For several years, the Classics a Day team has made Soviet composers the theme for May. This, of course, was inspired by May Day. For many, though, the terms “Soviet” and “Russian” have become conflated. Many composers active in the Soviet Era were actually from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Latvia — and Ukraine. This year the team chose to make Ukrainian classical music the theme for May.
The challenge is to post music from Ukrainian composers. Some were subjects of Imperial Russia. Others were citizens of the USSR. And some live in the independent nation of Ukraine.
In my research, I found two common threads running through the history of Ukrainian classical music. The first is that Ukrainian composers were proud of their heritage and expressed it through music. The second is that the Russian rulers, be they Czars or Commissars, continually sought to obliterate Ukrainian culture.
We celebrate what survives with this month’s theme. Here are my posts for the third week of #UkrainianClassics
5/16/22 Sergii Bortkevych (1877–1952) – Piano Concerto No. 1
Circumstances forced Bortkevych to live most of his life away from his native land. His style blends the late-Romantic pianism of Liszt and Scriabin blended with Ukrainian folk music.
5/17/22 Artemy Vedel (1767-1808) -O God, the proud are risen against me
Though acknowledged as one of Ukraine’s (and Imperial Russia’s) greatest choral composers, Vedel’s creativity was hindered by politics. His works were banned in 1799 when he was accused of treason. He was sent to a mental hospital and banned from composition for life. 80 of his works survive, but many more were lost.
5/18/22 Semen Hulak-Artemovsky (1813-1873) – Andriy’s Prayer, from “Cossacks in Exile”
As a baritone, Hulak-Artemovsky sang in over 50 operas. He was the first Ukrainian to compose an opera. His third, “Cossacks in Exile” (1863) is the most popular.
05/19/22 Mykola Dyletsky (1630–1690) – 4-Part Liturgy 7 ‘Cherubic Hymn’
Dyletsky was both a composer and theorist. His 1677 “A Musical Grammer” greatly influenced composers of the Russian Empire in the late 1700’s.
05/20/22 Levko Revutsky (1889–1977) – Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 12
Revutsky’s 1926 symphony is considered a masterwork of Ukrainian classical music. It’s a synthesis of Ukrainian folk music and Western classical tradition.