Musical tribute to honour Babi Yar victims

Gennardi Vilkov lighting a candle next to soil from Babi Yar, with his grandchildren at last year’s commemoration.

A CONCERT in Melbourne in September will bookend the 75th anniversary commemorations of the Nazi massacres at Babi Yar, Ukraine in 1941, after a communal event in September last year.

The commemorative concert will be especially poignant after the April 1 death of Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 84, whose milestone 1961 poem Babi Yar finally brought the massacres to the world’s attention.

Yevtushenko’s protest verse condemned the Soviet regime’s whitewash of the fact that some 50,000 Jews were among over 110,000 people murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators at the ravine near Kiev 20 years earlier. During a massacre on September 29-30 alone, almost 34,000 Jews lost their lives there.

A memorial to those who died at Babi Yar was finally erected by the Soviets in 1974 but made no mention of the Jewish victims.

Last year, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko staged a ceremony and hosted Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on a state visit.

The September 17 concert at Hamer Hall by Melbourne’s Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra will feature soloist Adam Tamburini and 270 performers presenting Symphony Number 13: Babi Yar by Dmitri Shostakovich, which the Russian composer adapted from Yevtushenko’s poem in 1962.

Tamburini reflected: “My main driving force is honouring the lives of the multitude of innocent victims … Moreover, in the 75 years since the Babi Yar atrocity, there have been countless other innocent lives lost all over the world in the name of greed, power and dictatorship.”

The symphony will be preceded by a commemoration ceremony and an English reading of the  Yevtushenko poem.

Under conductor Mark Shiell, the concert will feature the world premiere of Crossways for Orchestra  by Australian composer Harry Sdraulig, commissioned for the event. Sdraulig’s grandmother hid Jews in Poland during the Holocaust and his grandfather was interned by the Nazis.

Flautist Sally Walker will perform composer Elena Kats-Chernin’s 2015 flute concerto Night and Now which recalls her Soviet childhood.

The concert’s organiser Dr George Deutsch said the Zelman orchestra, founded in 1906, “is among Melbourne’s best not-for-profit community orchestras and is the oldest such orchestra in Victoria”.

Support for the concert has come from the Pratt Foundation and Gandel Philanthropy, as well as the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), the Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC), Courage to Care, the Jewish Museum of Australia, and the Arts Centre Melbourne.

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