Author Topic: Ukrainian composers  (Read 4418 times)

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Offline Maciek

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Ukrainian composers
« on: July 14, 2008, 05:25:20 PM »
I once mentioned (on the old forum, I think) the excellent Yuri Laniuk disc that was released by the Polish label CD Accord some years ago:


Got no response back then, maybe now is a better time for Ukrainian composers on GMG?

(Also, there's this thread: Valentin Silvestrov, a genius or a lot of the same notes in different wraps?)
« Last Edit: July 15, 2008, 10:41:46 PM by Maciek »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2008, 04:39:10 AM »
I didn't notice this thread and posted about Boris Lyatoshinsky (a fine composer in my view) in the Russian/Soviet Composer thread..apologies.

Lyatoshinsky's brooding melancholy appeals to me  :-[
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Offline Cato

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2008, 09:16:21 AM »
Not to be forgotten: Sergei Bortkiewicz, whose works are in the vein of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, and our contemporary Valentin Silvestrov, whose meditative aspects are perhaps more necessary in a world that needs meditation.
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Offline Maciek

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2008, 10:50:03 PM »
Silvestrov! I knew I was forgetting someone! ::) (And Johan doesn't believe in my senior moments...)

I've added a link to the appropriate thread in my first post.

(Incidentally, the English Wikipedia has Szymanowski in the Ukrainian composers category... ::))

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2008, 05:49:22 AM »
Silvestrov! I knew I was forgetting someone! ::) (And Johan doesn't believe in my senior moments...)

I've added a link to the appropriate thread in my first post.

(Incidentally, the English Wikipedia has Szymanowski in the Ukrainian composers category... ::))

Szymanowski was born in Tymoszowka which is in the Ukraine today. It is, of course, a tricky one. His parents were Polish but the estate was in what was then part of the Russian Empire. That, presumably, meant that he was born a Russian citizen. Vainberg/Weinberg-now is he Polish(born Warsaw, capital of independent Poland in 1919) or Russian? Poland-as you know well-did not exist as an independent country again until after World War One. Where does that place Polish composers born prior to 1919. Is nationality defined by language or by state boundaries?

Oh..by the way...just to avoid any doubt...Szymanowski was Polish :)

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2008, 06:39:19 AM »
The problem with naming Ukrainian composers, like with other former soviet composers, is that we are belatedly calling them by their new identity in many cases. I see no person calling Stalin a Georgian, for instance, nor Richter as Ukrainian or German.

Anyway, the only one I am familiar with is Lyatoshinsky. He is indeed a wonderful composer. I am sure there are others I know and have in my collection who are of Ukrainian origin. But unless they are living composers, I don't necessarily think of them as Ukrainian.

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2008, 06:44:04 AM »
Silvestrov is an interesting composer combining dissonance and serialism with an incredible melodiousness that cuts to the heart.

I have a recording of his 6th Symphony but I am told that the 5th is the one to hear being descrbed by one critic as the finest Russian (sic) symphony since Shostakovich.

Offline Maciek

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2008, 10:33:51 AM »
Oh dear, we've been down this road so many times on this forum... ::) Here, let me go over the facts once more: The Soviet Union was not a homogeneous "country"! It was made up of republics. People born in the Ukrainian SSR were referred to as Ukrainians. People born in the Georgian SSR were referred to as Georgians. People born in the Lithuanian SSR were referred to as Lithuanians. Etc. Etc. Etc. ETC.

I don't quite see where Joseph Stalin fits into this. He was born in 1878 in fact, but none of the above would have any bearing on his case even if he had been born later: I have never encountered a source which would claim something contrary to the fact that Stalin was a Georgian. He may be referred to as a "Russian/Soviet ruler" but that does not contradict his Georgian birth. Clearly, the words are used in two different meanings.

As for Szymanowski, whether he was born on Tymoszˇwka or on Mars makes little difference. One of my grandfathers was born in Germany - so what? His (my grandfather's) parents were living and working there at the time. The Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania were all, for lack of a better word, "colonized" by Poland (incidentally, for a great part of history Lithuania and Belarus were one and the same "country" - here it was probably Lithuania who was the "colonizer"). There were thousands of Poles living there, Polish culture was the dominant one. (A bit off topic: Educated people in those countries did not usually know their "national" languages. Čiurlionis, the Lithuanian national composer, learned Lithuanian only as an adult! His first languages were Polish and Russian. There are lots and lots of similar examples. Incidentally, this also shows that one's language does not have to say anything about one's nationality.)

As for the non-existence of Poland for great periods of time in the past (the entire 19th century, for example), it is a non-issue.

And don't tell me to lighten up. I'm tired, I have work to do, I don't have time to lighten up! >:(

(And anyway, these issues are so often misconceived it won't hurt to restate how things stand just one more time. $:))
« Last Edit: July 22, 2008, 11:39:08 AM by Maciek »

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2008, 04:27:49 PM »
Oh dear, we've been down this road so many times on this forum... ::) Here, let me go over the facts once more: The Soviet Union was not a homogeneous "country"! It was made up of republics. People born in the Ukrainian SSR were referred to as Ukrainians. People born in the Georgian SSR were referred to as Georgians. People born in the Lithuanian SSR were referred to as Lithuanians. Etc. Etc. Etc. ETC.

