Yurii Kerpatenko refused to bow to Russian orders

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When the invitation got here, it was flattery of a kind. Yurii Kerpatenko was being requested to conduct a live performance in Kherson, his native metropolis, to mark Worldwide Music Day on October 1st this 12 months. As standard he was to conduct his Gilea chamber ensemble, 15 or so of the perfect gamers from the Kherson Regional Philharmonic.

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He, and so they, had been favourites within the metropolis. They performed the whole lot: classical picks, opera highlights, “trendy and historical romances”, jazz, Ukrainian people tunes. Since 2000 he had been principal conductor, combining the job for a decade with that of chief conductor on the metropolis’s Mykola Kulish Music and Drama Theatre, which additionally placed on occasions to go well with everybody’s style. On live performance nights on the theatre, because the viewers got here in, his musicians would play within the lobby. Yurii in black tie was the primary sight concert-goers noticed, the assure of night forward. He himself wouldn’t be showy, although. Usually he merely stood amongst his gamers, a solemn and businesslike determine along with his glasses and retro fringe, directing them with a gentle pumping of each arms or, for swing or a tango, dancing and swaying only a bit.

His personal instrument was the accordion, for which he had gained prizes since highschool. He had gone so far as France and Italy to play. He liked it as a result of, with the violin, it was the sound of Ukraine. His compositions, equivalent to “Autumn Poem”, had been within the people custom, and he performed with people ensembles, too, standing modestly on the again regardless of his fame. But he additionally inspired Ukraine to say its nationhood by wanting West. In a marketing campaign known as “We’re Ukrainians” in 2019 his classical recordings (Verdi and Mozart foremost) had been performed within the libraries of neighbouring villages, to encourage primary-school youngsters to wish to be a part of Europe.

It was subsequently not stunning that he was requested to conduct an “worldwide” live performance on October 1st. However nor was it stunning that he categorically refused. For since March 2nd Kherson, a southern metropolis the place the Dnieper river meets the Black Sea, had been below Russian occupation. The residents had resisted, however had been floor down by the enemy’s navy machine. Protests had been damaged up with reside rounds and a whole lot of arrests. A lot of these arrested disappeared; different resisters had been kidnapped. Within the headquarters of the military-civilian administration, screams rang by the corridors. Within the metropolis cemetery, a whole lot of recent graves had been dug in haste. In the meantime meals, water and medicines all grew to become scarce, and those that might accomplish that left the place.

He, nevertheless, stayed and spoke out. On his Fb web page his chief emotion was horrified bewilderment. He was a Ukrainian patriot, few extra so. He was additionally a Russian-speaker, introduced up on Russian music and Russian tradition. The Kyiv Conservatoire, his alma mater, was named after Tchaikovsky and had been backed by Rachmaninoff, composers he adored. He had mates in Russia. However what was Russia now? All kgb and nkvd sorts, working a focus camp. Putin was pointing weapons at him, attempting to show Ukraine into Novorossiya. He couldn’t assist pondering of Tamerlane, who preferred to construct pyramids from the skulls of those that wouldn’t obey him.

Why did the human species go to battle in any respect? Weren’t there higher methods, like funding and co-operation? He preferred to place up a minimum of some posts that pressured the the Aristocracy of man: a listing of serps for educational journals and uncommon books, with {a photograph} of the Lengthy Corridor within the library of Trinity Faculty Dublin; and a video of Claudio Abbado conducting Mahler’s First Symphony, a hymn to Mom Earth. However he additionally quoted the unflinching warrior code of the samurai: “Stay as if you don’t exist”.

Underneath the occupation music-making had gone quiet, particularly the lighter form. That appeared proper to him. In 2014 he had resigned from the Music and Drama Theatre over one thing comparable. That February, throughout two days of mourning for the lives misplaced on the Maidan in Kyiv throughout the Orange revolution that removed Viktor Yanukovich, the theatre director insisted on going forward with a live performance known as “Disco, Retro, Jazz”. It was an outrage to play such music then, even within the “mournful fashion” the director daftly instructed, and he refused to conduct. It earned him a repute as an ungainly buyer, although additionally as a person of precept. Each on-line and off, he made a behavior of warring with windmills. He did no matter he needed to to guard his orchestras, and music itself.

Clearly the October live performance had been dreamt up by the military-civilian junta to advertise the lie that Kherson was a peaceable, civilised place below Russian rule. Why, it even placed on live shows! The Philharmonic had a brand new head and new inventive director, each appointed by the Russians, who persuaded the musicians to play. Some wanted threatening; others fortunately complied. For Yurii this collaboration was probably the most painful, insidious factor he was witnessing in his metropolis. Yanukovich, Moscow’s puppet, had been kicked out of Ukraine as soon as and for all, however somebody like Volodymyr Saldo, the top of the junta, was native, in some way everlasting, considered one of their very own but not their very own, now the enemy’s buddy.

Someday in September, it appears, Conductor Kerpatenko delivered his absolute refusal. It was then, round his birthday on the ninth, that his on-line voice fell silent, and mates and family members exterior Kherson heard no phrase. In mid-October it emerged that the Russian Particular Providers had been to his condo to speak to him. When he gave them a dusty reply, they mentioned they’d return. Some days later they got here again with a machinegun which they blasted by the entrance door, killing him without delay.

The act would have been simply as heinous if he had been a farmer or a shopkeeper. However his standing as a musician gave it a selected symbolism. In considered one of his Fb arguments, his antagonist had taunted him with the notion of “the artwork of battle”. Artwork and battle had been absolutely in stark opposition to one another. To cite Semyon Bychkov, the Russian-born conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and a passionate opponent of Russia’s battle, “Artwork…is about spirituality—which means to maintain folks, not carry them down. And with that comes a sure duty.”

This text appeared within the Obituary part of the print version below the headline “The person who mentioned no”

20221022 DE US - Yurii Kerpatenko refused to bow to Russian orders

From the October twenty second 2022 version

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