The 74-piece orchestra will be again led by its Canadian founding conductor and music director Keri-Lynn Wilson, whose ancestors immigrated to Canada from what constitutes today’s Ukraine. The orchestra’s musicians are leading Ukrainian instrumentalists drawn from the Kyiv National Opera, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra, and Kharkiv Opera, among other ensembles. Outside of Ukraine, players come from ensembles including the Tonkunstler Orchestra of Vienna, the Belgian National Orchestra, and the Staatskapelle, Berlin. Sixty of them could be head during UFO’s last year tour of Europe and the United States.
The success of the 2022 tour
The Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra has become an undisputed symbol of the fight for freedom. At its core was an intense passion for music and belief in its universal power. The ensemble was founded in 2022 in a gesture of solidarity with the victims of the war in Ukraine by the Metropolitan Orchestra in New York and the Polish National Opera in Warsaw. Last summer, in the course of 24 days, UFO gave 13 concerts for 32,000 people gathered at prestigious concert halls from Warsaw to New York. Each performance was a huge, emotionally-charged event. The orchestra’s journey was followed in a prime-time BBC documentary and there was extensive feature coverage in newspapers all over the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Guardian, The Times, Le Monde, Die Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and many others. Three of the 13 concerts were broadcast on television – by the BBC from the Proms, Arte from Warsaw and PBS from the Kennedy Center, Washington; and concerts in France and Germany were broadcast on radio.
‘[T]he best way to fight imperialism and authoritarianism […] [is] with sophistication, craft, rigor, subtlety. For all its moments of high drama, the program was admirably even-keeled and soft-spoken, an embodiment of a cultured nation,’ wrote The New York Times.
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Warsaw
This year the orchestra will once again assemble for a 10-day residency at the Polish National Opera, Warsaw. The 2023 tour will begin at the Polish National Opera on 20 August, following which the ensemble will appear in Hamburg, Amsterdam, Snape, and the Lucerne Festival. On 24 August, Ukrainian Independence Day, a free outdoor concert will be held in the grounds of the Schönhausen Palace in Berlin, while on 3 September the orchestra will play at the Barbican in London.
The ensemble will be accompanied by young Ukrainian soloists: Olga Kulchynska (soprano), Nicole Chirka (mezzo-soprano), Dmytro Popov (tenor), Vladyslav Buialskyi (bass-baritone). The tour’s programme includes the overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych’s Second Violin Concerto performed with the orchestra by young violin virtuoso Valeriy Sokolov, and Beethoven’s Third Symphony “Eroica” (except in Warsaw).
The inaugural concert in Warsaw will conclude with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, a piece of music with a universal message of brotherhood and peace, performed by UFO, the soloists, and the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Chorus in Białystok.
Raising funds for Ukrainian culture
The European tour is also a fundraising event to support a collection of funds for Ukrainian artists, the details of which you can find at donate.arts.gov.ua/en. You can also donate to support Ukrainian culture through a website of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Policy: restore.mkip.gov.ua.
The Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra is facilitated by the Polish National Opera in Warsaw in coordination with the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Policy and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The tour is managed by Askonas Holt, one of the world’s leading management agencies. Money raised from the tour will go to support Ukrainian artists.
The tour is held under the patronage of Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska. The two Polish concerts, at the Polish National Opera and the Baltic Philharmonic Hall in Gdańsk, are held under the patronage of Agata Kornhauser-Duda, the Spouse of the President of the Republic of Poland.
Maestro Keri-Lynn Wilson is the founding conductor and music director of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra. Her international career includes working with leading orchestras, such as the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the NDR Hanover Orchestra, the Bruckner Linz Orchestra and the NHK Symphony, and conducting at the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including the Royal Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, the Bavarian State Opera, the Paris Opera, and the Vienna State Opera. Ms. Wilson received a nomination for Conductor of the Year from the Opus Klassik 2020 awards for her recording of Rossini’s Sigismondo with the Bayerische Rundfunk.
Born in 1986, the Ukrainian violinist Valeriy Sokolov was awarded the Study Grant Prize at the International Pablo Sarasate Competition in Pamplona, Spain in 1999, which provided him with a scholarship to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School, England. In September 2005 he took part in the George Enescu Festival and won the Grand Prix with a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto; he also won Best Performance for Enescu’s Violin Sonata No. 3 as well as the Enescu Foundation Prize. One of the most outstanding artists of his generation, he works regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors, and performs in major concert halls around the globe.
Overture to La Forza del Destino
Violin Concerto No. 2
soloist: Valeriy Sokolov
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 in D minor
soloists: Olga Kulchynska – soprano, Nicole Chirka – mezzo-soprano, Dmytro Popov – tenor, Vladyslav Buialskyi – bass-baritone
COMPLETE CONCERT ITINERARY
• 20 August: Polish National Opera, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw, 19:00 LINK
• 22 August: Polish Baltic F. Chopin Philharmonic, Gdańsk, 19:00 LINK
• 24 August: Kastellanwiese at Schloss Schönhausen, Berlin, 19:30 LINK
• 27 August: Lucerne Festival, 11:00 LINK
• 28 August: Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, 20:00 LINK
• 30 August: Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, 20:00 LINK
• 2 September: Snape Maltings, Snape, UK, 19:30 LINK
• 3 September, Barbican Centre, London, 14:00 LINK