Violinist and refugee advocate Yevgeny Kutik, pianist Max Levinson at The Foundry

By David Noel Edwards
Published March 2, 2022
The Berkshire Edge

Prior to his performance on Sunday, Yevgeny Kutik spoke to our writer about fleeing Belarus as a child, and how we can help those currently on the ground in Ukraine.

WEST STOCKBRIDGE — Violinist Yevgeny Kutik will appear this Sunday, March 6 at 3 p.m., with pianist Max Levinson at The Foundry in West Stockbridge. The Pittsfield-based Kutik, who made his Symphony Hall debut in 2003 after winning 1st prize in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artists Competition, won the Salon de Virtuosi Grant in 2006 and distinguished himself as a fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center by winning the Center’s Jules Reiner Violin Prize.

A native of Belarus, Kutik has always taken a special interest in Slavic music from masters like Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky. Works by those two will be on Sunday’s program, along with a piece by César Franck and selections from Kutik’s latest album, “The Death of Juliet and Other Tales.”

Pianist Max Levinson, the first American to win First Prize at the Guardian Dublin International Piano Competition, is billed as a collaborative pianist. Why? Because collaborative piano is an art form unto itself, and it’s one of the things Levinson teaches at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where he has given instruction in piano performance, chamber music, and piano literature for over two decades. At New England Conservatory, he teaches collaborative piano specifically.

As you might expect, Levinson is in high demand in the Boston area, having appeared as soloist with many major orchestras, including the Boston Pops, and with chamber musicians such as Pinchas Zukerman and Richard Stoltzman. He has worked with such quartets as the Tokyo, Vermeer, Mendelssohn, and Borromeo.

It reflects well on Levinson that he is paired with a player of Kutik’s caliber. But the truth is that it also reflects well on any violinist who can attract an accompanist of Levinson’s caliber and reputation. So you really ought to think of both as headline acts.

As a long-time associate with the United Jewish Federations of North America Speakers Bureau, Kutik advocates for Jewish and non-Jewish refugees worldwide, because he never forgets the hardships he escaped as a child when his family fled Belarus. And he never forgets those in Eastern Europe who still face persecution — and, today, death — in a fratricidal war they do not support.

So I asked him, and Yevgeny kindly gave his commentary on the war in Ukraine:

“The situation in Ukraine has been horrifying and appalling to witness. Above all else right now, I want to make sure the world is fully aware of and supporting the innocent civilians fleeing for their lives — leaving their homes, friends, relatives and so much more, not knowing whether they will ever see them again.

“There are a number of amazing organizations on the ground trying to help right now, including HIAS. And I encourage people to support and get involved.

“My family and I came to the USA from the Soviet Union as refugees, and we have many organizations (including HIAS) to thank for helping us with the incredibly difficult journey and process of escaping Belarus. However, I dare not compare what we experienced to the people currently fleeing Ukraine, literally trying to avoid missiles raining down on them in real-time. My heart breaks every time I open the news and see the images.”

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