Centaur Records released the highly anticipated album “Poems & Rhapsodies” on February 11th, 2022, recorded by the National Symphony of Ukraine with Volodymyr Sirenko as conductor, and features three prominent professors from UConn’s Department of Music—Solomiya Ivakhiv, associate professor of violin and viola, head of strings, and violinist; Kenneth Fuchs, professor of music composition and Grammy-award winning composer; and Sophie Shao, assistant professor of cello, instructor of string techniques, and cellist.
The National Symphony of Ukraine is considered the preeminent orchestra in Ukraine. “Poems & Rhapsodies” captures the poetic essence and rhapsodic style of Ukrainian, French, British, & American composers. This project was something that Ivakhiv was working on for quite some time, as “the album was recorded in July 2019, but due to the pandemic, the release was postponed.” With its debut release, she strived to “promote and excite audiences about global musical collaborations,” as well as “attract more international students and bring a greater 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 track “La muse et le poète” by French composer, Camille Saint-Saëns.
Ukrainian born, Ivakhiv is described as a “champion of new music,” and is an accomplished concert violinist, chamber musician, collaborator, and educator in the music world. Her repertoire has landed her several international awards, including the University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts New Scholar Award in 2016, as well as the Honored (Merited) Artist of Ukraine Award in 2022, the highest honor awarded to artists in her home country.
Fuchs has expert knowledge on composing music for orchestra, band, chorus, and various chamber ensembles. He describes his music as being able to “communicate emotions with clearly articulated gestures that can be understood on first hearing.” His work has led him to achieve global recognition and awards, including the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Classical Compendium.
Shao is the winner of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and top prizes at the Rostropovich and Tchaikovsky competitions. Shao first picked up the cello at the age of six, and has since then 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 through the generous support of the University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts Dean’s Grant, Office of Global Affairs, and Office of the Vice President for Research, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Institute of America in NYC and the following individuals: Kathy Nalywajko (Ukrainian Institute of America President), Valentina Nalywajko, Dr. Borys Mychalczak, Charles Podpirka, Honorable Irena Holiat, Myron and Chrystyna Melnyk.