Slobozhansky Youth Academic Symphony Orchestra

MASO Kharkiv

Photo of the ensemble in concertThe Slobozhansky Youth Academic Symphony Orchestra from Kharkiv is the first and only professional youth orchestra in Ukraine. Founded in 1993, a year later it was named Best European Youth Orchestra at the Festival of Youth Orchestras in Copenhagen. Its mode of operation can be compared to that of Poland’s Sinfonia Juventus, whose young musicians learn to function in a professional music ensemble, while contributing to the cultural life of the country. Formed by the most talented young musicians from across Ukraine, before the war, MASO gave weekly concerts in Kharkiv, performing with recognised international soloists and conductors: Kirill Karabits, Elizabeth Pitcairn, Daniel Austrich, Arkady Shilkloper, Theodore Kuchar, László Fenyő, Alexey Stadler, Dionysis Grammenos, Alina Vlasenko, Valeriy Sokolov. In 2008, in recognition of their contribution to Ukrainian culture, the orchestra received the official title of ‘Academic Ensemble’.

As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the orchestra was unable to continue its operations in Kharkiv with the the city being tragically affected by the military operations. As a consequence, with the help of the Polish ministry of culture, it found its new home in Poland, first at the Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre of Music in Lusławice, and subsequently in Lublin, Zakopane, Wrocław, and Szklarska Poręba. Currently, as part of a programme of the National Institute of Music and Dance in Warsaw, the ensemble has its base in Katowice under the auspices of the Katowice City of Gardens Culture Institution. It receives organisational support from the Purpurowy Stradivarius Polska association and mentoring from Jurek Dybał, conductor, organiser of cultural activities, and member of the famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

The orchestra’s day-to-day work is led by young conductor and clarinet player Vitaly Liashko. For larger-scale projects it is supported by Polish musicians, including beneficiaries of the National Fund for Children programme. During its current stay in Poland, the orchestra gave a series of In Solidarity with Ukraine concerts at the Witold Lutosławski’s Concert Studio of the Polish Radio in Warsaw, Kraków Philharmonic Hall, Silesian Philharmonic Hall, House of Music and Dance in Zabrze, and at the Emanacje Festival, performing with soloists and conductors such as Elisabeth Pitcarin, Vanessa Benelli Mosell, Juan Carlos Fernández-Nieto, Rémy Ballot, Jakub Chrenowicz, Michel Lethiec, Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, Giuseppe Mengoli. Together with the Academy of Music in Katowice, MASO held a conducting masterclass that concluded with a concert. In the summer of 2022 the ensemble took part in the Symphony of Freedom festival held in front of the imperial palace in Vienna whose programme included works by Ukrainian composers (Dmitry Bortniansky, Myroslav Skoryk) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 with mezzo-soprano Zoryana Kushpler under Jurek Dybał. The orchestra also played at the meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Łódź. Currently, the musicians are working on Krzysztof Penderecki challenging Symphony No. 2 ‘Christmas Symphony’ which they will perform under Jurek Dybał in Kraków and Lusławice.