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'Putin doesn't own Russian music'

[Herald Interview] Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv stresses arts' role in seeking answers to what is happening in the world

Sept. 13, 2023 - 18:06 By Park Ga-young

Oksana Lyniv, a Ukrainian conductor, answers questions during a press conference on Wednesday at Seoul Arts Center in Southern Seoul. (Korean National Symphony Orchestra)

Oksana Lyniv, a Ukrainian conductor who is set to debut in Korea later this week, said, "If Rachmaninoff were alive, he would have opposed the war and Putin."

"Putin doesn't own Russian music and it is the cultural heritage of the entire world," Lyniv, 45, told reporters during a press conference held at Seoul Arts Center on Tuesday, when asked about a movement to exclude Russian music amid the ongoing war between her motherland of Ukraine and Russia.

She shared the horrifying situation which members of the Ukraine Youth Orchestra she founded face: Some of their family members have died and some face daily danger from the war. Under these circumstances, she couldn’t help but alter her perspective on music.

“Friends died, buildings crumbled, and, experiencing death every day, I wanted to stop it. I couldn't understand how people could try to eliminate each other, how one country could bomb another. It became a personal issue for me. Now, music is no longer abstract. It has become directly relevant to me," she said, adding that when she performs Verdi's "Requiem" now, it's not just because it's a famous masterpiece. "It makes me naturally think of the victims,” she said.

“Art is not just mere entertainment. It is a process of asking questions and seeking answers to understand what is happening in the world, and it is an act of healing the soul,” she emphasized.

However, saying no to the movement to exclude Russian music from international stages, the conductor is set to bring Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 in E-Minor, Op. 27 when she and the Korea National Symphony Orchestra take to the stage in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province on Friday and in Seoul on Sunday.

She will also present Ukrainian clarinetist and composer Evgeni Orkin’s “Night Prayer” and Violin Concerto in D-Minor by Aram Khachaturian.

“Night Prayer” premiered in March in Berlin, Germany performed by Lyniv and the Ukraine Youth Orchestra, which the conductor founded in 2016.

Lyniv is a trailblazer in the world of classical music. She was the first female music director in the 259-year history of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna in Italy and the first female conductor in the 145-year history of the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. She is set to have several important performances, including her debut at the Metropolitan Opera with Puccini's "Turandot."

"Nowadays, female conductors are quite visible, but when I was a student, I was often the only woman. All my professors were men." she said, adding, "However, recently, more and more successful female conductors are emerging in the international stage. I am also nurturing female assistant conductors to support female conductors."

Oksana Lyniv, a Ukrainian conductor, poses for a photo during a press conference on Wednesday at Seoul Arts Center in Southern Seoul. (Korean National Symphony Orchestra)