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Conductor Nayden Todorov:

The mission of artists is to be rescuers

Writer Zdravka Evtimova: Let us prove we are big enough for peace

Photo: Pixabay

In watershed times no one has the right to withdraw in their ivory tower and, from its fallacious heights, to observe what is happening from the sidelines. The discussion whether men and women of art, intellectuals should remain locked behind the doors of their creative laboratories with the alibi that they know nothing of war – when the simple dilemma is whether you support the aggressor or his victim – that is no excuse, it is fear. That is why instances like that of Valery Gergiev, Anna Netrebko and Co. smack of falsehood, opportunism, petty schemes how to keep your enormous privileges as a courtier, while at the same time continuing to walk in the comfortable shoes of an artist. 

During the week, vocal ensembles like Bella Voce and Slavyani, the string quartet Philharmonica and pianist Svetlin Hristov demonstrated their empathy with the suffering of the Ukrainian people by the best means they can – music. “Unlike most concerts Music of Ukraine was an initiative that came from the musicians – they wanted to give a concert in support, and that is a very powerful thing,” says Nayden Todorov, conductor of the Sofia Philharmonic, one of the Bulgarian ambassadors of culture for 2021, according to the listeners of the Bulgarian National Radio.

The musician believes that people of art have empathy in their hearts, but that they should keep their cool because it is their job to heal wounds. But can their voice stop war?

“Unfortunately, art has already failed, even though its role is not to stop war, its role is to make sure it doesn’t happen,” Nayden Todorov answers. In this sense I can regard people of art as doctors – in wartime the role of the doctors is not to kill, it is to cure. If we take a look back in history we shall see how, during the last big war, Shostakovich wrote his Leningrad symphony which inspired the people of Leningrad to fight to survive. On the opposite side, Wilhelm Furtwängler, principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, whose name is connected with the Nazi party, rescued Jews. So that the mission of artists, no matter which side of the barrier they are on, is to be rescuers.”

Unless creative individuals take a firm stand against war and the perpetrator of this war, they have no right to call themselves people creating art, says writer Zdravka Evtimova. Everyone should openly state their position against the aggressor Putin and their support for the embattled people of Ukraine, she goes on.

“In works of art, war is depicted in all of its genuine brutality, atrociousness, ugliness,” Zdravka Evtimova says further. “Thomas Mann has a brilliant thought – that war is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace. The death of the victims will always call out to our blood, to our hearts, let us prove we are big enough for peace. Why is it that when the last witnesses of the previous war die, a new one breaks out despite the memorials? And what does that go to show – that humankind is weaker than war?”

Instead of letting herself be weighed down by existential questions, artist Valentina Popova envdeavours to inspire courage with her paintings coloured in light and bright hues.

Works of hers are currently on display in the lobby in front of Studio No. 1 of the Bulgarian National Radio, and the money raised from the sales will be donated to meet the needs of the Ukrainian refugees who have been accommodated at the vacation facility of the Bulgarian National Radio and public service TV BNT in Kiten on the Black Sea coast.

“Maybe it is some kind of psychological defence response – being able to give strength to myself and the people around,” the artist says. “When such a huge adversity afflicts a country, when people are suffering, we all suffer. At this time good is being mobilized, and people are getting organized to help any way they can. That is the belief I go by – we each, even if it is just one person, should help, even if this is but a small step towards what is good – every little bit counts.”

Interviews by Nina Tsaneva and Assia Chaneva, Hristo Botev channel, BNR

Editing by Diana Tsankova 

Photos: BGNES, Assia Chaneva
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