Semen Hulak-Artemovsky (1813-1873), a close friend of Taras Shevchenko, was the son of a priest. He graduated from the Kyiv Theological Seminary and went on to receive voice training in St. Petersburg, Russia, directly from the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, who had noticed Hulak-Artemovsky while he was still a seminary student. He also studied voice in Florence, Italy, and became a renowned opera singer (in addition to a famous stage actor), performing in more than 50 roles, notably at the Mariinsky Theater and the Italian Opera in Saint Petersburg. His most famous compositions are the comic opera A Zaporizhian Cossack Beyond the Danube (1856), the divertissement Ukrainian Wedding (1851) and the vaudeville St. John’s Eve (1852).
‘Andriy’s Prayer’ from A Zaporizhian Cossack Beyond the Danube
Petro Ivanovych Nishchynsky (1832-1896) wrote under the pseudonym Petro Baida. He studied music at the Kyiv Theological Academy before moving to Athens, Greece, in 1850 to conduct the church choir of the Russian Embassy. He stayed in Greece for several years, studied philology and theology at the University of Athens, and graduated with a master of arts degree in 1856, a rare achievement for the era. Some of his best-known musical works include About Baida, The Cossack Sofron and the 1875 composition Vechornytsi (variously translated in English as either ‘Village Party’ or ‘Evening Pastimes’), which is the opening of the second act of Taras Shevchenko’s unfinished drama Nazar Stodolia. Nishchynsky also wrote arrangements of Ukrainian folk songs, and was the first to translate Sophocles’ Antigone (1883) and Homer’s Odyssey (1889, 1892) into modern Ukrainian. After returning to Ukraine from Greece in 1857 he taught Greek in schools in Odessa and Berdyansk.
Live performance of Vechornytsi
Mykhailo Mykhailovych Verbytsky (1815-1870) was a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest and professional composer born in a part of Austria-Hungary that is now in Poland. He is best known for having composed the melody of the song that became the Ukrainian national anthem Shche ne vmerla Ukrainy (‘Ukraine’s Glory Has Not Perished’) in 1917. As a student of the Theological Seminary in Lviv, he learned to play the guitar, which became his favorite instrument. As a priest he wrote several liturgical compositions, which are still sung throughout Halychyna (Galicia) region. As a composer he played an important role in the development of modern Ukrainian music. Of his 133 known compositions, among the most famous are Zapovit (‘Testament’, 1868) and the operetta Podgoryane (1864). Verbytsky also produced many ecclesiastical and secular choral works and songs, 18 orchestral works (including 9 symphonies), chamber works and pieces for various instruments.
Concert for 200th Anniversary of Verbytsky’s Birth in 2015
Mykola Andriyovych Markevych (1804-1860) was a musician, composer, historian, ethnographer and poet who studied at the Saint Petersburg Pedagogical Institute (1817-1820), where he became friends with the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka. He was also an officer of the Russian Imperial Army (1820-1824), and after his military service went on to study piano and composition in Moscow under J. Field. Markevych collected many historical materials on Ukraine’s history and Ukrainian folk songs at his estate and around Ukraine. His greatest work was The History of Malorossia (i.e. Ukraine), published in Moscow in 1842–3, in which Ukraine is depicted as ‘ours’ (i.e. part of Imperial Russia) but not ‘us’ (i.e. not Russian). According to the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, the multi-volume work contains ‘valuable documentary addenda, notes, source descriptions, lists of regiments, the General Officer Staff, and colonels in the Hetman state, of companies at the Zaporozhian Sich, and of the Ukrainian higher clergy, and chronological tables. In his monograph Markevych approached the history of Ukraine as an independent, uninterrupted process from earliest times to the late 18th century.’ He wrote extensively on Ukrainian Cossacks and influenced his friend and contemporary Taras Shevchenko.
Sydir Ivanovych Vorobkevych (1836-1903) was born into a family of Orthodox priests and theologians in Chernivtsi (known as Czernowitz in the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Orphaned at age 9, Vorobkevych learned Ukrainian folklore and history growing up with his grandfather, Mykhailo Vorobkevych, the Protopope (Archpriest) of Kitsman (a city in the Czernowitz district). As a student at the Theological Seminary in Chernivtsi, Sydir began composing his first verses. After graduating in 1861, as a priest-apprentice, he enrolled in courses at the Vienna Conservatory under Prof. Franz Krenn, an organist and composer whose students included Gustav Mahler and Alexander von Zemlinsky. Vorobkevych became a singing instructor in the Chernivtsi Theological Seminary and Lyceum in 1867, and in 1875 became a singing instructor at the Theological Department of Chernivtsi University. He was already composing his own songs, psalms, choral works and operettas by this time. Vorobkevych also became a poet and playwright who caught the eye of Ivan Franko, and established himself as an important writer and literary figure in the Bukovyna region. He wrote under many pseudonyms, including: Danylo Mlaka, Demko Makoviychuk, Morozenko, Semen Khrin, Isydor Vorobkevych and S.Volokh. His best known musical compositions are popular works such as the operettas Kaspar Rumpel’maier (1874), The Golden Pug (1879) and The Bride from Bosnia (1880). He also composed liturgical and choral music, including songs for solo voice.
Performance of Vorobkevych’s choral work, Fire Burning
Mykola Mykolayovych Arkas (1853-1909) was a composer, writer, historian and cultural activist who wrote the popular History of Ukraine (1908). Born into a military family in Mykolaiv, Arkas studied law in St. Petersburg, and physics and mathematics in Odessa before commencing service in the navy in Mykolaiv. After completing his duties in the navy in 1881, Arkas began to take a serious interest in music, collecting and recording folk songs and receiving instruction from the composer Petro Nishchynsky (see above). Arkas ultimately composed around 80 folk songs, although his most important work is the opera Kateryna (1890) based on Taras Shevchenko’s famous poem. The piano score was published in 1897, and the opera went on to become a tremendous hit, being performed in Kyiv, Vilnius, Minsk and Moscow in 1899.
‘Andrey’s Aria’ from Kateryna by Mykola Arkas (performed by Ivan Kozlovsky)