Rodion Shchedrin talks about Ivan Karabits

Interview by Olha Savytska, newspaper Den, issue 33, Feb 25, 2010 

Den asked composer Rodion Shchedrin to share his memories of Ivan Karabits. They were friends for many years. Now living in Munich, Shchedrin happily talked to us on the phone and agreed to answer our questions about Karabits. “We were drawn to each other by love of people and music,” said Shchedrin. “This was a sincere and mutual feeling, and so we had harmonious relations. I really liked him as a person of great manners. I could feel his natural aristocracy, which was accompanied by deep modesty and even shyness. And at the same time, he had an unpretentious pride and self-respect. He was always very natural. “You know, composers often do something extra-ordinary - like growing hair or wearing hats – to give more weight to their persona, more than they actually deserve. And Vanya [Karabits] was totally different; he didn’t need it. When we used to meet during concerts, I was noticing how attentive and respectful he was to his peers’ music. He was so loyal to music that one could say that he loved it more than himself. And this is rather unusual in our harsh century. I think Karabits followed his own path in music, and I also took a great liking to it. He was not shocked when suddenly everyone fell in love with dodecaphony or was drawn into serialism. Using culture and classical and folk heritage, he was discovering what God gave him at birth. He was enthralled by traditions, and yet he was a contemporary. He was modern in his thoughts, ideas, and treatment of music material, but at the same time he was not alien in his approaches. I think it’s very important to combine culture, knowledge, and schooling with a vocation and talent. I can relate to many of his works, like Second concert for the orchestra, which I enjoyed a few times. I remember his “Yavdoha’s Songs.” They are very original, Ukrainian, with a folk melodic foundation of unparallel beauty. Ivan Karabits has a lot of wonderful music. Take, for instance, his new CD. It provided plenty of material for performances: Concertino for 9 instruments, cello sonata, and Lyrical scenes. I am very happy that you have focused your attention on his music. It’s necessary and fair that celebrations of anniversaries of his birth and other special dates become a good tradition. He was not properly recognized in the music world of the 20th century. And I think that even your country does not entirely understand the greatness of his musical talent and his no less important civic contributions. He founded the Competition in the memory of Volodymyr Horowitz, the composer who’s already earned his place in music history, and then the“Kyiv Music Fest.” He did it when everything was falling apart. I believe that soon Ivan Karabits’ personality and heritage will be very much respected across the Ukrainian land.