Yevgeny Yevtushenko was one of the most famous writers in the Soviet Union during the oppressive Stalin years. His 1961 poem "Baba Yar" chronicled a massacre of Ukrainian Jews at the hands of the Nazis, and indicted the Soviets for not telling the truth about it. This poem, and other poetry of Yevtushenko that portrayed the evils of Stalin's regime, inspired Dmitri Shostakovich to write his Symphony No. 13.
This weekend, Yevtushenko is in town to hear Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus perform that symphony. BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta conducts the performance, which also features Russian bass Mikhail Svetlov. Svetlov, who has sung with the Metropolitan Opera, is no stranger to Buffalo. He played the comic role of the landlord in Nickel City Opera's recent "La Boheme."
Adding immeasurable atmosphere, Yevtushenko will be reading "Baba Yar" – in Russian, no less. Both concerts will be followed with a meet-and-greet with the great poet.
Falletta emphasizes that the symphony has universal appeal.
"It goes far beyond any one particular group ... whether Jewish, Ukrainian, anyone," she told The News' Melinda Miller earlier this week. "It goes to the spirit of man."
The BPO is balancing the dark symphony with a more lyrical creation of Shostakovich, the Piano Concerto No. 2. This beautiful piece – its slow movement sounds like a romantic movie theme – will be performed by pianist Michael Boriskin, who is the artistic director of the Copland House.
The concert takes place at 10:30 a.m. today and 8 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $27-$74. For information, call 885-5000.