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On Friday, April 8, Benedictine College was pleased to welcome Ignat Solzhenitsyn to campus. The son of the famous Soviet-era political dissident, writer and Nobel Laureate, the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Ignat has found his own fame and has become a world-renowned pianist and conductor. He treated students at the college to both aspects of his life, conducting a special class for piano students and talking about his father’s legacy of opposing political repression.
Ignat began his visit by meeting with music students, discussing classical music, and demonstrating his skill by performing a select set of pieces. He also dined with students over lunch in the Dining Hall and visited with college leaders. In the afternoon, he had a special gathering with Benedictine College Honors students and Gregorian Fellows. He did a reading of his father’s Lichtenstein Address and then answered questions.
The highlight of his visit was an evening presentation on his father’s works. He read two of his father’s published miniatures, “Along the Oka” and “The Bell Tower.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote these pieces in Soviet Russia in the 1960s. They were meant to communicate the immutability of beauty and community, even when faced with violence and oppression.
The evening presentation, along with the Q&A segment, are available to watch on the Benedictine College Lectures YouTube page.
Following his talk, Ignat was joined on stage by his friend and director of the Benedictine College Architecture program, John Haigh. Students, faculty, alumni and guests filled the O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium and lined up to ask questions as Haigh moderated the discussion.
Questions ranged from subjects such as his upbringing, to his musical influences, to his father’s experiences. After the talk, Ignat joined guests in Benedictine College’s Haverty Center for a meet-and-greet reception where he signed autographs and answered more questions.
Ignat Solzhenitsyn has recently led the symphonies of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Toronto, the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, the Czech National Symphony, as well as the Mariinsky Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. His extensive touring schedule in the United States and Europe has included concerto performances with numerous major orchestras, including those of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Seattle, Baltimore, Montreal, Toronto, London, Paris, Israel, and Sydney. He has collaborated with such distinguished conductors as Herbert Blomstedt, James Conlon, Charles Dutoit, Valery Gergiev, André Previn, Gerard Schwarz, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Yuri Temirkanov and David Zinman.
A winner of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, Solzhenitsyn serves on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music. He has been featured on many radio and television specials, including CBS Sunday Morning and ABC’s Nightline.
Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.