This summer, the Ukrainian virtuoso pianist Anna Fyodorova made a remarkable debut at the Verbier Festival and is currently performing with the Ukraine Freedom Orchestra under the direction of Keri-Lynn Wilson, as part of a major tour of the European continent, New York and Washington DC. We asked him three questions.
Q: This summer you are touring all over Europe and the United States with the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra. What does this set/project represent for you?
A: It’s very special for me to play with the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra. I think it’s a fantastic project and a great initiative that will generate support, awareness…support for musicians and support for Ukraine in general. It will be very special to share a stage with all the Ukrainian musicians playing in the orchestra, many of whom have been in Ukraine all this time. They are all part of the best Ukrainian orchestras, in Odessa, Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv. I know many of them. We studied together, they were my classmates or were a year or two ahead of me, or we played together when we were students. And now we will meet again and play together on stage during this fantastic tour, initiated by the Metropolitan Opera and the National Theater of Poland, and organized by Askonas Holt. Our tour will include the BBC Proms, Lincoln Center in New York, plus all the top festivals and many fantastic concert venues. It will also be an opportunity to raise funds for Ukrainian musicians, with all funds going to the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture. It means a lot to me to be part of this project.
During this tour, you perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2. What relationship do you have with this piece? What is your relationship with him?
Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is quite a symbolic piece to play. First of all, because Chopin’s story is very similar to the story of many Ukrainians right now. He also had to flee his beloved homeland, Poland, because of the invasion of Russia. He was forced to flee to France, and it was there that he spent the rest of his life. During all this time, he missed Poland sorely. You can feel it in his music and in every note he wrote, the nostalgia, the sadness, the deep melancholy, the longing to be back in Poland. This is also how many of us feel now. Also, for me, the Piano Concerto No. 2 was very important during the first month of the war, because it was the music that I started to play first, after the start of the war. For the first ten days, I didn’t touch the piano out of desperation. The feelings of terror and shock were too strong. And then I started to organize benefit concerts with many other great musicians and people in the Netherlands. At the first benefit concerts, the piece I played was actually the second movement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2. I remember that feeling of playing the first note and at that moment I felt again. I felt that it brought me back to life, to reason, to peace, brought me comfort. For this reason, I think it will be really special to perform this concerto during the tour. In fact, this tour is one of the examples of Poland’s incredible support to Ukraine, as the tour is organized by the Metropolitan Opera but also in collaboration with the Polish National Opera Theater in Warsaw and the Polish Ministry of Culture. Throughout this time, Poland’s support for Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and the refugees, has been immense. I think playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is also very symbolic in this context.
Since the beginning of the war, you have been organizing and giving charity concerts to help Ukrainians. The conflict is still ongoing and will certainly continue for some time. In this long-term effort, what is the main thought that occupies your mind while you play?
Indeed, we have given several benefit concerts in recent months, concerts for Ukraine. Many of them were organized by myself with other great musicians and great people. Some in which I was invited to play. Of course, at every concert, not only the benefit concerts, but basically at every concert where I perform, there is always a thought for Ukraine. Each concert has a very special atmosphere because everyone in the audience also thinks of Ukraine. Of course, I always talk about the situation, I perform evocative pieces and I feel a very strong support and connection from everyone in the room. They really breathe and think in unison. It’s quite special and powerful. What thoughts for Ukraine? They depend on the music I play. If the music I play is darker, more traumatic, sadder, then the emotions are also more oriented towards terror, sadness, pain. We think about the current situation and all the emotions we have felt in recent months. These thoughts are carried by the music, making them more intense and powerful than before. Music is also a way to make your heart cry. These are, of course, thoughts and emotions. But when I play music that is brighter and more hopeful, like for example the second movement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, then the thoughts are also more about hope, light…thoughts of a better future, when we can all return to Ukraine, feel safe and happy, when we know that the sky above us is peaceful, that Ukraine is free, beautiful , prosperous, with the hope that the war will soon be over and we can all resume our normal lives.
Music Swap Deals
Anna Fedorova’s concert with the Ukraine Freedom Orchestra at the BBC Proms, July 31, 2022, is available on MUS under the reference ER/2022/51/40. The pianist was also the soloist of the opening concert of the Verbier Festival 2022 (ER/2022/09/01) and performed with violinist Dana Zemtsov at this year’s West Cork Chamber Music Festival (ER/2022/58/02).