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Mykola Lysenko

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Mykola Lysenko


Mykola Vitaliyovych Lysenko (22 March 1842, Hrynky, Ukraine – 6 November 1912, Kyiv, Ukraine) was a Ukrainian composer, pianist, conductor and ethnomusicologist.

Lysenko studied music at an early age and continued this education when he entered a Kyiv boarding school and a Kharkiv gymnasium. From childhood Lysenko became 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 Kyiv University, Lysenko collected and arranged Ukrainian folksongs, which were published in seven volumes.

Lysenko was initially a student of biology at the Kharkiv University, studying music privately. On a scholarship which he won from the Russian Music Society he pursued further professional music studies at the Leipzig Conservatory. It is there that he understood the importance of collecting, developing and creating Ukrainian music rather than duplicating the work of Western classical composers. Lysenko aimed to establish a Ukrainian national school of music and pursued this with his collection of Ukrainian folk songs for nearly two decades.

In order to improve his orchestration and composition skills, the young Lysenko traveled to Saint Petersburg where he took orchestration lessons from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in the mid-1870s, but his fervent Ukrainian national position and disdain for Great Russian autocracy impeded his career.

On his return to Kyiv he continued to create 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 the Russian language. The Ems Ukaz, which banned use of Ukrainian language in print, was one of the obstacles for Lysenko; he had to publish some of his scores abroad, while performances of his music had to be authorized by the imperial censor.

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 Kyiv.

In his later years, Lysenko raised funds to open a Ukrainian School of Music.

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