From Ashes to Rebirth YOA

Interview with Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel

  1. This concert takes place November 9th on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, “Night of Broken Glass,” in which Jewish synagogues, businesses and homes in Germany and Austria

    Edvard BW_mid

    were destroyed, more than 90 Jews were killed and 30,000 Jews were transported to concentration camps. It began one of the lowest points in human history. The Year of Altruism, which had its genesis in thoughts of a Kristallnacht remembrance, has chosen to focus its efforts not on inhumanity but on humanity and its altruistic efforts. How will the music selected for this concert tell the story of “From Ashes to Rebirth”?Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel: “The music chosen is appropriate for the theme From Ashes to Rebirth. The concert begins with a 9-minute piece of Schoenberg, called A Survivor From Warsaw, that tells a dark, tragic story of Nazi cruelty in the concentration camp. From here, we move to more comforting, nostalgic, but still lamenting music featuring a violin solo.  It is the famous main theme from the soundtrack for Spielberg’s movie, Schindler’s List.  If you remember the film, it is a story of altruism and man’s triumph over evil. We will close the first half of the concert with selections from Fiddler on the Roof, more light-hearted music that most of us know well. Though events, which the famous musical describes happened way before the Holocaust, it is still a story of survival through faith and traditions, closing out the first half on an optimistic note – a belief in the future.For the second half, we will play three movements from one of the greatest symphonies ever written – Gustav Mahler’s Fifth. Mahler himself struggled against hatred and prejudice. He experienced many personal tragedies. In his music, he expressed these struggles and showed his true belief in the goodness of mankind. We will start with the stormy, passionate, and dramatic second movement. Then, move to the beautiful and most well-known fourth one – Adajetto, which is a heart-felt hymn to love. We will end with a triumphal finale, lifting everyone up and affirming the victory of human spirit and man’s capacity for good.”

  2. Rabbi Marc Wilson tells the story that, when he approached you about the Year of Altruism and a commemorative concert, you grabbed pen and paper and outlined the concert on the spot. Do all your concerts come so effortlessly? What about the Year of Altruism gave you inspiration?
    Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel:
    “The theme of altruism comes very natural to me. There are so many great composers who wrote about the goodness of humankind . Even in tragic pieces which describe dark events, at the end there is a catharsis and they turn it around for good. In fact, all the great music, in one way or another, is about humanity – from tragedy to triumph. Take, for example, Ode to Joy by Beethoven – it was written 200 years ago but it calls for peace, tolerance, peaceful co-existence. Some of the same issues we still struggle with today. Our challenge was not to find the music but to decide what to play. We had such a vast selection. When I learned that the concert is to be on the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, it made it easier to narrow down the selections – immediately Schoenberg’s A Survivor From Warsaw came to my mind.I anticipate that those who attend this concert will be a diverse audience – not only our usual seasoned concert goers. We’ve selected music that appeals to everyone and delivers a clear message of joy and hope. It is my desire that this special concert will attract some new people to come and enjoy some of our other concerts throughout the season.Music is an international language understood by everyone. It goes directly to your heart and soul and is a powerful medium to express the idea of humanity. For this reason, a concert themed around altruism seems natural; music selections came fast and easy.”
  3. How does the Year of Altruism speak to you personally?Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel: “I am grateful to Rabbi Wilson and the Year of Altruism leadership team for creating this important movement and allowing Greenville Symphony Orchestra to play such a critical part. I am delighted to participate. It is an honor to invite people to hear this music and through the music to be inspired to achieve this important goal – altruism, tolerance, respect for each other despite different views. It’s what it’s all about.Greenville is a peaceful, giving community but it is important for us to remember that we must work to keep it that way. We cannot take it for granted; we must maintain it. The Year of Altruism is a reminder of how beautiful life is and the importance of valuing and enjoying it.”
  4. In 1991, you defected from the Soviet Union to the United States with the help of friends in Greenville. It seems you have your own personal story of altruism. Do you mind sharing it with us and telling us how your life has changed over the last 20 years as a result of this act of unselfish kindness?Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel: “Yes, yes, it is an excellent example of altruism! We escaped the former Soviet Union and jumped into this New World without any promises. We were throwing ourselves on the mercy of this new country. From Day 1, we were embraced by Greenvillians.  People we had never met before were so hospitable, compassionate and friendly! We were lucky to land in Greenville.  People were very helpful those first two years as we started over. We are always very grateful to the Greenville community.In 1991, defection from the Soviet Union was not easy. In my family, we had personally experienced the oppression of communism. My grandfather was executed by Stalin in 1937. When we made the decision to leave, we knew that if anything went wrong, we would be back in the Soviet Union in handcuffs.It was through the compassion of friends in the USA and Greenville that made our escape possible. We spent our first two years in Greenville. My son was four years old at the time and my wife became a member of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra. After a couple years, I secured a job in Indiana and we moved, but always had Greenville in our hearts. From time to time, I jumped on the opportunity to return as a guest conductor. In 1999, when I was invited to take the position of the music director of the GSO, we were thrilled to come back to the city that so graciously embraced us in 1991.  I served as the music director for both Greenville and Fort Wayne, IN until 2008, when my work with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra had been such a success that we decided to move to Greenville permanently.Even though my son was only four years old when we defected, he had fond memories of Greenville. When it was time to select a college, he chose Furman University. He started his education in Greenville at Montessori School and then returned to graduate from Furman University almost 20 years later.

    Our defection is an excellent example of how people can make a difference. Our new life here would not have been possible without the help of others.”

  5. Some may say what do music and altruism have to do with each other. What is your response?Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel: “I see many shared links between music and altruism. First, many, maybe the majority of, musicians are altruistic by nature. They give their heart and soul to writing, teaching and playing music. They play with all their heart and never based on what they will get in return. Many musicians volunteer for the sake of education – to teach children the love of music. Take Mozart – he was buried in a pauper’s grave but left invaluable pieces for humankind to enjoy. Musicians and composers create music for the beauty of it and give the best to the world. There is never an expectation of repayment. Even here at the Symphony, the Guild devotes themselves to serve the orchestra to promote and provide Greenville with the beauty of an orchestra without anything in return for their time and efforts.Second, the ideas expressed in music are ideas of humanity. Musical selections, even when tragic, are seeking to pull out the best in humankind – nobility, sacrifice for a bigger cause. The ideas of altruism are not just “seen” in music but they can be “felt” as well. Which is the third connection – I believe that music makes people better. Those who really listen and enjoy music become better human beings because music is always about compassion and love.”

If you have not made plans to attend the November 9th concert, we invite you to contact the Peace Center today. Join Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel, the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and a selection of Furman Singers for this once-in-a-lifetime commemorative event. To purchase tickets, call the Peace Center Box Office at 864.467.3000 or order online at