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Detroit area hosts a memorable meeting with composer Yevhen Stankovych

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WARREN, Mich. – Detroit-area music lovers were treated to an exceptional concert of contemporary Ukrainian music by Yevhen Stankovych, as performed by violinist Solomia Soroka and pianist Arthur Greene on Sunday, March 5, at St. Josaphat Parish Center in Warren, Mich.

Maestro Stankovych’s name has been known for decades among the ranks of Ukrainian composers. His works have been performed throughout Ukraine, the United States, Canada, Europe, China and the Philippines. His compositions have been featured at contemporary music festivals in Germany and Poland, and honored by UNESCO.

The concert in Warren centered on the composer’s works for violin and piano as performed by two very accomplished musicians.

Ms. Soroka was born in Lviv, where she made her solo debut at age 10, playing with the Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra. She continued her music studies at the Kyiv Conservatory, attaining a master’s degree and pursuing post-graduate studies. She has performed at concerts and festivals in Ukraine, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan. Since her American debut in 1997, she has performed throughout the U.S. Currently, she is professor of violin at Goshen College in Indiana.

Her husband, Arthur Greene, began his studies at Yale and Juilliard, and now teaches at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has won many prizes for his solo piano performances and has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco and Utah symphonies, the national symphonies of Ukraine and the Czech Republic, and the Tokyo Symphony. He has played recitals at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Rachmaninoff Hall in Moscow, the Sao Paolo Opera House in Lisbon, Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo, Hong Kong City Hall and numerous concert houses in Shanghai and Beijing. He has also served as an artistic ambassador for the United States Information Agency.

The evening’s program was opened by Iryna Svytka, director of the Ukrainian Music Institute (UMI) of Detroit, who welcomed the audience and introduced our distinguished guest and the two performers and then turned over the microphone to Ms. Soroka, who took on the multiple task of commenting on each piece (in Ukrainian and in English) before performing it.

Works were chosen for this concert to reflect the composer’s life. Some are of a personal nature, such as “Morning Music” or “Romance.” Some are the composer’s take on Ukrainian traditions, history or contemporary events, such as “Ukrainian Poem,” “Triptych – Na Verkhovyni” or “Maidan Fresco.” The audience was thus treated to a very informative impromptu seminar on the contemporary music of Ukraine according to the vision of Maestro Stankovych.

Ms. Soroka described for the audience the inspiration for each piece and took listeners through the musical progression of varying tempo and tone to paint a picture of a given landscape or to describe a given event. In this context, it was easy to hear and understand what the composer was telling his listeners and easy to feel what he meant them to feel. This also explains why Maestro Stankovych has very often been chosen to write musical scores for contemporary Ukrainian films.

The audience was kept fully engaged and even entertained by Ms. Soroka’s commentary, which often referenced Ukrainian colloquialisms (which brought on lighthearted laughter) while highlighting the musicality and lyricism over all, even in the more solemn tributes and remembrances of fallen friends or heroes of the Maidan.

The conclusion of the concert had audience members on their feet, rewarding the composer and the performers with a standing ovation as three young UMI students presented each one with a lovely floral tribute. Ms. Svytka voiced thanks to all who came and additionally to the sponsors of the event.

Special thanks were given to Maria Lisowsky of the UMI and the Ukrainian Arts Society of Detroit for putting together a plan and seeing it realized in this concert. The purpose of the concert was to bring an awareness of the level of creativity of contemporary music in Ukraine, to let the Detroit audience meet a prominent composer in person and, of course, to present a world-class musical performance.

Judging by the comments overheard as the audience filed out – there were universal accolades for all concerned – this event met all its goals and raised expectations for more to come.

Anyone who missed the concert can enjoy the same performance, minus the commentary, on a newly released CD, “Yevhen Stankovych: Music for Violin and Piano,” recorded by Ms. Soroka and Mr. Greene for Toccata Classics of London (toccataclassics.com).

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