Ukrainian classical music on WTJU and Charlottesville Classical

On March 9, WTJU host Ralph Graves programmed exclusively Ukrainian music for Classical Prelude and Classical Sunrise. Classical music in Ukraine dates back to the era of Haydn and Mozart. And this programming by no means represents every classical Ukrainian composer of the past 300 years. Listen here:

Ukraine’s history as a country is complex. At times, it’s been under the control of Poland, Turkey, and Austria. And most especially Russia, both as the Imperial Russia of the Czars, and the Soviet Union. Because of this, Ukraine’s best composers are numbered among Russia’s composers.

But there is a difference. Many Ukrainian composers were inspired by the music of their country. And Ukrainian folk music is distinctively different from Russia’s. Below is a list of some of the composers featured in the broadcast. They’re listed here in chronological order, though for the broadcast, Ralph played them in a different sequence, and in many cases, with different compositions.


The Composers

Dmitry Bortnyansky (1751-1825) was born in Glukhov. He sang with the Imperial Chapel choir in St. Petersburg at age 7, and would eventually become its director. Bortnyansky is best remembered for his over 150 sacred choral compositions. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky admired his music and edited these concertos for publication. Bortnyansky was often compared to Palestrina for his contrapuntal skill, and his works directly inspired 19th Century Ukrainian composers.


Mykola Lysenko (1842-1912) was born in Kremenchugsky Uyezd. Lysenko is considered the father of Ukrainian classical music. Much like Antonin Dvorak, he seamlessly combined Western classical forms with the folk music of his country. Lysenko studied with Nicolai Rimsky-Koroskov, and founded a Ukrainian School of Music.


Levko “Lev” Revutskyi (1869-1977) was born in Irzhavets. Revutsky taught at the Lysenko Music Institute and edited Lysenko’s works for publication. Revutsky made a study of Ukrainian folk songs and arranged over 120 of them.


Reinhold Gliere (1875-1956) was born in Kyiv. Gliere was the director of the Kyiv Conservatory. While there, Boris Lyatoshinsky was one of his pupils. In the 1920s he was at the Moscow Conservatory where he taught Aram Khachaturian. He’s claimed as both a Soviet and Ukrainian composer. The Russian Sailor’s Dance from his ballet “The Red Poppy” is his best-known work.


Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) was born in Kharkiv. This composer and pianist studied with Alfred Reisenauer and Salomon Jadassohn in Leipzig. Both were pupils of Franz Liszt. Bortkiewicz’s own style for keyboard writings shows the influence of Liszt. Bortkiewicz was one of the first composers commissioned by pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost a hand in World War I. Bortkewites’s contribution was his Piano Concerto No. 2 for Left Hand and Orchestra.


Boris Lyatoshynsky (1895-1968) was born in Zhytomyr. He’s credited as one of the first Ukrainian composers to write a symphony (he would write five). Lyatochinsky continually explored different compositional techniques. His Overture on four Ukrainian Folk themes is one of his most popular compositions.


Ihor Schamo (1925-1982) was born in Kyiv. He graduated from the Boris Lysenko Music School with Boris Lyatoshinsky. His song My Kyiv is considered the unofficial anthem of the Ukrainian capital.


Valentyn Silvestrov (1937 – ) was born in Kyiv. Silvestrov is one of the best-known of the country’s composers outside of Ukraine. Silvestrov has strong political convictions. In 1974 walked out of a composer’s meeting to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. His 2014 choral work Dyptiych is dedicated to the first casualty of the Revolution of Dignity. The revolution ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.


Myroslav Skoryk (1938-2020) was born in Lyiv. At the time, the city was part of Poland but is now in Ukraine. As a postgraduate at the Moscow Conservatory, he studied with Dmitri Kabalevsky. Skoryk blended jazz, pop, and European folk traditions.

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