The descendant of a famous Ukrainian musical dynasty, great-granddaughter of a composer and director of Kyiv's conservatory, pianist, Tatiana Pavlichuk-Tyshkevich, takes a look at her family history through the prism of the country's history.
When did you understand that music was your call?
Because I was born to a family of musicians, music was on from morning till night! (Smiles) My mother performed on stage until she was nine months pregnant with me. There were two pianos in our flat, my dad sang every day, rehearsing and preparing for concerts, and my mother and elder sister played. Music seemed incomprehensibly ethereal and surreal to me, but I wanted to be part of it. My sister and I are six years apart, and I was really little when she began to study to play. From my first years, I was very curious how a simple "table with keys", a piece of the interior, suddenly was coming to life when a person sat at it, and why a room was filling with music. And I dreamed of learning to play as soon as possible. Mother told me how I, still a little child, was trying to pick up all the tunes I heard.
Nobody ever asked me who I wanted to be. In our family, everything was about Music. My choice was foreordained before my birth. (Smiles) From the first classes in a music school, I stood the test of big stages, both in my native Lutsk and in Kyiv, which was home to my ancestors. I was still very young when I first played a piano concerto with a symphony orchestra. I still remember every note. It was Edvard Grieg's piano concerto in A minor.
– You have an unusual double surname, Pavlichuk-Tyshkevich. Could you tell us about your ancestry?
My great-grandfather from my mother's side is Semen Petrovych Tyshkevich-Azvazhynskyy. There is a Wikipedia article about him. At the beginning of the 20th century, he was a known social and cultural figure in Kyiv. He was a composer and the director of the First Workers Conservatory, who formed its first strong composition. He was in charge of the Lysenko Music and Drama Institute in Kyiv in 1932-1934, which was later split into the 10-year school named after Lysenko, which still exists, and a university, currently the Karpenko-Karyy Theater Institute. My great-grandfather invested a lot of energy into the development of this institution. However, he was told on, arrested and sentenced to execution, which was carried out in the notorious village of Bykovnya in Kyiv's suburbs on 14 October 1938. He was rehabilitated post-mortem 20 years later. He left a remarkable legacy as a composer, including the "The Decembrists" musical poem – its manuscript disappeared during the arrest, but was later found in Europe and the poem was successfully performed there; chamber and piano compositions; more than 30 romances based on poems by Taras Shevchenko, Aleksandr Pushkin, Semyon Nadson, Anna Akhmatova and Maksym Rylskyy.
Photo: Tatiana Pavlichuk-Tyshkevich
The great-grandfather left behind his aristocratic wife, Valentyna Zhubr, a wonderful pianist who was taught by famous professor Mykhaylov. She had two small sons and was pregnant with the third one. As the widow of a public enemy, she was literally left to the mercy of fate. To survive with three small children, she took on any work, working half-time in kindergartens, playing a piano in cinemas and so on. One of her sons was caught during a raid and put on a train going to a labor camp. The great-grandmother with two children followed.
Eventually, during the war, the fate brought them to a labor camp on the outskirts of the Austrian town of Sankt Valentin. Valentyna Zhubr had a perfect command of European languages: German, French and Polish. She explained to the camp director that she was a professional musician. Representatives of the administration spelled her surname as Zhuber instead of Zhubr and pronounced the first letter as "Sch". Thus, she was mistaken for a descendant of Schubert. She knew Schubert's biography perfectly well and played the sonatins of the great composer. So, she was released together with her sons, and Austrian musicians in Sankt Valentin found a basement for Mrs Zhubr, in which she started giving private lessons in order to survive and feed her three sons. Some people brought money, others brought food or clothes for the children.
The first music school was founded there. Valentyna founded a school in Sankt Valentin, what a miracle! (Smiles) The great-grandmother enjoyed public respect, but she was nostalgic and decided to return home, to Kyiv, to her elderly mother-in-law. But she was the wife of a public enemy, therefore it was difficult for her to find a job in the capital of Soviet Ukraine. On the advice of her friends, she went to Lutsk. This is how my family took root in Lutsk. There the great-grandmother got immediately involved in the restoration of a music school and was among its first teachers (now it is music school No 1 named after Frederic Chopin). She taught generations of talented pianists who became professors and are now scattered all over Ukraine.
What is most important is that she taught my mother, a brilliant pianist and teacher who, having graduated from the Gnessin musical college in Moscow, returned to Lutsk, where she married my dad, a rich baritone and wonderful teacher, gave birth to my sister Yulia and me, and raised outstanding pianists in the music college, where she still heads the piano department.
– What do you see as your most important victories, what makes you proud?
Photo: Tatiana Pavlichuk-Tyshkevich with Prime Minister of Canada Justin Pierre James Trudeau after the concert in Kyiv
I came to Kyiv when I was 16 to enroll in the Lysenko school, where my mother studied. After an audition, I received very positive feedback and strong recommendations from such luminaries as Igor Ryabov, Borys Arkhymovych and Valeriy Kozlov. A month later, I became a student of the Kyiv Conservatory, having successfully passed all the tests. It was a surprising success, considering my age!
Then during and after school there were many prestigious international competitions in which I took part and after which I never returned home without a reward (smiles). For example, my first serious three-stage piano competition, the International Piano Competition in Santorini Island, Greece, got me a bronze medal and a prize for the best performance of Beethoven's Sonata. I was only 17 then! There was also the Maria Yudina International Competition in St Petersburg where I received an award and made several important contacts.
Photo: Tatiana with the Kiev-Tango-Project quartet
What makes me especially proud today? I am proud of the Kiev-Tango-Project quartet we created together with famous virtuoso violinist Kyrylo Sharapov. It is our project, it has been on for seven years already. The quartet is notoriously successful in Ukraine. Also, Kyrylo and I formed the Te Deum duo in 2010. Our duo gave a lot of concerts in the best halls of Ukraine. We were also a success at concert venues in Poland, Italy, France, Switzerland and China. We are often invited to perform in Switzerland and Italy. By the way, we were repeatedly offered teaching jobs in Italy.
– What are your places of power in Ukraine? What keeps you running and gives you inspiration?
Kyiv. Peyzazhna Alley and Andriyivskyy Descent. Many of my favorite places are in Lypky: Pechersk courtyards, Kozlovskyy Street, I call a park there a "magic garden". Also, there is a place in Kyiv I call a "vanilla alley", it is close to Lavra from the side of the Lower Caves. When we first came there, everything – both Lavra and the grass – was in a pink vanilla haze. Back in my native Lutsk, I love my backyard, Lubart's Castle and everything around it, old paved roads which my ancestors used to walk...
Interviewed by Myroslava Makarevych
Photos by Valentyn Vazek,Vladimir Anufriev, Sergey Brylenko, provided by Pavlychuk-Tyshkevych.