The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine (NSOU) has announced its first UK tour in more than 20 years, and the biggest in its history, to reflect venues and audiences’ newfound interest in Ukrainian culture since the Russian invasion.
During the three-week tour the orchestra will play works by Ukrainian composers such as Borys Lyatoshynsky alongside classical greats such as Finland’s Jean Sibelius and Germany’s Richard Strauss across 17 venues in October and November 2023. No Russian music will be played.
Alexander Hornostai, the NSOU’s managing director, said the Kyiv-based orchestra had been an “important part of the country’s culture” for more than 100 years, and was “deeply grateful” to venues for enabling it to organise such a high-profile UK tour.
“Whilst this war has had a dramatic impact on Ukrainian lives, we took the decision early on that we had an important role to play in continuing to perform, in order to protect and showcase Ukrainian musical culture and show that there is more to our country than just the conflict,” he said.
Tickets go on sale from 19 October for venues including Cadogan Hall in London, Symphony Hall in Birmingham, St David’s Hall in Cardiff, Usher Hall in Edinburgh and Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.
Mary Harrison, the head of UK touring at IMG Artists, which is promoting the tour, said it was an opportunity for UK audiences to learn about Ukrainian culture.
“Up until now, Ukrainian culture has been seen as somewhat in Russia’s shadow in the west, with the likes of the Bolshoi, Moscow and St Petersburg orchestras enjoying elite status. This tour is a unique opportunity for Ukrainian musicians to wrestle the spotlight from Russia,” she said.
The NSOU stopped performing when Russia invaded on 24 February but resumed rehearsals and performances at the end of April, with ticket capacity limited in the orchestra’s Lysenko Column Hall in Kyiv to 150 people to enable everyone to fit in an air raid shelter under the building. When the alarm goes off, the orchestra members continue to play Bach sonatas to the audience in the shelter until it is safe to come out.
Two male members of the orchestra are currently conscripted to the Ukrainian military.
As part of the tour, UK venues will fundraise for the NSOU, with an appeal target set at £24,000 based on an anticipated 24,000 audience members attending.