By Solomiya Ivakhiv | From the July-August 2022 issue of Strings magazine
I programmed Leonid Hrabovsky’s EQVIN for the Music at the Institute (MATI) Concert Series performance in New York City on May 21. The work was commissioned by Ukrainian Institute of America (UIA) and MATI supporters Christine and Myron Melnyk. This was my first attempt at this piece and first personal introduction to the music of Leonid Hrabovsky—Ukraine’s leading composer. I had always wanted to get to know Hrabovsky’s music—I grew up hearing about him, and how he belonged to the so-called Kyiv avant-garde group. Hrabovsky was one of the first Ukrainian composers to adopt minimalism in his music. And I was very curious to see if his voice had changed over time, and what sounds he imagined for violin and piano duo.
Player: Ukrainian violinist, teacher, chamber musician, and recording artist Solomiya Ivakhiv is a graduate of the Curtis Institute. She teaches at the University of Connecticut and the Longy School of Music of Bard College. Her most recent release, Poems & Rhapsodies (Centaur), includes works by Fuchs, Vaughan Williams, Chausson, Saint-Saëns, Myroslav Skoryk, and Anatol Kos-Anatolsky. Ivakhiv is the 2022 recipient of the Merited Artist of Ukraine award.
Title of Work Being Studied: EQVIN for violin and piano
Composer: Leonid Hrabovsky (b. 1935)
Date Composed: 2018
Name of Edition Studied: Composer’s copy—the music has not been published yet
Mr. Hrabovsky has been living in the States for the past 30 years, and we occasionally meet at concerts. I was excited to be coached by him and get his personal perspective on the work he wrote.
His music is challenging, and he uses techniques applied by composers in the second half of the 20th century. And I am venturing out of my traditional comfort zone for this piece, as I am more accustomed to playing Classical and Romantic repertoire. But I do like to be challenged! The piece offers a very complex rhythm, several pizzicato techniques, and a variety of patterns in high positions. Hrabovsky also uses col legno, quarter tones, and double harmonics, similar to Xenakis. It took some practice, to say the least.
I was drawn to this work because of its story. Mr. Hrabovsky dedicated the piece in memory of his father, who was a violinist and violist. He was shot by the KGB in 1937, along with his sister and brother (Mr. Hrabovsky’s aunt and uncle), in Kyiv. The Soviet government was sending many Ukrainians to Siberian labor camps (gulags) to work in inhuman conditions. Some were shot—the motivation to erase the Ukrainian nation has been in place for centuries. Hrabovsky’s family were unlucky, and they were ordered to be assassinated. But many who came back from the labor camps died shortly afterward as well, as the conditions of those camps were beyond poor.
This story is relevant today, and I feel an obligation to tell it. What is happening in the world today is a repeat of history. I hope this piece will remind the world of the tragedies of the past but will also remind us to support those who fight for democratic principles and values. Music is art but also a tool to bring awareness, and one can name many historic composers who have responded to war and war crimes in their music.
I think anyone who has read and seen photos and videos of the atrocities committed by the Russian army in Ukraine will understand the pain and meaning that the composer instilled in the piece. I hope many will find the work interesting and will program it in their recitals. This work needs to be performed, and the compelling story behind it needs to be heard.
What Solomiya Ivakhiv Plays
Violin: “Ex Joseph Silverstein” Tetsuo Matsuda violin
Bow: James Tubbs
Strings: Thomastik-Infeld Peter Infeld