Outstanding composer and his Belarusian roots

For the first time, the music of Shostakovich has been performed in the homeland of his ancestors in the village of Shemetovo in the Myadel District
For the first time, the music of Shostakovich has been performed in the homeland of his ancestors in the village of Shemetovo in the Myadel District. A concert was organised to mark the prominent composer’s 110th anniversary in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church: classical pieces were performed by teachers and students of the Belarusian State Academy of Music.

Concert, dedicated to 110th anniversary since the birth of Dmitry Shostakovich in the Myadel District’s Shemetovo village

The place to celebrate Dmitry Shostakovich’s jubilee was not chosen accidentally: in Shemetovo, his paternal great-grandfather — Poitr Shostakovich (1808-1871) — lived. The Russian classical composer of the 20th century thus had Belarusian roots, though he was born in St. Petersburg (1906-1975).

A well-known European opera singer and the President of the French Association Exchange: France-Belarus — Arkady Volodos — initiated and organised the unusual event. He is a great admirer of the composer and, for several years, has been developing the idea of holding such a concert — after learning that Dmitry Shostakovich’s great-grandfather had Belarusian roots.

Mr. Volodos’ visit to the Myadel District last year was the beginning of the implementation of this initiative. He visited Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church in Shemetovo, getting acquainted with the priest, Vladislav, and the district heads. The next stage was the choice of musicians who would be able to perform quite complex musical compositions. It was decided that students and teachers from the Belarusian State Academy of Music would be able cope with the task. During the concert, the composer’s famous pieces were performed — including string quartet No. 3, elegy, polka, Prelude and Scherzo. Mr. Volodos sent the sheet music to musicians from Paris in advance as it was impossible to find some of them in Minsk. He was also personally involved in the preparation of the concert and attended the performance. Famous works by Shostakovich were performed by Tatiana Levitskaya, Yelizaveta Gembitskaya, Yelizaveta Surieva, Stanislav Petchenko, Yevfrosiniya Verevka, Gleb Tkachuk, Nikolay Teran and Yelevfery Goiko — in front of the Roman Catholic Church’s congregation, residents of Shemetovo and other neighbouring villages, as well as numerous guests from Minsk, Grodno and Myadel.

After the concert, Mr. Volodos talked to local residents and journalists, noting that the most striking works were chosen for the programme: these are not simple to perform but reflect Shostakovich’s artistry wonderfully. He also said that the concert was historic, as music by the great composer sounded under the arches of the Belarusian Roman Catholic Church, where his great-grandfather might have visited many times. He also said that, on September 25th (the day of Shostakovich’s 110th), many concerts were organised worldwide devoted to the musician. The jubilee was celebrated in St. Petersburg where the composer’s son — Maxim Shostakovich — lives. On learning of the Shemetovo concert, he later thanked Mr. Volodos for the excellent initiative and wished success to the musicians.

Mr. Volodos is convinced that the contribution of Belarus to the world’s treasury of art is huge and many previously unknown historical events are yet to be held. He thanked Shemetovo’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church priest Vladislav, the Rector of the Belarusian State Academy of Music, Yekaterina Dulova, the Belarusian Ambassador to France, Pavel Latushko, and local authorities for their help and support in the preparation of the event.

The project represents a minor part of Mr. Volodos’ extensive work aimed at the promotion of Belarusian culture. He graduated from the Belarusian State Academy of Music and believes the Belarusian musical school is outstanding. Mr. Volodos also worked as leading baritone at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre and studied at La Scala. He lives in Paris now. Actually, it was in France where he made his brilliant career as an opera singer. Mr. Volodos sang at prestigious music events in France, Italy, Spain and other European countries and the United States, also winning many international music competitions. He also lectured at the National Conservatory in Nancy (France) where his idea to unite the efforts of the two states’ young talents was born. He greatly contributed to the establishment of contacts between Belarusian and French musicians and organised joint concerts in France and Belarus, also finding sponsors for trips of Belarusian artistes to Paris.

Mr. Volodos’ contribution to the spread of Belarusian culture abroad and the strengthening of cultural ties between Belarus and France has been highly appreciated at state level. In line with a decree of President Lukashenko, he was awarded the Frantsisk Skorina Medal. Interestingly, Mr. Volodos’ son — also named Arkady Volodos — is among the most famous pianists in the world.

By Karina Mironovich
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