Poems and Rhapsodies: UConn Professors Fuse Ukrainian, French, British and American Sound

Centaur Records released the highly anticipated album “Poems & Rhapsodies” on February 11, 2022, recorded by the National Symphony of Ukraine with Volodymyr Sirenko as conductor, and features three distinguished professors from UConn’s music department – Solomiya Ivakhiv, associate professor of violin and viola, string leader and violinist; Kenneth Fuchs, professor of music composition and Grammy-winning composer; and Sophie Shao, assistant cello teacher, string techniques instructor and cellist.

The National Symphony of Ukraine is considered the most important orchestra in Ukraine. “Poems & Rhapsodies” captures the poetic essence and rhapsodic style of Ukrainian, French, British and American composers. This project was something Ivakhiv had been working on for some time, as “the album was recorded in July 2019, but due to the pandemic, the release was postponed”. With her first release, she endeavored to “promote and excite the public about global musical collaborations”, as well as “attract more international students and raise awareness of UConn globally”. The album includes Fuchs’ “American Rhapsody”, a lyrical romance for violin orchestra that captures the beauty of the American landscape. It also features Shao’s cello work on the piece “The Muse and the Poet” by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.

Born in Ukraine, Ivakhiv is described as a “champion of new music” and is an accomplished concert violinist, chamber musician, collaborator and educator in the world of music. His repertoire has won him several international awards, including the New Scholar Award from the University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts in 2016, as well as the Honored (Merited) Artist of Ukraine Award in 2022, the highest honor awarded to artists from his country. of origin.

Fuchs has extensive knowledge of composing music for orchestra, band, choir and various chamber ensembles. He describes his music as being able to “communicate emotions with clearly articulated gestures that can be understood on first listen”. His work has led him to achieve worldwide recognition and awards, including the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Classical Collection.

Shao is the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Fellowship and first prizes in the Rostropovich and Tchaikovsky competitions. Shao first learned the cello at the age of six and has since worked as a soloist, recitalist, educator and chamber musician. The New York Times and The Washington Post describe her captivating performances as “eloquent, powerful, and deeply satisfying.”

“Poems & Rhapsodies” was made possible in part by the generous support of the University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts Dean’s Fellowship, the Office of Global Affairs, and the Office of the Vice President for Research , the Embassy of the United States in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Institute of America in NYC and the following people: Kathy Nalywajko (President of the Ukrainian Institute of America), Valentina Nalywajko, Dr. Borys Mychalczak, Charles Podpirka, the Honorable Irena Holiat, Myron and Chrystyna Melnyk.