AS autumn begins, the Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra welcomes to the sixth Black Sea Music Fest. Over the month, the Philharmonic will be presenting a series of eight musically diverse concerts featuring world-class soloists. It’s a chance to hear the works of Beethoven, Mahler, Berg, Tchaikovsky, and Ostapovich, as well as compositions not heard for 50 years in Ukraine
No one can deliver the festival’s message better than Maestro Hobart Earle – musical director and conductor of the Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra, so we sit down and chat one sunny autumn afternoon.
You’ve contributed a lot to making the Black Sea Music Festival popular today. What are you most proud to have accomplished so far?
Over the years, we’ve undertaken some highly unusual musical projects. The complete score to Grieg’s Peer Gynt – over 90 minutes long, with choir, narrator and several vocal soloists – is rarely performed anywhere on the planet. We did Peer Gynt semi-staged, similar to Aleko, Undina, and Iolanta – with choir and soloists all moving on and offstage, and singing from backstage. These theatrical performances are always a challenge to mount, but very rewarding. From a historical perspective, Undina was among the first performances of Tchaikovsky’s complete fragments anywhere, worldwide. The first performance in Odesa of Silvestrov’s Requiem (with the National Choir of Ukraine) was also a memorable event.
This is the 6th time the Black Sea Music Festival has taken place in Odessa. How do you define the role this event has played in shaping classic and philharmonic orchestra art in Ukraine?
The Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra and I try to make each concert season as diverse as possible in terms of repertoire. The annual festival gives us a chance to expand on this concept, during a shorter period of time. During the festival, we’ve also brought such artists as Steven Isserlis, Mikhail Pletnev, David Geringas, Boris Berezovsky, Midori – and many more – to Odessa.
What is the most rewarding part about conducting at the Black Sea Music Fest?
I’m most proud of the fact that my orchestra, the Odesa Philharmonic, has its own annual festival: it’s a chance to showcase the orchestra’s artistic growth and diverse potential.
What composition are you most excited to conduct at the festival this year?
Alban Berg’s 1935 violin concerto is one of several musical compositions at this year’s festival that has never been performed in Odesa before. My love for Berg’s music goes back to my student days in Vienna, and this masterpiece – his final composition – has long since been established as one of the greatest violin concerti of the
Which great soloists would you recommend attending at the Black Sea Music Fest?
It’s an honour to host Rainer Honeck, first concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic, on his first visit to Ukraine. Of course, other soloists, such as pianist Alexander Romanovsky and violinist Midori, are also well worth hearing. Each evening is completely different in character and content. Since we’re organising it for the first time in September (in previous years, it took place in June) our exciting annual programme for Odesa Day is now included as part of the festival.
You are very much a historically-minded conductor, expressing concerns about the current political and social state of affairs in Ukraine. Is there any particular message for a Ukrainian listener you’d like to deliver through the music you perform at the festival?
First and foremost, the message is an artistic one. There are compositions in this year’s programme that have never been heard in Odesa before, others not heard for 30, 40, or 50 years. This can serve to remind the audience that the breadth of music that composers have written over the years is infinite, and that it can be a wonderful experience to discover pieces live in concert for the first time (including so-called ‘standard’ repertoire). The most important social message – “Seid umschlungen, Millionen!” (Be Embraced, You Millions!) – we delivered in our Flash-mob for Peace and Brotherhood at the Odesa Fish Market in March 2014 – nobody said it better than Beethoven and Schiller.
How do you plan to build on the success of the Black Sea Music Festival in the future?
This year we are very grateful to Bank Vostok and Vadim Morokhovsky for their kind support of the festival. Their contribution enabled us to go on a new level and I am glad that the bank’s strategic development encompasses the support of Ukrainian culture.
For next year, we already have artists like Sir Andras Schiff and Elena Bashkirova lined up.
If we can increase the support provided to the festival, our artistic horizons could broaden significantly.
Black Sea Music Fest
29 August – 28 September
Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra (Odesa)
50 – 400 UAH