«Music of those seeking heights»
«Molod Ukrainy» («The Youth of Ukraine»), 23 April 2010


Anticipation of the meeting with Vladimir Sheiko, the man who in 1990 created first non-state symphony orchestra and toured with it in many foreign countries for 12 years, the man who organized international artistic festivals “Meeting on Easter” (Kiev, Ukraine) and “Tenoratorio” (Solothurn, Switzerland), who was a co-organizer and opening director of VERDIANO (Busetto, Italy), the man who was chief conductor of Kiev Operetta Theatre Orchestra and now is chief conductor of Ukrainian Radio Symphonic Orchestra, caused a storm of positive emotions and excitement.

Vladimir, in 1990 you organized the very first independent symphony orchestra “Ukraine”. There was no independent Ukraine at that moment… A dare act! Weren’t you afraid that something can go wrong?

I had a friend, who played on trombone, he was also 27 years old. Now he is a well known businessman. Then we didn’t know that “you can’t do it”, we just did it and all. We found money, rented a plane, played concert in the Capella House named after Glinka, which is on the Palace Square. We were the first Ukrainian orchestra that visited Petersburg for 8 years. The performance was really subtle, a hall applauded for a long time. In those days, I have much to learn from 37 talented musicians in my team…

There was a lot of energy, we searched for a sponsorship’s help. Life turned in the way, where we had to learn everything and to do everything by our self. My friend was a director, I was artistic director… We organized tours abroad. For the first time issued a CD which belonged to Ukrainian concert organization (orchestra) with recordings of works by Stankovich, Lysenko, Debussy… When you really want something, everything is going well. 

Perhaps that’s why you play the best venues around the world …

Incredible impressions were of the hall of Glinka’s Capella House, which was specially constructed for symphony and chamber concerts. What is the secret? The ceiling and floor of the Capella’s Hall were built on the principle of the violin, “spring-loaded” for a good resonance. Chairs are made of instrumental maple without upholstery. There are wooden plates on them. I asked what it was. It was sound reflectors. Everything is made of instrumental wood, sounds perfect. From all around such subtle vibrations are going, and pervade the whole body and you get into a special state, the feeling of not only esthetic pleasure, but also a physical one, at the cellular level. This is because you get into natural resonance, energies, enhanced by music, that are organic for human. We played there Mozart, Vivaldi, Honegger… I have never felt such pleasure, even in the best venues around the world…

Is there anything similar in Kiev?

In our Recording House. Here we have one of the best studios in Europe for recording big collectives. It was projected by German acoustic experts.

And what about theatre halls? You worked in theatre for 18 years, were taught by such theatric genius as Venedictov, Turchak, you were trained under supervision of Mansurov at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, worked in Kiev Operetta Theatre…

There is a feeling of drive. Even curtain effects on me, specifically how and when it opens.  Everything is important - light, smoke, audience behind your back. According to how it reacts, how much it is “heated”, you take tempo.

Furor in Europe

Why Ukrainian Radio Symphonic Orchestra is so much loved in Spain?

We perform good, trying to do our best. Spain is our great fortune. Our first concert was performed there in the main concert hall of the country, in Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional de Música. We came to Spain and on the next day we were already playing 3rd Symphony of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade”. Auditorio is incredible venue, every whisper; every taken note is audible… And for the next two days one of the best music halls in Europe Palau de la Música in Barcelona.  Two days and two programs in Madrid, and two days with two programs in Barcelona. We also had concerts in Zaragoza, San Sebastian, Bilbao and Grenada. Together with soloists from abroad we had done the hardest programs, specifically Verdi’s “Requiem”, K. Orff’s “Karmina Burana”, 9th symphony of Beethoven, Mozart’s “Requiem”, Verdi’s opera “Traviata”, program of Spanish music, and the works of Vivaldi. 

What do you like most in music halls abroad?

