«Jewish Observer»
July 2002
5762 Av

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Ukraine is, undoubtedly, a European country, and Jews of Ukraine are, unquestionably, a European Jewry. It is a great pity not all Jews in Ukraine and even far from all Jews in Kiev know there is a day different from all others - European day of Jewish culture. In many countries this day is marked by concerts, exhibitions and other cultural events. June 16 the Jewish fund of Ukraine, "Bnei-Brit" of Europe with the support of the American Jewish united distribution committee "Joint" and Center for national cultures organized a concert in the Maly hall of National philharmonic society in Kiev. The audience welcomed the music of a great composer of the XX century Dmitry Shostakovich, more precisely, his musical cycle "From Jewish folk poetry". A lot has been written about creative activity of D. Shostakovich, his works of different genres are performed by musicians of the entire world. The chamber cycle "From Jewish folk poetry" was written merely accidentally: a small volume he came across appeared a collection of Jewish folk songs, but without accompanying the verses notes. The composer was struck by simplicity of folklore works filled with a tragic element of inconsolable grief and unrequited suffering. Seemingly unrelated in meaning verses resulted in a chain of events evoking listeners compassion.

Written in 1948 the cycle was first performed in 1955. Fraught with a reproach to successful indifference, this work creates no feeling of sorrow and hopelessness as it ends up rather optimistically. The author wrote Jewish songs for four performers: three singers and a piano. But this time it sounded differently: the musical cycle "From Jewish folk poetry" by D. Shostakovich was performed by singers and an ensemble of kleizmers.

Over recent years several kleizmer ensembles (from the Hebrew "klei - zmer" - "musical instrument") have appeared in Ukraine. The Kiev kleizmer ensemble "Nigunim", unlike kleizmer choirs of the past, is composed of professional musicians. The head of the ensemble Igor Nazhdan created his own version of Shostakovich's work having not distorted the original.

The concert program also included singers: actress of the Theatre of musical comedy Anna Borovik (soprano), student of National musical academy Yulia Zhbachenko (contralto) and undergraduate of Dragomanov university Victor Sachok (tenor).

The Ensemble "Nigunim" was founded in 1997 with the support of "Joint". Its organizer was People's Artist of Ukraine, composer Yakov Tseglyar. The ensemble was composed of the students of National musical academy and University of culture. Nowadays the company includes Natalia Kazhdan (violin), Alexandra Sinyakova (fleute), Sergey Kadenko (guitar) Andrey Moroz (percussion instruments), Valery Belobrov (tuba). Head of the group is Igor Kazhdan (accordeon). In 1999 "Nigunim" first goes in full strength to the festival of Jewish music "Shalom, Ukraine!" held in Lutsk and becomes its winner. Then it starts touring Ukraine: Poltava, Kharkov, Sumy, Gorlovka, Lugansk, Uzhgorod (the ensemble became a laureate of the festival there), Mukachevo, Odessa, Kamenets-Podolsky.

In 2000 "Nigunim" wins the 2nd prize at the contest named after Solomon Mikhoels in Moscow and in 2002 receives the prize "Favourite of audience" at the contest in Kazan and wins a diploma of the 2nd degree. At present the ensemble cooperates with Jewish fund of Ukraine and community center "Kinor", continues its work over new programs.

The concert dedicated to European day of Jewish culture was a success. The concert MC, lecturer-musicologist Margarita Bakhurinskaya possesses a good taste and a feeling of style the audience likes so much. The auditorium failed to seat all those willing to hear the music by Shostakovich performed by the kleizmer group.

I would like to thank both performers and organizers of this wonderful event.


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