By George Basler

As part of a concert tour that its principal conductor says has “great historical significance,” the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine will perform Saturday (Feb. 11) at Binghamton University’s Anderson Center.

The tour, which began Jan. 13 in Florida, is taking the orchestra to 40 concert venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York City and various college towns in the East and Midwest. The tour is “historically significant” because it marks the first time an orchestra from Ukraine has played in the prestigious Carnegie Hall, said Theodore Kuchar, principal conductor. The tour also comes at a pivotal point in Ukraine’s history as the country defends itself from a brutal Russian invasion.

While the tour comes at a time of war, the timing is coincidental, Kuchar said. “Some people’s reaction is that this is a pity tour, but it was organized two years ago before the war started,” he emphasized.

But Kuchar is fully aware that the situation in Ukraine has added emotional resonance to the tour. When the orchestra played its first concert in Florida, “it was like the Super Bowl,” he said.

At the end of the concert, audience members were on their feet cheering and stomping. “The public hysteria was almost like a rock concert,” he added, with a laugh.

The Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine is one of three national orchestras in Ukraine. It was established in 1902 in Lviv, a Medieval city that is the largest city in western Ukraine. In its long history, the orchestra has outlasted several wars to tour around the world, including to Poland, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, China and the Netherlands.

Kuchar became principal conductor last year after appearing as a main guest conductor beginning in 2018. He previously led the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine that, he said, appeared at the Anderson Center in 2017.

The war with Russia has impacted both the orchestra and city of Lviv, Kuchar said. Some former members of the orchestra have been wounded in the fighting, and missile strikes have targeted the city. The first strike in April killed seven, and wounded 11, including a child. More strikes followed in October and November. Power outages are now commonplace as Russia targets Ukraine’s infrastructure, Kochar said.

Still, residents are working hard to maintain a sense of normalcy. If an alarm goes off, they go to bomb shelters where they stay through the emergency and then for 45 minutes after the alarm is lifted, he explained.

To get to the United States for the current tour, the orchestra traveled to the border with Poland and then waited for nine hours for a flight from Warsaw to the U.S., Kuchar said The tour has meant some long hours of traveling in this country as well. While orchestra members feel fortunate to be here, they miss their families and home country. “It (the tour) is very difficult and fortunate at the same time,” Kuchar said.

The Anderson Center concert will feature performances of contemporary Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych’s Chamber Symphony No. 3 for flute and string orchestra, as well as Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6 in D Minor, Op. 60, according to the Anderson Center website.

Kuchar is a strong Ukrainian nationalist and takes pride in representing Ukrainian culture. He said Russia has attempted to suppress Eastern Ukraine for centuries.

The current tour is of diplomatic, as well as historical significance, because it’s a reminder that the U.S. needs to maintain uncompromising support of Ukraine as it fights the Russian invasion, Kurchar said: “We should never forget that, without the support of the U.S., this (the Russian invasion) would have ended in one week.”

Anderson Center officials recognize the significance of the concert and have invited representatives from local Ukrainian churches to set up tables for fundraising and humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, said Marketing Director Christopher Bodnarczuk.

IF YOU GO: The Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine will perform at 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 11) in the Osterhout Concert Theater of Binghamton University’s Anderson Center. Tickets at $25-50 ($25-45 for seniors, veterans and faculty/staff/alumni; $10 for students and children) are available through the Anderson Center website, (click on upcoming events) or by calling the box office at 607-777-2787.