In such music halls as Concertgebouw (Netherlands) or Auditorio Nacional de Música in Madrid audience is sitting all around, even behind of the orchestra. You can’t in process wink at musicians, can’t show your dissatisfaction. In addition, when such colossal piece as “Carmina Burana” or “Scheherazade” is performed, everyone peers into your face, everyone lives with you in same breath, and this gives a feeling of a real drive, just like corrida. Extreme and great pleasure! 

Such halls as Palau de la Música or Auditorio Nacional still “stand” after three-four concerts a day. Have you ever seen anything like that? For example, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra played before us, and that is the level of artistic competition. A lot of concerts and a hard mode. After arrival, unloading you have 5-7 minutes for a rehearsal in hall. You need to settle the case where everyone is sitting, what everyone is hearing… 

You have performed in halls where none of our national collectives ever been…

Among all national orchestras, only ours performed in Palau de la Música, Auditorio Nacional de Música, Auditorio di Zaragoza, Luxembourg Philharmonie, Coliseo and Casa da Musica di Porto… 

Where the audience is most grateful?

Everywhere they applaud on their feet. However, in Spain the audience is the hottest. And every time we have sold-outs. And there are halls for five thousand people. That is very important for self-appreciation, self-confidence on stage, after all, for self-estimation of musicians…

About spirituality 

… A lot of great conductors, musicians were members of our Orchestra. It was always been the source of the best personnel. Everyone, who worked here, took part in recordings for future generations. And in times when the audio-recording was not prevalent, it is Radio Orchestra which sounded everywhere in the country. 

Now we are recording music of modern Ukrainian composers. Every day we are adding stones to the building of our culture. It is very important state-level mission. No one will do it, except of us, because it’s only our mission and our work. Imagine our emotional and psychological stress… Collectives are receiving their award for contribution to the development of Ukrainian culture, and our contribution is both the spiritual and physical, the result of our activity is a creation of physical digital media of music recordings for future generations. That’s why the state authorities should take care of such collectives as ours.

Is it truth that Ukrainian Radio Symphony Orchestra became the first European symphony collective, that visited Iran in the past 27 years?

Yes, we were invited by the Embassy of Iran. For many years, after the change of a regime and revolution, there were closed all theatres and orchestras. It’s a very interesting, in some respect fantastic, country, an old nation with an old culture which rooted in the pre-islamic times. And now they started to return best pieces of European art. We brought there classic ones. Ukrainian “Taras Bulba” and world classic masterpieces, such as “Bolero”, “Scheherazade”, 9th Symphony by Dvorak (“From the New World”), “Polovtsian dances” 5 programs in total. All concerts were performed in the Palace of Congresses in Tehran. On the first day 2 thousand listeners came to us, and during the next days there were sold-outs. We performed together with Iranian choir. They have great choral culture! In videos, photos it could be seen, how rises and wildly applauds audience, especially women wearing hijabs. Ukrainian Radio Symphonic Orchestra was a real discovery for them. 

And after 2 months you went on tour to South Korea

It’s entirely different world. While in a plane (a flight lasts for five hours), there are 5 radio channels, three classic ones, one jazz and one playing folk music. Everyone is very polite. In airport sounds Mozart, in post office, supermarket sounds Mozart… Classic is everywhere. Immediately came a feeling, that it is healthy and active nation.

What impressed you most?

For three months of tour we played concerts and done opera performances in all major Korean halls and theatres, in all major cities.

Actually, Korea is the great market of symphonic music, a lot of concerts, a lot of youth attends them. They, and also Chinese, are constantly taking all the top places in the international music competitions. They’ve got colossal vocal school, a lot of great vocalists! Once after performance, I told them “if suddenly Italian vocal school will die, then the Korean will rule”. That’s because they united Italian school with their natural abilities.  

Our Orchestra – is the youth!

Vladimir, among your 83 musicians almost everybody is a young man or a lady. How far is it reliable to work with them?

