By Chamberlain Zulauf, Student Reporter
Those in attendance to experience Stanislav Khristenko’s piano playing were able to feel how musical expression can shine through tragedy. Sponsored by Roanoke Valley Sister Cities and Ukrainian Americans in Roanoke and with help from the Kosciuszko Foundation, the main theme for last Sunday’s event was perspective.
Before the concert attendees had time to peruse literature and graphs which put the war in Ukraine into relatable terms. One such graph titled ‘Why We Have to Help Ukraine’ broke down the face value of Ukraine from textiles to lumber, which are surely things Russia has its sights on.
The war in Ukraine isn’t all about land assets. Russia is attempting to annihilate the Ukrainian people’s history.
“To even the casual observer this is clearly a genocidal attack by Russia. That’s why this concert is so important, Russia is attacking concert halls, libraries and schools. It’s a war on Ukrainian culture,” said Dr. Martha Kushar, an event organizer. In fact, one of Salem’s Sister Cities, Opole, Poland, has received massive waves of refugees, leading to a 10% population bump. Sunday’s concert gave an opportunity for education and reflection on the effects of war through music.
Khristenko’s playing style was everything critics rave about as an accomplished pianist, having played around the world and won many prestigious competitions. As though his piano sent electric shocks through him, Khristenko played emphatically, almost jumping off of his stool. In one moment, he would fill Olin Hall with resonant harmonics and the next would produce gentle delicate melodies. Before playing three Bagatelles from Silvestrov Khristenko explained would play them back-to-back, “In 10 minutes of meditation” he told the audience, “Which is a kind of music we miss today but could use”, said Khristenko.
The concert had an intimate feel. Khristenko would play a piece then address the audience to explain his song selection. The evenings selection was highly cognitive, bringing story and song together; included in the program were two preludes by Lytoshinsky, which find inspiration in Shevchenko poems, and Dreams by Shuman from Scenes from Childhood for an encore. In between the Lyatoshynsky pieces Khristenko read the song’s relative poems.
During one intermission Khristenko shared his own story of perspective starting with a list of people he has connections to in Ukraine and have been affected by Russia’s invasion. A few of such friends have kept the Kharkiv Music Festival, which Khristenko co-founded, floating through wartime. The music fest doesn’t look like it once did, being held by five volunteer musicians in a subway shelter this past year.
One of the most poignant moments of the concert was Khristenko’s encore, Dreams taken from Shuman’s Scenes from Childhood. Khristenko lamented that instead of normal things, children in Ukraine dream of the day the war will end. His performance left the audience speechless, gathering our wits before we could stand to celebrate the message in his playing.
-Khristenko plays emotively in Olin Hall
-Khristenko bows to the audience after his encore
-An overflow of reasons Ukraine is worth helping
-Stanislav Khristenko playing benefit concert in Olin Hall