Beethoven and Deutsche Welle bring young German and Ukrainian musicians together

A joint project by the Beethovenfest Bonn and Deutsche Welle aims to create close cultural ties between Germany and Ukraine. Judging from the rehearsals, it seems to be quite successful at doing so.

"My dreams are coming true faster than I would have ever hoped," said Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv, sipping her third espresso. On stage, 42 musicians from the National Youth Orchestra of Germany and 37 members of the Youth Orchestra of Ukraine had just started rehearsing.

Lyniv came up with the idea of bringing the two youth orchestras together after being named the conductor of the Beethovenfest Campus project, co-organized by DW.

"The Youth Orchestra of Ukraine was created with the aim of bringing young people together from all parts of the country, which is still in a state of war. With the campus project, we've taken the next step, building a bridge to Western Europe."

Tight schedule and happy faces

Generalprobe zum Campuskonzert des Beethovenfests und der Deutschen Welle

Conductor Oksana Lyniv during a rehearsal (Barbara Frommann)

"This is not a marathon, it's an ongoing sprint," said young Ukrainian musician Taras Guzuljak, looking tired but happy. "Eight flutists auditioned for a seat in the orchestra last year, but I was the only one who was admitted," he added.

The price for the opportunity: two extremely intensive rehearsal weeks in Lviv, Ukraine and Bonn - and up to eight hours of rehearsals every day plus four concerts.

The concerts in Lviv and the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in late August were a success, but "playing in Germany and in Beethoven's birthplace is an entirely different challenge," admits 12-year-old Olga Tytarenko, a gifted violinist and the orchestra's youngest member.

Read more: Listen to new music by 'the Russian Beethoven'

Olga comes from Makiivka, a city just a few kilometers off Donetsk. The war forced her and her parents to move to Kiev. "There used to be a great music school in Makiivka, but it's not a very pleasant place now."

"Quiet now!" exclaims Lyniv. She's a strict maestra, and for good reason: apart from Beethoven's "Triple Concerto" and a charming overture by Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart, the program includes a major piece by Ukrainian classical composer Boris Lyatoshinsky and the world premiere of "Fantasia Galiciana" for seven accordions and orchestra by Bohdan Sehin.

The last piece was commissioned by Deutsche Welle and is a tribute to the music of the Galician region in western Ukraine, of which Lviv is the cultural center. 

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DW Campus Ukrainisch-Deutsches Jugendorchester 2017 | Porträts

Josef Dragus and his buddy Konstantin Tomnizkij

To perform the premiere is a big responsibility and a challenge, especially with the German-Ukrainian ensemble complemented by seven other participants, soloists of the LandesJugendAkkordeonOrchester (State Youth Accordion Orchestra) of North Rhein-Westphalia.

"Druschba - Freundschaft"

That long name is a tongue-twister for the Ukrainians, but the young people from both countries use the project as an opportunity to learn their newfound friends' language - at least a bit.

"Friendship" means "druschba" in both Ukrainian and Russian. Josef Dragus can pronounce the word quite well already, but otherwise, he talks with his buddy Konstantin Tomnizkij in English.

"Josef is a great guy and a talented musician," said Konstantin. The two met in Ukraine and are now staying with a host family in Bonn.


Maria Magdalena Beethoven

A boy's mother is his first love, but little is known about Beethoven's. Her union with Beethoven's father, court singer Johann, was her second marriage. She bore him seven children, but only three survived infancy. Her life wasn't easy: Her alcoholic husband was physically abusive, and she died of tuberculosis in 1787 shortly after Ludwig had returned to Bonn after a studying in Vienna.


Maria Anna Wilhelmine von und zu Westerholt-Gysenberg

Franz Gerhard Wegeler, a friend from Beethoven's youth, referred to a certain "beautiful and gracious mannered Fräulein v.W.," to whom Beethoven was "most lovingly attracted." And although Wegeler described it as a "Werther love" - in reference to Goethe's tragic novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther" - it seems that Miss v.W. didn't leave any particularly enduring mark on the composer's life.


Countess Josephine Brunsvik

In 14 love letters between 1804 and 1809, the composer called his recently widowed piano student "angel," "my everything" and his "only love." But their letters have a tone of desperation; had they married, she would have lost custody of her four young children. She married someone else in 1810, while Josephine's sister Therese claimed that Beethoven and the countess were made for each other.


Countess Giulietta Guicciardi

In 1801 or 1802, the Brunsvik sisters introduced Beethoven to their cousin, also a countess. It was love at first sight, but it was clear to both that due to their differing social status, marriage was out of the question - and Giulietta was already engaged. It seems Beethoven was drawn to impossible romances. But the composer did dedicate his "Moonlight Sonata" to Giulietta.


Therese von Malfatti

After Josephine Brunsvick remarried in 1810, Beethoven seriously entertained thoughts of proposing marriage to Therese von Malfatti, even writing back home in Bonn for a copy of his baptisim certificate. Both Therese and her family were against the union due to class differences, however. Beethoven seems to have gotten over it rather quickly, and they remained friends.


Marie Bigot

Beethoven gave Marie the handwritten original of the "Appassionata" sonata, and their emotional connection is clear in his letters to her. In early March 1807, he invited her along on an excursion. But after her husband's jealous reaction, he wrote to the couple saying, "I would never be in a more than friendly relationship with another man's wife."


Elisabeth Röckel

Beethoven met the 15-year-old in early 1808. In those days, a common nickname for "Elisabeth" was "Elise" - and the wistful little piano piece "Für Elise" is one of the best-known compositions ever. At Beethoven's request, she visited him on his death bed, where he gave her a lock of his hair and his last quill. Music researchers have concluded that Fräulein Röckel is the enigmatic "Elise."


Antonie Brentano

The sister-in-law of the poet Bettina Brentano wrote in 1811 that "dearest" Beethoven visited her "nearly daily." It was to Antonie that Beethoven gave the handwritten score of the song "An die Geliebte" (To the Beloved). It's also documented that Antonie once traveled from Prague to Karlsruhe on a critical date, which could be relevant for the next woman in Beethoven's life…


Immortal Beloved

Dated July 6 and 7, 1812, and penned in the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz, the letter to an "Immortal Beloved" is addressed to a woman Beethoven had met with days earlier in Prague and who had then traveled on to "K." (possibly Karlsruhe). So was it Antonie Brentano? Or Josephine Brunsvik, whom he'd also just met and who gave birth to a daughter nine months later? Music researchers still disagree.

"If our Ukrainian colleagues return to Germany, they won't be coming to a foreign country," says Sönke Lentz, project manager of the the National Youth Orchestra of Germany. "They will have acquaintances, music partners and friends here."

Lenz is excited about where the project is heading: "It's incredible with how much dedication and musicality the two orchestras have grown together in Bonn. The young people have been given the time they need to work together well. "

A project with political overtones

Director Nike Wagner appreciated the campus concert and even called it "an extraordinary event" of the Beethovenfest program. Not just because the young musicians "help us keep the legacy of classical music," she said, but also "because it has political overtones."

"Ukraine has been tormented during the last two decades of revolutions and wars, and now young musicians are there to show what can be done in music and culture," Wagner added.

Nike Wagner is especially pleased with the concert during which the campus orchestra accompanies a trio of international soloists: Ukrainian pianist Kateryna Titova, German violinist Tobias Feldmann and Russian cellist Konstantin Manaev - an international constellation of the kind rarely encountered these days.

"This is the hope for the future of the great European project," concluded Nike Wagner.