I don't quite see where Joseph Stalin fits into this. He was born in 1878 in fact, but none of the above would have any bearing on his case even if he had been born later: I have never encountered a source which would claim something contrary to the fact that Stalin was a Georgian. He may be referred to as a "Russian/Soviet ruler" but that does not contradict his Georgian birth. Clearly, the words are used in two different meanings.

As for Szymanowski, whether he was born on Tymoszˇwka or on Mars makes little difference. One of my grandfathers was born in Germany - so what? His (my grandfather's) parents were living and working there at the time. The Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania were all, for lack of a better word, "colonized" by Poland (incidentally, for a great part of history Lithuania and Belarus were one and the same "country" - here it was probably Lithuania who was the "colonizer"). There were thousands of Poles living there, Polish culture was the dominant one. (A bit off topic: Educated people in those countries did not usually know their "national" languages. Čiurlionis, the Lithuanian national composer, learned Lithuanian only as an adult! His first languages were Polish and Russian. There are lots and lots of similar examples. Incidentally, this also shows that one's language does not have to say anything about one's nationality.)

As for the non-existence of Poland for great periods of time in the past (the entire 19th century, for example), it is a non-issue.

And don't tell me to lighten up. I'm tired, I have work to do, I don't have time to lighten up! >:(

(And anyway, these issues are so often misconceived it won't hurt to restate how things stand just one more time. $:))

Wouldn't dream of telling you "to lighten up" ;) These are interesting issues and you have made many perfectly valid points. You will-I hope and trust-concede that it is not always possible to keep oneself fully aware of all of the issues which have been discussed before on this forum. I apologise if I have entered territory which has already been fought over on many other occasions :-[

We can-at least-agree that Szymanowski was a great Polish composer and that he was definitely not born on Mars :)

Forgetting Stalin(one wishes that one could!), do you have an opinion on Vainberg/Weinberg? In most of my sources he is listed as a Russian composer yet he was, of course, born in Warsaw to a Jewish family, was educated in Poland and did not leave the country until he was 20.
Does it matter? No more than whether or not Szymanowski should be listed under 'Ukrainian Composers' :)

Offline Maciek

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2008, 03:06:37 AM »
Sorry, I was feeling rather testy that day. ::) Had been recently reading a lot about the 1943 Volhynia massacre (not on Wikipedia, but I'm giving the link so you can get some idea of what I'm talking about): people disemboweled and/or skinned alive (and salted!), little children (infants) torn apart or buried alive, or nailed to the ground, people cut into pieces with saws. Dear God, just making that list makes me feel paralyzed...

20% of the entire Polish population living in Ukraine at that time was killed. Of course, Polish-Ukrainian relations prior to that terrible genocide were uneasy to say the least, and neither side had a "clean slate". But, OTOH, can any "buildup of tension" justify such an atrocity? (Poles killed Ukrainians in that region too, and I don't see any justification for that either.) I don't see a problem with putting these matters aside when dealing with modern issues, but can't think of any reason why they should be forgotten. (Not discussing with anyone at GMG at the moment - these are just random thoughts about the predominant attitude in Poland, where everyone seems to be thinking that publishing books about the subject etc. might actually undermine Polish-Ukrainian relations ??? - which, incidentally, are today perhaps better than they ever were).

Anyway, if Szymanowski happened to still be alive and living in Volhynia at that time, I'm absolutely sure he wouldn't be spared. So calling him a "Ukrainian composer" seems... well, a bit inappropriate. Though maybe I have a stilted view of these things. I'm certainly no expert.

I think the discussions I mentioned earlier were mostly on the old (now defunct) forum, and even if it was here, they certainly took place quite a long time ago.

Anyway, re Weinberg, I really don't have a formed opinion. Of course, in Poland he's usually referred to as a Polish composer. ;D One of the arguments being that he went through a lot of pains to "get back" his original name: Mieczysław (and not Moishei). This, I understand, was quite a feat in Soviet Russia, and actually required a bit of courage (not sure why exactly - it probably wasn't "well seen" to be underlining one's "Polish background" when one was so lucky as to be a Soviet citizen!). He certainly never cut himself off from his Polish roots. But, unlike Tansman, for example, he didn't brag left and right about really being a Pole. But that may have been his prudence, not reluctance. I really don't know all that much about his personal life and opinions. His wife was Russian, so there was nothing "unnatural" in his choosing to live there. He was a fully grown man when he left Poland, so I guess it's reasonable to call him a Polish composer...?

Offline Maciek

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2008, 03:43:06 AM »
Anyway, if Szymanowski happened to still be alive and living in Volhynia at that time, I'm absolutely sure he wouldn't be spared. So calling him a "Ukrainian composer" seems... well, a bit inappropriate.

