Ukrainian pianist seeks victory on cultural front at contest in Switzerland

April 15, 2023 06:12 PM AEST | By Reuters
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By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

GENEVA (Reuters) - Before arriving in Geneva for a renowned piano competition, Ukrainian pianist Roman Lopatynskyi rehearsed in the dark and played concerts by candlelight as air raid sirens resounded across his native Kyiv.

The 29-year-old is participating in the International Competition for Young Pianists in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz, which is being held outside Ukraine for the first time since its inception in 1995 due to the Russian invasion.

In his fourth appearance at the competition, which concludes on April 21, Lopatynskyi hopes to give his nation a reason to be proud.

"If everything works out ... it will be a definite victory for Ukraine on the cultural front," he told Reuters as he rehearsed in the basement of the Geneva Conservatory on Friday.

As a male of military age, Lopatynskyi requires permission to leave the country for competitions and concerts abroad. But after he performs, he always returns to Ukraine, despite having received numerous offers to relocate.

"If everyone leaves, what will be left there?" said Lopatynskyi, who finished first in the intermediate category in the 2010 edition of the Horowitz competition.

"We are doing everything for there to be life there and for people to look at Ukraine as a country with prospects, possibilities. That there are musicians there, and businesses and even maybe a future."

Like all his compatriots, the war has transformed Lopatynskyi's daily life. When Russia attacked Kyiv's electrical infrastructure last fall, the city's cultural life forged ahead in darkness.

"We held concerts by candlelight," he said. "We had to come to terms with it. We rehearsed in the dark or used little hanging lightbulbs."

In the first months of the war, Lopatynskyi raised funds to support his country by holding recitals on YouTube. He then transitioned to concerts for soldiers and charity performances abroad.

He said music is a "spiritual salvation" in a war-ravaged country.

"As long as there are people of the arts, a balance in the world will remain," he said.

"I do what I am able to do. Every person who represents the arts must work honestly and bring some kind of meaning and some light. Something positive."

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Josie Kao)


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