In Kiev there are very decent orchestras with a different age limit. I have young, still talented and active musicians. They have strong motivation, resources for development, human tasks. Mathematical model of musicians of our Orchestra is “to conquer the summit”, to be somewhere, were you have never been before, to earn money, you haven’t yet seen and to grow up children. And there is the desperate need for development. I'm taking it into account in order to keep our organization united…

Music of divine spheres

Vladimir, let’s go back to the time of your life, when you were conductor of the world premiere of “Symphonic Gospel” by Crimean Tatar composer Alemdar Karamanov. He composed this work after a great suffering, when enlightenment came to him and a prospect of an endless life has opened. Here comes very intimate question, in which way divine spheres opened to you?

In soviet times no one cared about development of spiritual culture. Every day religion was not with us, but somewhere out, beyond the borders of consciousness. We were fooled, we were separated from something. But people, who stay in touch with music, they also stay in contact with spiritual spheres (in fact, as far as I understand it, the Creator wrote the music, not Mozart). Have I understood it then? At that time, I often felt that I had once lived in a different system, had felt and seen something different. System of those spiritual values was not mine. I went to church, as in an excursion, but something attracted me there. And then… Everyone got moments when we ask for God. That’s about me.

…About Karamanov. If we are fairly treat our work, which we got from the Creator, if we understand that this is our mission and keep going on… Well, teachers have not given up teaching young children, haven’t they? After all, if there is a country where they do not teach children? So, if a man doesn’t counters what a God have planed, then something sacred more and more opens to him. Karamanov, in my opinion, is one of the most significant persons in this respect.

Genre of Symphonic Gospel was invented by Karamanov?

Perhaps, he has collected revelations during his life, since he dared to write it in that way. If he named his work in that way, then it was a way of his thought, it was a way he saw the story of Jesus, he rejected something secular and moved into the higher realms, were he traveled. “Symphonic Gospel” is a giant work, according to the size of orchestra and length of performance (3 hours). Now we have everything "modified", in “pills”: half an hour of attention and move on to another. But he went on a very wide space, which he needed, and where the soul communicates. Epochal work. There are, as a touch of, Scriabin’s and Rachmaninov’s intonations. Work composed very well, broadly and interestingly. Karamanov moved away from difficult music language, he composed clearly, “humanly”, but about Divine essence. Who was able to dive there, touch it, those felt that it is there, and they also felt what a great job Karamanov did.

Did you record this work for Radio funds?

That performance was filmed by First National channel. We haven’t recorded it in favor of Radio fund yet. It’s a huge work. There is cello solo in the middle of form like whole cello concert, like human voice. Two choirs. Huge orchestra with all timbre abilities and colors. Add to this children voices and bells. We’ve got here all spectrum of world audio recording, which we can only imagine. There are no gun shots, but that is because it is not Divine job.

How could you do that? Perhaps, in some respect it’s a strange question, because for your orchestra’s level there is nothing impossible.

You know, sometimes you do something and nothing is working. And sometimes you say this and that must be done, you do all necessary things fast, and everything works perfectly. Once upon a time, while working in the Operetta Theatre, for the first time in Kiev I staged George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”. In Petersburg, Moscow staging process took minimum 4 months. We did it for two months! We knew that everything must be that way. And we even did not have time to think about it. Sometimes, I said “we’ll cut it from this number to this”. After that I thought: “why did I say that?” And then, while looking at result, I came to a thought that it was the best decision…

Once I worked with directors and artists of the National Theatre named after I. Franko. And, as it often in the composer job, was a feeling that someone led us. We were not obsessed and we were not philosophizing. This and that, let’s go ahead! And really, we’ve got the best variant. On the next day after the performance, I woke up and couldn’t believe: “how could we done all of that?” … Who knows, how it was done, but everything was staged and filmed, as in the movies. The same thing happened with Karamanov’s “Symphonic Gospel”. Sometimes divine grace descends upon us. And it’s a great fortune, when God comes to rescue and lead us. “