In 2017, after a three-year hiatus due to civil unrest in the Ukraine, the International Jazz Festival ENERGY in honor of Dimitri Tiomkin returned to Kremenchuk (sometimes spelled Kremenchug) on the 5th anniversary of the inaugural 2012 festival. The festival, attended by residents of Kremenchuk and other cities in the Ukraine, drew support from the city council and was included in a list of city events.
The theme of the 2017 festival was France, both because Tiomkin lived there for a period in the 1920s and because he championed French music and composers. Widely lauded by the French, the government bestowed on Tiomkin the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) and both the Chevalier and Officier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight and Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honor). The Foreign Society of Composers in Paris gave him honorary life membership in recognition of his contributions to international amity.
Not to mention the Ravel medal, awarded by SACEM, the Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique, known in the U.S. as “the French ASCAP,” in 1965.
Festival organizer Natalia Leschenko pointed out that in his time newspapers wrote about Tiomkin and how he championed the modernists by performing music by Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Ravel, Bloch, and Gershwin. French audiences were amazed by his virtuosic performances and applauded him in the finest concert halls of Paris: the Grand Opera, Salle Gaveau, Moulin Rouge.
The festival’s first day, April 3, included the opening of a photo exhibition, “Dimitri Tiomkin in France,” and a screening of the French-themed 1951 film, Cyrano de Bergerac, scored by Tiomkin. Olivia Tiomkin provided the organizers with hi-res copies of photographs from the Tiomkin archives that were enlarged for the exhibition. Tiomkin lived in Paris prior to emigrating to the U.S. and in his career as a concert pianist he promoted the music of French composers that he knew personally, including Alexander Tansman, Albert Roussel, and Maurice Ravel. Tiomkin premiered works by French composers and the photos document these connections through personal dedications to Tiomkin. Among the rarities, there was a portrait of George Gershwin personally autographed to Tiomkin in recognition of his performance of the Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue at the Grand Opera in Paris with Gershwin in attendance. Newspapers, posters, family photos, and some documents were present in the lobby of the concert hall, enjoyed by those attending the screening of Cyrano de Bergerac.
On April 4, in the city’s largest concert hall, a gala concert featured a seven-year-old drummer, Luka Zhylin, the son of one of the co-organizers of the first ENERGY festival; the jazz band Apple Jam, made up of Stas Legend (piano), Vladimir Dolina (bass), Vadim Kornuta (drums), Vladyslav Krivchenko (sax), and Natalya Leshchenko (vocals).
Apple Jam performed a rendition of the Tiomkin standard, “Wild Is the Wind,” from the film of the same name.
Urban Gypsy, a Ukranian jazz band, performed in Kremenchuk for the first time. The band’s unique style of jazz-manush, also called gypsy jazz, combines the traditional music of the gypsies of the ethnic group “manush” with jazz rhythms of the 1930-1940s. Vocalist Olga Chernyshova was backed by Dmitry Kushnirov (guitar), Matvey Mironov(violin), Dmitry Kovalenko (guitar), Nikolay Kistenev (double bass).
The festival headliner was the Benjamin Faugloire Trio from Marsaille, France, with Benjamine Faugloire (piano), Denis Frangulian (bass), and Jerome Mouriez (drums). In the spirit of international cooperation, the bass played by Frangulian was from Kiev and belongs to a well-known Ukrainian musician, Yuriy Galinin, who was present at the concert.
The Faugloire Trio performed their rendition of “Wild Is the Wind.”
In conjunction with the festival, one of the streets in Kremenchuk was renamed in honor of Dimitri Tiomkin.
This report was compiled from correspondence with festival organizers Natalia and Ihor Leschenko regarding the 2017 festival and an article they provided on the festival by Kiev-based musicologist Anna Arhipova. The photos were provided by the Leschenkos.