Looking back at harpsichord concerts by Liubov Titarenko from Ukraine, 22 & 29 May 2022

Gepubliceerd op: 10 juli 2022

“Of course !” we immediately answered the question whether we, Museum Geelvinck, would like to organise charity concerts for this very gifted, refugee Ukrainian musician, Liubov Titarenko.

Music for Bread

With the proceeds Liubov helps her friends in Ukraine. The revenues of the concerts go to an initiative of a political scientist who is friends with the harpsichordist, Mykola Davydiuk. He has set up a network between several bakeries in small villages where the Russian army has withdrawn. The bread that these bakeries can bake, is not sold to the regional population, but distributed. There are costs associated with baking and delivering the bread. Part of the proceeds from Liubov’s concerts go to these bakeries. The latter is done by Davydiuk’s office workers, in their own cars.

Harpsichord concert in Amsterdam & Gemonde, 22 & 29 May 2022

We managed to organize two concerts in a short time, the first on May 22. in the Geelvinck Salon in the Luther Museum in Amsterdam and the second in collaboration with “Cultuur aan de Dommel” on 29 May in De Oude Pastorie from 1914 in Gemonde, Brabant, where a muselaar from Museum Geelvinck is on loan (built by Walter Maene in 1977). The undersigned was present at this latter concert and is happy to share her impressions with you.

Liubov Titarenko in front of Klinkhamer harpsichord in Luther Museum Amsterdam

We were warmly welcomed by hosts Axel and Kiny Wenstedt – Hinlopen and the sounds of the harpsichord already met us, Liubov was still warming up for a while. The ‘Oude Pastorie’ was then packed, sold out!

Liubov Titarenko is a light-hearted, very enthusiastic and passionate harpsichordist who belongs to the top of harpsichordists in Ukraine. She takes you into every note she plays and knows how to make the harpsichord and the music sing and swing.

Liubov Titarenko in concert at harpsichord in the ‘Oude Pastorie’, Gemonde

Liubov Titarenko

A little more about Liubov Titarenko. She was born in Dnipropetrovsk in 1986. In 2010, she graduated as a Master of Art from the piano department of the National Music Academy of Ukraine, Peter Tchaikovsky, in Kiev as a student of Alexander Lysokon. She studied harpsichord postgraduate between 2010 and 2013 at the Early Music Department of NMAU with professor Svitlana Shabaltina. Liubov took courses with Alexei Liubimov, Christopher Stembridge, Andreas Staier, Aline Zylberajch-Gester, Jean Rondeau, Patrick Ayrton and Richard Egarr.

Liubov has since won prizes at renowned competitions at home and abroad and is a popular soloist in various orchestras. She also took part in the Early Music Festival in Utrecht.

Liubov introducing her program to the audience in the ‘Oude Pastorie’ in Gemonde


The program included works by Louis Marchand (1669-1732), Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643), an anonymous Ukrainian composer (1770), Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), Johann Sebastian Bach and Dmytro Bortniansky (an Ukrainian composer who lived from 1751 to 1825).

harpsichord and muselaar at the ‘Oude Pastorie’ in Gemonde, photo Annelies Rhebergen

Next to the harpsichord, built in 1977 by Frank Hubbard & Goop Sterkman, and beautifully restored by Onno Peper in 2020, also a muselaar was available on which Liubov played a piece by Frescobaldi. The ‘muselaar’ is a variant of the ‘virginal’, an instrument very common in western Europe and typical for the Northern and Southern Netherlands. Johannes Vermeer often depicted a likewise instrument in his paintings. This muselaar, with the inscription “C’est le ton qui fait la Musique”, is a copy of a Flemish instrument from 1650 (Couchet, Antwerp).

While the harpsichord has a baroque Kirnberger tuning, the muselaar has a Renaissance mean tone tuning. There are many different tunings, depending on the chosen repertoire.

Liubov understands the art of captivating the attention of the audience by telling about backgrounds of the composers and interesting facts on each composition. Each piece was introduced, well-informed and with a light touch, creating a receptive atmosphere and a joyful musical experience.

Harpsichord in Ukraine

n Ukraine, the harpsichord is a very popular instrument, since 1995 the harpsichord class exists at the National Tchaikovsky Music Academy in Kiev. This class was founded by the famous Ukrainian pianist and harpsichordist Svitlana Shabaltina, who is the head of the harpsichord class. In 2000, the Early Music Department was opened at the Conservatory and the harpsichord class became an important part of it. Since 1995, Svitlana has taught many great harpsichordists, including “our” Liubov Titarenko. The harpsichord is so popular that it is chosen as a second instrument by many conservatory students.

Dmytro Bortniansky, portrait by M Belsky (1788)

18th-19th c. Composers in Ukraine

About the two Ukrainian composers: Dmytro Bortniansky (1751-1825) was a prominent composer and conductor. He became well known for his liturgical choral works in which he managed to connect age-old traditions of Ukrainian choral music with late 18th-century European music. The influence of Ukrainian folk songs is evident in these works. In the Sonata B-Dur that Liubov played, this could be heard very well and the audience had to make an effort not to swing along with her cheerful playing. You could imagine easily the sleighs with bells passing by.

The composer, identified as anonymous, was found by Liubov by accident when she was in the National Museum in Kiev. The manuscript intrigued her and she could download it. Liubov made her own selection and created a Suite, “Galaganavisky Vertep” . With her own arrangement and embellishments it was a wonderful performance. The manuscript can be downloaded for free at: https://www.tmf-museum.com/sokirinskij-vertep.

18th c anonymous manuscript with scores for the traditional nativity puppet play ‘Vertep’

It is customary when looking back, to go deeper into the music, backgrounds and playing style of the musician. It can be noted about Liubovs’ way of playing that you can hear that all the authentic characteristics of the harpsichord playing, for which the Netherlands has become famous as a fore runner in early music, have also been taught in Ukraine for 25 years now, thus linking Ukraine to Western European culture.

Liubov Titarenko after concert, Kiev 2019

I’ll leave it at an impression. During the intermission and after the concert, the audience and Liubov reacted with great enthusiasm and interest, which led to lively conversations and a feeling to take home of having experienced a very special event. The setting of an intimate ambiance, sitting closely around the instruments and the musician, helped to create this experience of emotional contact, both during the breaks and during the concert.

Speaking of warmth and enthusiasm: her name Liubov – Liuba, when addressed – means Love. Who knows, partly because of this feeling of warmth, love, connection that the concertgoers spontaneously donated, in addition to buying their tickets, a very substantial extra contribution to the purpose for which Liubov also performed this concert; the distribution of free bread to the village people in Ukraine, there. where it is needed.

Paul Couturier (CadD / Cultuur aan de Dommel working group) thanked Liubov, the host and hostess and the audience with warm words and presented Liubov with beautiful well-deserved flowers. He emphasised once again what Cultuur aan de Dommel stands for: “Stichting Cultuur aan de Dommel” wants to connect and entertain people with culture” and it certainly succeeded.

I sincerely hope that Liubov will often be invited by colleagues to come and play charity concerts. Her personality, musicality and the actual circumstances of this moment deserve this very much. Highly recommendable! 

Annelies Rhebergen 
Museum Geelvinck