Immigrants, we are assured daily, contribute in significant ways to our economy as workers and consumers, or as inventors like the German Levi Strauss, whose jeans you may be wearing right now, or the Russian Sergey Brin, who is the co-founder of Google that everyone is using these days. We are less familiar with the footprints immigrants leave in our American culture. Did you know that the infamous Audrey Hepburn immigrated from Belgium? That the influential composer Arnold Schoenberg was an immigrant from Germany? That the idolized reggae musician Bob Marley came from Jamaica? And that Yo-Yo Ma arrived from China via France to become one of our finest cellists?
When you come to the 38th-season-opening concert of the Fripp Island Friends of Music on October 16, you will hear and meet two immigrants who hail from Lviv, Ukraine, and who have left large musical footprints not only all over the world, but right here in South Carolina: Natalia Khoma and Volodymyr Vynnytsky. Both are internationally renowned musicians who perform solo or as a husband-and-wife duo around the globe and have forged professional profiles at the College of Charleston.
Natalia Khoma is a cellist just as fabulous as Yo-Yo Ma. Her husband Volodymyr Vynnytsky is a virtuoso pianist. Both studied at the Moscow Conservatory where Volodymyr earned a doctorate. Natalia made her first public appearance on TV at age ten and performed her first concerto with orchestra at age thirteen. She is the only Ukrainian cellist to become a laureate of the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, has since earned not only an Artist Diploma from the University of Boston, but also a considerable world-wide reputation. Natalia and Volodymyr have distinguished themselves as recitalists and soloists with orchestras throughout Russia, the U.S., Canada, all of South America, more than a dozen European countries, South Africa and the Middle and Far East. In February of 2020, they both embarked on an extensive North American tour, performing eighteen concerts with one of the finest European symphony orchestras: the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Natalia and Volodymyr have also performed together with major orchestras and in premier chamber music series all over the globe. Needless to say, the two amassed top prizes and laureates at many illustrious international competitions in Russia, Hungary, Germany, Rumania, and France, and they hold Honorary Professorships at music academies in Kyiv, Lviv, and Odesa.
In addition to an unending string of performing activities, Natalia teaches as Professor of Cello at the College of Charleston, serves as Director of the Charleston Music Fest and, since 2011, as Artistic Advisor of the Music and Art Center of Greene County, New York. Natalia also organized and runs the Children and Music Foundation, which provides musical training, instruments and financial aid to young, gifted Ukrainian students in need. Volodymyr is Director of Chamber Music at the College of Charleston and Music Director of the Music and Art Center of Greene County, New York.
It’s not surprising to find that the footprints of these two immigrants have been thoroughly measured and assessed. Natalia Khoma has been hailed around the world as “technically dazzling,” “intense, brilliant, and with perfect structure,” and praised for “the precision of her executions, Slavic Zen, full warm cello tone….and, what a drive!” Peter Ingle wrote in the Charleston Today: “Natalia unforgivingly commands the cello to give her every bit of nuance and sound that it can muster. She engulfs the instrument, leans on it, and somehow puts it under a spell so that it becomes her own heart and soul uttering all manner of emotion.” Natalia’s discography lists an impressive two dozen recordings, quite a few of them pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, because Bach is, and “will always be,” her favorite composer: “His music is the highest achievement of human civilization. I hear the cosmos with no end. Filled with spiritual love, through his harmonies, the music opens windows to eternity.”
The piano performances of Volodymyr Vynnytsky have equally impressive reviews: “The pianist is simply superb!” Critics observed that he possesses “incredible technique and deep musical understanding.” His performance proved to be “a grand display of skill and precision that was breathtaking.”
Volodymyr, too, has oodles of CD-recordings, some of them of his very own compositions. I am happy to report that the last two pieces of the Khoma and Vynnytsky Duo’s program on Fripp are going to be Volodymyr’s creations: Lost Tango and Nostalgic Tango.
Come and measure the musical footprint of this immigrant duo on Sunday, October 16, 5:00 pm in the Fripp Island Community Centre, 205 Tarpon Blvd. A $100 membership to Fripp Island Friends of Music (FIFOM) saves you $50 for all five concerts. Admission at the door is $30 for adults (credit cards accepted), students free thanks to the Peg Gorham Memorial Fund. You are invited to a meet-the-artist reception after the performance, catered, deliciously, by Harold’s Chef Services. This concert is presented by FIFOM and supported by the SC Arts Commission. It helps fund FIFOM’s Music-in-the-Schools program. See our website frippfriendsofmusic.com for more information, and call or text Vanessa Peñaherrera at (704) 807-0255 for reservations.