Meridian Star

April 26, 2013

Noted Ukrainian baritone to perform with Meridian Symphony Chorus and Orchestra

By Ida Brown /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     More than five years after making his American debut at Carnegie Hall with the celebrated Opera Orchestra of New York, baritone Pavel Baransky of Ukraine will mark his Mississippi debut with performances in Meridian and Hattiesburg.

    Baransky will perform Brahms' German Requiem with the Meridian Symphony Chorus and Orchestra Sunday at 3 p.m. at Highland Baptist Church. Earlier that day, he will sing for Sunday worship at First Presbyterian at 10:30 a.m.

    Baransky's appearance is made possible through the University of Southern Mississippi's School of Music. He will perform in the Southern Miss Symphony Season Finale: Stars and Belshazzar's Feast.

    And while USM made Baransky's Mississippi visit possible, it was a local connection which got the ball rolling.

    Matthew McMurrin, who serves as music director at First Presbyterian Church, lived and worked in Kyiv, Ukraine, before moving to Meridian. McMurrin worked as a musical missionary presenting sacred masterworks that had previously been forbidden during the Communist era. He met Pavel a little more than 10 years ago.

    "In 2003 and 2006, Pavel toured the United States with our orchestra and chorus as a soloist. From the moment I first heard Pavel sing I was blown away by his talent," McMurrin said. "It was such a treat to be part of his being discovered in the United States and Europe."

    Since then, Pavel has sung lead roles in major opera houses and concert hall all over the world, including: the role of Yeletsky in "Queen of Spades" with the TROS Orchestra, while studying Switzerland at the Opera Studio of the Zurich Opera made his debut with the Hamburg Staatsoper in the title role in "Evgeny Onegin"; has sung Silvio in Pagliacci, Iolanta in Ebn-Hakir (Welsh National Opera; performed Stravinsky's "Renard" for the BBC Proms and Rachmaninoff's "The Bells" with the BBC SO.

    In addition to his music director duties, McMurrin is also enrolled in the graduate program at USM. When he learned that the choral department was performing William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, McMurrin went to his senior professor, department head Dr. Gregory Fuller, to recommend the perfect baritone soloist.

    "This monumental work, performed by a mass choir of 250 singers and 80 piece orchestra calls for a great baritone soloist. It's not an easy solo part, you really need to have a dramatic voice that also is smart and can sing it with the right intonations," he said. "I wondered whether it would be possible to bring Pavel from Moscow. After listening to just a few CD tracks Dr. Fuller agreed to put up the funds to bring Pavel to Mississippi."

    Aware of Dr. Robert Hermetz's plans for the Meridian Symphony Chorus and Orchestra to perform Brahm's German Requiem, McMurrin also spoke with Hermetz, conductor, about Pavel being one of the soloists for the production. Meridian native Lori Joyner, who is a doctoral voice student at USM, will perform with Pavel in the presentation, which will be sung in English.

About the artist

    Growing up in the historic Ukrainian city of Kamianets-Podilskyi, Pavel Baransky had absolutely no thought of becoming an opera singer.

    "I used to listen to lots of classical music, but I wasn't fond of it; I didn't understand it," Baransky said.

    Pop music was his thing, despite the fact that his parents were active in the sphere of classical music. His father, Volodymyr Alekseyevich Baransky, the director of a boys' college, where he teaches conducting and music theory, is gifted with a tenor voice; his mother, Vera Pylypivna Baranska, is a choir singer with a lyric dramatic soprano voice.

    Arranging music for pop was his specialty for several years, as well as performing in a band. At age 19, Baransky, as he describes it, "suddenly began to listen to a lot of classical music."

    When a family friend, baritone Mykola Dubchiy, arrived in Kamianets-Podilskyi to teach at the college and heard young Baransky sing, he declared he should be singing baritone roles in opera.

    "He said you have to go to study at the conservatory," Baransky said. "That was the new day of my life and my career."

    For the next five years, Baransky studied, beginning with lessons from Dubchiy and proceeding to studies with National Artist of Ukraine Professor Mykola Kondratiuk at the National Academy of Music in Kyiv. He later became a member of the Opera Studio of the Zurich Opera.

    In 2000, Baransky won the Grand Prix at the International Competition for Young Singers in Beskov Germany, and was a first prizewinner of the vocal competition in Kiev. In 2003, he became a finalist in the BBC Singer of the World Competition and in Placido Domingo's Operalia Competition.

    As principal baritone of the Hamburgische Staatoper in Germany for 2005-07 seasons, he performed a number of leading roles: Prince Yeletsky in "Pique Dame," Ford in "Falstaff," Sharpless in "Madam-Butterfly," Mister Flint in "Billy Budd" and Belcore in "L'Elisir d'Amore," as well as the role of Evgeny Onegin.

    He made his Glyndebourne Festival debut with "A Betrothal in a Monastery" in 2006 and also sung in a new work for the Orchestre National de France called, "The Poisoned Garden."

    Baransky has worked with conductors, including Vladimir Jurowski, Dmitry Jurowski, Vassily Sinaisky, Eve Queler, Konstjantin Orbelian, Carlo Rizzi, Edo de Waart, Nikolai Alekseev, Alfred Eschwe, Adrian Lucas, Nicholas Kok, Simone Young, Patrick Fournillier, Stefan Soltesz and many others.

    "It's exciting for Meridian to have someone of this calibre coming to our town for our local performance," McMurrin said.

    Baransky expressed appreciation for the opportunity to perform in Meridian and Hattiesburg.

    "I'm grateful to those who invited me to be part of these events. It's a big honor to come to the United States to perform Requiem Brahms and William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast," he said.