By Olga Shirokova
What interesting events has the choir enjoyed recently?
Last year, we presented several programmes based on works by Stanislaw Moniuszko — a founder of the Polish-Belarusian opera school and the most famous musician born in Belarus. Two years ago, the ‘New Sky of Stanislaw Moniuszko’ CD was released with the assistance of the Polish Institute. At the same time, his ‘Loteria’ (Lottery) musical comedy was performed in Belarus — for the first time in over 170 years. The score was found in Poznan and the libretto was translated into Belarusian.
On June 22nd, 2011, we presented an exclusive programme, entitled ‘Souvenir from the Maestro’, which featured music by Chopin and his contemporaries. We used the Warsaw archives to locate rare music and then toured agro-towns near Myadel, Volozhin, Vileika and Kletsk, giving concerts which were subsidised by the state.
You travel abroad in search of forgotten national music, while presenting this to foreign listeners.
Of course. Last September, we visited Astana to take part in the Day of Belarusian Culture in Kazakhstan. We represented our country alongside staff from the Modern Fine Arts Museum and two soloists from the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus. We performed ancient Belarusian music, including works by Jan from Lyublin, ‘Polotskaya Tetrad’ (Polotsk Notebook), ‘Vilenskaya Tetrad’ (Vilnya Notebook) and fragments from Moniuszko’s ‘Loteria’, as well as Belarusian folk songs arranged for an orchestra and romances.
This April, we went to North Korea for the ‘April Spring’ Friendship Art Festival, which brought together musical, choreographic and circus groups from China, the USA, Cuba, France, Italy, Finland, Germany and South Korea.
The Koreans heartily welcomed us, giving us ovations and even singing along with us. They were especially delighted to hear Korean music performed by Belarusian musicians; we received a special award for this. The international jury praised our professionalism and energy and the originality of our programme. We were given two prizes and, alongside the other winners of the festival, took part in a gala-concert at the Grand Opera Theatre in Pyongyang.
The title of your band indicates that you perform classical and avant-garde music. Which prevails in your repertoire?
In recent times, we’ve been performing less avant-garde music, as it doesn’t appeal to the general public. Its performances need to be subsidised. For example, music by contemporary composers tends to be popular only with the elite in France, the Netherlands and Sweden. Such concerts are viewed as part of their cultural legacy — with no ‘box-office’ variants. Unfortunately, concerts of contemporary music aren’t subsidised in our country, so our repertoire leans towards more ancient Belarusian music.
Where do you find musical scores of original ancient music?
We buy them or find them in foreign archives, photocopying scores. We were surprised to learn that no national music exists in our Belarusian archives. Fortunately, scores are kept in St. Petersburg. Unexpected discoveries also occur. Recently, one of our colleagues found a pile of photocopied music scores in Poland, from the mid-19th century. I was astonished to see that the covers were clearly decorated by a professional painter and the publishing house was located in Minsk. Belarus had its own musical publishing houses in the mid-19th century. Judging by the cover, these scores were rather expensive, although they were designed for playing at home — a widespread hobby at that time.
What are your next plans?
On October 5th, the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society’s Small Hall will host a festive holiday (organised jointly with our old partner — the Polish Institute), dedicated to our band’s 20th anniversary. We’ll perform Karol Szymanowski’s ‘Prince Potemkin’, Witold Lutoslawski’s ‘Little Suite’, Dmitry Lybin’s ‘Post Scriptum’ symphony, Pavel Streletsky’s ‘Summer Dreams’ and Jerzy Kornowicz‘s ‘Scenes from Bulgakov’.
In early December, we’ll be inviting all music lovers for a traditional festival honouring I. Sollertinsky, in Vitebsk. On February 23rd, jointly with some dance groups, we’ll give a concert including wonderful music by Strauss and his sons.