Damn! I just realized how stupid that line of reasoning is. Not only did I vulgarly equate the UPA with all Ukrainians, but I also appropriated the UPA's preposterously "monochromatic" view of who was and wasn't a Ukrainian! I'm sorry if anyone got irritated by that. Obviously, there were millions of Ukrainians who did not take part in the Volhynia massacre, lots of Ukrainians probably helped Poles stay alive during that time. What's more, it is highly likely that many of the "Poles" killed then felt a sort of "double affinity" - to both Poland and Ukraine. In fact, it is not completely impossible that some of them felt Ukrainian and not Polish...

So, having acquired this new outlook, I now don't find it all that preposterous to call Szymanowski a "Ukrainian" composer. I do still feel it is be stretching the term more than a bit, and simply is not true, but at least I don't find it as ridiculous. To my credit. ;D ;D ;D

(He did spend a significant portion of his life trying to develop a Polish style of music. Don't think he ever was interested in Ukrainian folklore that way.)

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2008, 04:43:19 AM »
Thank you very much for your extremely thoughtful and insightful responses!

I read the link to the Volhynia massacre with mounting horror and disgust :( I know that this is not the place to discuss these matters in depth much further but I can understand the depth of your feeling about what happened at that time. I am a History graduate and taught the subject in schools for over thirty years. The Second World War is a subject of particular interest to me and I have read a good deal about Eastern Europe during the war. What occurred is truly unimagineable but-and here I agree wholeheartedly with you-should never be forgotten. It was not the easiest thing that I ever did to take a party of awed, extremely subdued and, ultimately, shocked and upset school pupils to visit Auschwitz but I do not regret doing so.

Turning away from that, I am very interested in what you say about Weinberg. Arthur Benjamin and Malcolm Williamson were two Australian composers who settled in Great Britain, spent most of their lives here and died here. Yet both are still regarded as Australian
composers. Weinberg gets classified as Russian! Odd.

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2008, 05:00:30 AM »
How to classify Igor Markevitch? He was Ukrainian, born in Kiev, but left for Switzerland at the age of 2, later lived in Paris then in Italy, took Italian citizenship and died at Antibes. His formative years were spent in France and what I heard of his music sounds mostly French.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2008, 05:03:37 AM »
How to classify Igor Markevitch? He was Ukrainian, born in Kiev, but left for Switzerland at the age of 2, later lived in Paris then in Italy, took Italian citizenship and died at Antibes. His formative years were spent in France and what I heard of his music sounds mostly French.

Pass :)

Offline Maciek

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2009, 01:15:20 PM »
So, having acquired this new outlook, I now don't find it all that preposterous to call Szymanowski a "Ukrainian" composer. I do still feel it is be stretching the term more than a bit, and simply is not true, but at least I don't find it as ridiculous.

Well, I'm currently "parallel-reading" 2 relatively recent Szymanowski monographs (Zieliński's from 1997 and Chylińska's, which came out in November) and what I'm learning confirms my earlier impression that there's really no way Szymanowski can be considered a Ukrainian. In fact, my earlier reticence, caution, chariness, prudence, what have you about Szymanowski's nationality seems utterly silly to me now. Laudable in view of the fact that there were many things I didn't know about Szymanowski, his life, his views and his family back then. But silly when stood beside the information I now have. Calling Szymanowski a Ukrainian composer would be disingenuous, to put it extremely mildly. Frankly - it would be ridiculous. He came from an extremely patriotic Polish family and held similar views himself. There was't even the slightest hint of the "double affinity" I mentioned back in July.

Now, with that minor quibble settled, we could perhaps give this thread a new start and discuss the real Ukrainian composers... ;D Anyone?

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2009, 11:13:52 PM »
Now, with that minor quibble settled, we could perhaps give this thread a new start and discuss the real Ukrainian composers... ;D Anyone?

Coincidentally I listened to some Silvestrov last night: the Cello Sonata. (What a weird, surreal piece)

(Incidentally, the English Wikipedia has Szymanowski in the Ukrainian composers category... ::))

Sorry to come back to this, but the Wiki lists anyone who ever lived in Ukraine as Ukrainian, which casts the net very wide indeed. They list Prokofiev as a "Ukrainian composer" for example.
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Brahmsian

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2011, 06:22:09 AM »
Prokofiev was born in the Ukraine, correct?  We're both his parents Russian, though?

When I saw the last name Silvestrov, for a long time just seeing the name - I had initially thought that he was a Latin American composer.   ;D

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2011, 09:37:10 AM »
Prokofiev was born in the Ukraine, correct?  We're both his parents Russian, though?

Well yeah - he was a Russian from Ukraine, like a lot of other people.
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Offline cilgwyn

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2011, 04:44:21 AM »
Lyatoshinsky. Correct me if I got the spelling wrong. Am I alone in feeling that it's about time his symphonies got some attention from a recording label in the West. Ok,they can be a bit loud and unsubtle at times,but theres a power and a feeling of melancholy there,which makes up for most of his shortcomings. Not a great composer,but he deserves to be better known.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Ukrainian composers
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2014, 01:47:25 PM »
Coming soon - all excellent in my opinion:





Just been listening to 'Grazhyna' perhaps his masterpiece - a powerful, searching and eloquent score.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2014, 08:12:49 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

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