Thursday 11 January 2024

Forging links: Natalia Ponomarchuk, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Elgar in the Ukraine

Natalia Ponomarchuk (Photo: Yuriy Balan)
Natalia Ponomarchuk (Photo: Yuriy Balan)

On 19 January 2024, Ukrainian conductor Natalia Ponomarchuk is at the helm of the London Philharmonic Orchestra for Family Ties – The Schumanns and The Mendelssohns, a programme at the Royal Festival Hall that includes Clara Schumann's Piano Concerto and Robert Schumann's Introduction and Concert Allegro, both with pianist Alexander Melnikov along with Felix Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony and Fanny Mendelssohn's Overture in C major.

Natalia Ponomarchuk has been chief conductor of the Kyiv Chamber Orchestra since 2018. She escaped Kyiv in March 2022 after the Russian invasion and is now living in London and forging links with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO). The LPO Artistic Director Elena Dubinets made contact with her via Ukrainian composer Victoria Poleva; Dubinets wanted to help musicians affected by the war. Dubinets has helped her with her paperwork whilst LPO Principal Conductor Ed Gardner put her up in his house.

Ponomarchuk returns to the Ukraine every month for around 10 days to conduct her orchestra there, she has just returned from a longer trip where she had six concerts in Odessa and Kyiv. If the air raid siren goes off, the concert has to be paused and musicians and audience alike have to go into the shelter and wait for the alarm to stop. They cannot have full capacity audiences because not everyone would fit in the shelter. When the siren stops, they return to the stage and continue the concert. There is no difference between audience and performers, they are all having the same experience together during the performance; they all need music to get through the horrible circumstances.

During her next couple of trips she will be giving the Ukrainian premieres of Elgar’s two symphonies. The LPO performed them earlier this year and, at a rehearsal, just happened to speak to Andrew Neill about her dream to bring these Elgar symphonies to her home country. She did not know at the time that he was Chairman of the Elgar Society and could help make this dream a reality.

For Family Ties – The Schumanns and The Mendelssohns, see the LPO website

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