The Ukrainian National Philharmonic was founded in 1863, as a branch of the Imperial Russian Musical Society. This beautiful building has one of those ambiences that enthrall – truly elegant, historic and very European. The white chairs are comfortable and fairly generous, and stylish of course matching the gilded white columns and fluted ceilings, the red carpets on the marble floors. The intimate auditorium – so much better surroundings for a concert than our usual basketball stadium in Florida! – has the usual balcony of boxes around the top and a totally unobstructed view of the stage. So, does this stylish elegance add anything to the music performed there? Yes, undoubtedly, the ambience induces feelings of participation and awareness of culture and the building has wonderful acoustics.
Seats can be obtained for as little as $10 on some evenings, a cafe au lait, smoked salmon sandwiches and a cognac in the bar at the interval was $18, but, this being Ukraine, there was a twist!
We arrived a little before 6:00 to check our coats, scarves, gloves, hoodies (Kiev in the winter!) and to seek out the cafeteria for a hot drink and a snack before the 7:00 o’clock performance. All was in darkness, the great triple glass and brass doors firmly locked. No signs or notices and just a small ticket kiosk in a cellar around the corner was lit. Nyet, we were told, nothing would open until ‘later’. Like homeless waifs we huddled in the shelter of the doorways in the wind and snow until a little old lady unlocked one door, of the six, the audience was permitted to enter the gorgeous Lysenko Hall of Columns, just twenty minutes before the performance!