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Mykola Lysenko (1869).
Mykola Vitaliiovych Lysenko ( , – ) was a Ukrainianmarker composer, pianist, conductor and ethnomusicologist.


Lysenko was born in Hrynky, Kremenchuk Povit, Poltava Governorate, the son of Vitaliy Romanovich Lysenko (Ukrainian: Віталій Романович Лисенко). From childhood he was very interested in the folksongs of Ukrainian peasants and by the poetry of Taras Shevchenko. When Shevchenko's body was brought to Ukraine after his death in 1861, Lysenko was a pallbearer. During his time at Kiev University, Lysenko dedicated himself to collecting and arranging Ukrainian folksongs, which were published in seven volumes. One of his principal sources was the kobzar Ostap Veresai (after whom Lysenko later named his son).

Lysenko initially studied Biology at the Kharkiv Universitymarker, studying music privately. On a scholarship given to him by the Russian Imperial Music Society he pursued further professional music studies at the Leipzig Conservatorymarker. It is there that he understood the importance of collecting, developing and creating Ukrainian music rather than duplicating the work of Western classical composers.

On his return to Kievmarker he began the creation of Ukrainian themed compositions. His Ukrainophilic approach to composition was not supported by the Russian Imperial Music Society which promoted a Great Russian cultural presence in Ukraine. As a result Lysenko severed his relationship with them, never to compose any music set to the Russian language, nor allow any translations of his works into Russian.

In order to improve his orchestration and composition skills the young Lysenko traveled to St. Petersburgmarker where he took orchestration lessons from Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov in the mid 1870s, but his fervent Ukrainian nationalism and disdain for Russian autocracy retarded his career. He supported the 1905 revolution and was in jail briefly in 1907. In 1908, he was the head of the Ukrainian Club, an association of Ukrainian national public figures in Kiev.

For his opera libretti Lysenko insisted on using only the Ukrainian language. Tchaikovsky was impressed by Lysenko's Taras Bulba and wanted to stage the work in Moscow, but Lysenko's insistence on it being performed in the Ukrainian language, not Russian, prevented the performance from taking place in Moscow.

In his later years, Lysenko raised funds to open a Ukrainian School of Music. His death was widely mourned throughout Ukraine. Lysenko's daughter Mariana followed her father's footsteps as a pianist, and his son Ostap also taught music in Kiev.


Piano music

Lysenko's piano music is little known outside Ukraine. His piano works were considered by Sovietmarker musicologists to be derivative of Chopin. As a result they have not sparked as much interest to musicologists as his vocal music.

Vocal music

Lysenko's early vocal music consited of settings ofUkrainianfolk songs and compositions primarily to the poetry of Taras Shevchenko. Later he began to include other Ukrainian poets in his portfolio and also translations of works by German poets, some of which he did himself.

Interest in Lysenko's art songs to the words of prominent Ukrainian poets such as Taras Shevchenko, Lesia Ukrainka, and Oleksander Oles is increasing, partly due to the recent efforts of the British opera singer Pavlo Hunka.


Lysenko wrote a number of operatic works, including Natalka Poltavka, Utomlena (The Drowned Woman, after Gogol's May Night) and Taras Bulba.

Musicological studies

Lysenko made the first ethno-organological studies of the works of the blind kobzar Ostap Veresai which he published in 1873-4; theyare still exemplary. In this work Lysenko demonstrated the way in which Ukrainian melodic material differs from Russian melody by its unique use and approach to chromaticism.

Lysenko continued to research and transcribe the repertoire of other kobzars from other regions such as Ostap Veresai, Opanas Slastion from Poltavamarker and Pavlo Bratytsia in Chernihivmarker.

He also made a thorough study of the torban and published a collection of essays about Ukrainian folk instruments, becoming the founder of Ukrainian organology.



  • The World of Mykola Lysenko: Ethnic Identity, Music, and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Ukraine. Taras Filenko, Tamara Bulat. Ukraine Millennium Foundation (Canada). 2001. Hardcover. 434 pages. ISBN 966-530-045-8.

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