Kyiv (2001).

I saw a video of Donetsk airport completely bombed. It was called Sergej Prokofiev because he was Ukrainian. It is known that he died without glory on the same day as Stalin. But luckily his beautiful music has remained. I was alone in Kiev for two weeks in 2001 and I think with great sadness about what is happening now all over Ukraine. I was there to record my first two CDs directed by the excellent Fabio Mastrangelo. I had met many orchestras who during the first rehearsal of my Fables had been unwelcoming and distrustful. A trombone approached me to tell me that his part was not playable, and I replied that it had already been played 5 times with various orchestras. After recording other pieces, they played my Florestan with so much empathy and pathos in such a beautiful performance that they all burst into a big applause. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. Unforgettable. The 11 recordings ended with extreme cordiality and professionalism that they could only show me with big smiles, because only the artistic director knew a few words of English. The evening with pizza and beer to celebrate the end of the recordings was a moment of great human warmth that I have never felt again in other orchestras. Much singing, jokes, and speeches. As usual, I didn’t know what to say and felt very embarrassed. The trombone came to me and gave me his hand. In the meantime, I also managed to visit all the most beautiful places in Kiev which is very extensive. In those times I walked a lot. First of all, the Baroque Cathedral outside, but inside Byzantine (as in Ravenna) of Santa Sofia with extraordinary mosaics in the city center. The vast Lavra Monastery, a grandiose and spectacular place on the top of a very green hill and all the way downhill to the Dnieper River. Here there were many buildings and small churches beyond the main Dormition Church and inside the hill meanders of tunnels with caves full of ancient coffins of monks and mummified local saints. A huge complex. And then the 11th century Great Golden Gate of Kyiv, whose exterior is a historical reconstruction. Inside there are the ruins of two extremely thick ancient walls which I returned to see as if they were a sanctuary for its symbol in Classical Music and in History. At that time only a small part could be seen because the rest was being restored. I saw the delightful ballet Scheherazade at the grandiose Opera House, with very colorful sets and costumes. The central part of the monumental nineteenth-century city, Piazza Maidan, is very beautiful and well arranged in a grandiose way in the centre of various hills and there at a corner is the Conservatory all in white marble. They were also still renovating the subway in the central square. And then the old part of Kyiv, much more authentic and pretty, had not yet been restored and painted in various colors as they are now. This leaves me speechless because the houses were all rather dilapidated. In fact, the photos I see now show an amazing restoration of the whole city. In addition, they have built many skyscrapers on the other side of the river and in any case tall houses in the center too. There was only a limited quantity on the other side of the river. Even in a modern area, they have all been painted in different colors. When I went to the Besarabya market in a big building the food was very poor. I remember a cheese area where there were many women with handkerchiefs on their heads behind long tables placed in a square and they sold only one type of cheese similar to our soft ricotta. I felt sad because I didn’t know who to go to. They only sold their one type of cheese, they were all poor and they all needed to earn! The same for other foods, little choice and basic, but the flowers were amazing, very varied, and many even in large mixed compositions. Such a grandiose impact of colours. The Ukrainians have done a great job in all these years and they don’t deserve this war. We hope that the Russians will limit themselves only to bombing airports and strategic and military areas. But how does the loss of life compare with the works they have created!? How I would like to return to see it in all its full beauty!