Youth Orchestra of Ukraine and Germany: “United for Future”


Two top youth ensembles – the Federal Youth Orchestra and the Ukraine Youth Orchestra – are going on tour together.

Strong together: young German and Ukrainian musicians

They are old friends: the  National Youth Orchestra of the Federal Republic of Germany (BJO) and the   Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine (YSOU). The Federal Youth Orchestra was the inspiration when the Ukrainian orchestra was founded in 2017 and presented its first international project at the Beethoven Festival.

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The Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv

“The BJO has been a strong role model for young Ukrainian musicians from the moment we first met,” said Ukrainian star conductor Oksana Lyniv, who initiated the founding of YSOU in 2017, in a DW interview. “Again and again we take the BJO as an example for the motivation, for a high musical level and the long tradition.”

Berlin instead of Odessa

The five-year anniversary of the founding of the YSOU and the friendship between the two youth ensembles should have been celebrated: a joint concert in the legendary Odessa Opera House was planned for May 2022, as a “pendant” to the European Concert by the Berlin Philharmonic, which also took place on May 1 of this year in wanted to play Odessa.

“Members of the Federal Youth Orchestra should rehearse there together with the Ukrainian youth under the guidance of the Berlin Philharmonic and then give a concert,” BJO director Sönke Lentz tells DW. “The terrible war of aggression made that impossible. But at least we managed to organize a joint work phase in Germany, which will be followed by three benefit concerts in favor of the YSOU.”

Founding ceremony at the campus concert in Berlin as part of the Beethoven Festival 2017

On July 3rd, 4th and 5th the project orchestra, consisting of German and Ukrainian refugees, will play Young musicians in the Berlin Philharmonic, the State Theater in Hanover and finally the Cologne Philharmonic.

The program includes works by Beethoven and Dvořák, as well as the symphonic ballad by the Ukrainian classic Borys Lyatoschynski “Grazhyna”, based on the poem of the same name by the Polish bard Adam Mickiewicz. The work celebrates the courageous heroine Grazhyna, a sort of Latvian Janne d'Arc, who leads her people in the fight against an overwhelming enemy. The Berlin concert will be broadcast live in the Digital Concert Hall of the Berlin Philharmonic. The young Ukrainian conductor Artem Lonhinov is in charge.

Artem Lonhinov during rehearsals with the musicians of the YSOU and BJO

“The work with around 80 young German and Ukrainian musicians was emotionally incredibly moving,” the young conductor told DW. “I think it's an unforgettable experience for everyone. But for the Ukrainians it's exactly the therapy they need right now.” 

A dance of solidarity in difficult times

At the beginning of the war on 24, the YSOU had 80 active members, young Ukrainian top musicians from all over the country. February 2022. “The first few days were full of shock and despair,” says the orchestra director and violinist Aleksandra Zaitseva. “The young people couldn't physically and mentally play music or practice, couldn't touch an instrument at all. Many had to stay in bunkers for several days or weeks. We tried to stay in touch as much as possible, wrote to each other constantly, even zoom- Meeting organized.”

Oksana Lyniv conducts the Campus Project Orchestra 2017

Many of the young orchestra members have left the country, but many are also  remained. “It is the boys over 18 who are conscripted, but also others who want to support their families and the country,” said Zaitseva. 

With around 50 musicians, however, the orchestra was able to regroup and in the meantime has given important performances, including at the Bach Festival in Leipzig. The tour with the BJO is followed by concerts at the Munich Opera Festival, the Bayreuth Young Artists Festival, the Lucerne Festival, the Young Euro Classic Festival, the Moers Festival and the Bonn Beethoven Festival – a veritable “round dance of solidarity”, according to Aleksandra Zaitseva. “Unlike the BJO, our orchestra does not receive any state funding, so we are incredibly grateful to every partner.”

…and a reunion in Bonn

But that one has a very special meaning concert that will take place on August 29th am  opening weekend of the Beethoven Festival in Bonn. In a way, this will be the birthday party of the Ukrainian youth orchestra: Exactly five years after the first public performance, also in Bonn. Five years in which the world has changed completely.