A Q&A with bayan soloist Roman Yusipey


Born in the Ukrainian city of Kherson, Bayan accordionist Roman Yusipey studied at the National Music Academy in Kiev, Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media, at Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen and Cologne University of Music and Dance. In addition to concerts in Ukraine and Germany, Roman has also made guest appearances in France, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Lithuania, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Malta, Italy and Japan. On the final night of the festival he will be making his North American debut.

What is the bayan?
King Solomon said “There are some things, the wonder of which overcomes me: the way of a ship in the heart of the sea; the way of a man with a girl; and the difference between keyboard and button accordion“… Okay, instead of a traditional piano keyboard, the bayan has endless chromatic rows of buttons on both sides. This is the best musical instrument in the world. “A monster that breathes” (Sofia Gubaidulina).

How did you come to play it?
Like all normal kids. Started at the age of 8. True, I thought that I would sing, but I had to play. Years of hard child labor. Then habit. Then happiness.

You have given world premieres of works by contemporary composers like Giya Kancheli, Helmut Zapf , Victoria Poleva, Dmitri Kourliandski, Oleksandr Schetynsky and the composer we’re going to hear you perform on the final night of the festival, Sofia Gubaidulina. What work did you premiere of hers and what was that experience like?
We are talking about another composition by Sofia Gubaidulina: Fachwerk for bayan and orchestra. I was lucky to make the Ukrainian (Lviv, 2012), Polish (Krakow, 2012) and Azerbaijani (Baku, 2017) premieres of this genius work. It was a great honour for me to have Mrs. Gubaidulina present during the Ukrainian performance. Our joint work, her words, wishes, instructions will never leave my memory.

What can you tell us about the work you’ll be performing alongside WSO cellist Yuri Hooker and the orchestra by Gubaidulina – Seven Words?
Firstly, the long-awaited joy of working with such a brilliant cellist, orchestra and conductor Daniel Raiskin more than compensates for the inconvenience of the flight, testing and forced “house arrest”. Secondly, Seven Words is one of the most outstanding compositions of the second half of the twentieth century, striking in its depth and originality of the musical language. I’m happy that the bayan found its own voice in it.