantity of the awards won by the applicants. Thus, for the last three years, awards by the Special fund were given to 354 representatives of youth and 39 collectives of art creativity. In total today, the database (the Institute of Culture of Belarus) includes 834 people and 133 creative collectives.
Besides record keeping, the fund regularly allocates financial aid to laureates, grant-holders and prize winners, and also pays for education and training, grants and the organising of creative projects. Fund activity is under the close scrutiny of the President of Belarus. Meetings are held annually in the Independence Palace, where Alexander Lukashenko personally presents memorable awards and congratulates talented youth on their creative achievements.
By Alisa Krasovskaya