|Born||January 3 [O.S. Dec. 22, 1894] 1895|
|Died||May 15, 1968
|Occupation(s)||Composer, conductor, academic and teacher|
Boris Mykolayovych Lyatoshinsky or Lyatoshynsky (Ukrainian: Бори́с Ми́колайович Лятоши́нський, Borys Mykolayovych Lyatoshyns′kyi; January 3, 1895 – April 15, 1968) was a Ukrainian composer, conductor, teacher. A leading member of the new generation of twentieth-century Ukrainian composers, he was awarded a number of accolades, including the honorary title of People's Artist of the Ukrainian SSR and two Stalin State Prizes.
Boris Lyatoshinsky was born 3rd, 1895 in Zhytomyr, in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine). This town is well known for its cultural life. Several well-known people originated here, including the pianist Svyatoslav Richter, philosopher Nikolai Berdiaev and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Lyatoshinsky’s parents were musical and well-educated. His father, Mykola Leontiyovych Lyatoshynsky, was a history teacher and activist in historical studies. He was also the director of various gymnasiums in Zhytomyr, Nemyriv, and Zlatopol. Lyatoshynsky's mother played the piano and sang.
Lyatoshinsky started playing piano and violin at 14, he wrote a mazurka, waltz, and quartet for piano. He also attended the Zhytomyr Gymnasium, from where he graduated in 1913. After graduating, he attended Kiev University and later the newly established Kiev Conservatory where he studied composition with Reinhold Glière in 1914. Lyatoshynsky graduated from Kiev University in 1918 and from the Kiev Conservatory in 1919. During this time, he composed his String Quartet No. 1, Op. 1, and Symphony No. 1, Op. 2. By the time Lyatoshinsky wrote his Symphony No.1 (1918) as his graduation composition, he became influenced by the music of Wagner and atonality. It could be suggested that this was the first Symphony composed in the Ukraine. It was performed and conducted in 1919 by Reinhold Glière who taught the student composer and who recalls (writing at the time of Lyatoshinsky’s 60th birthday): ‘I was glad to notice the relation of his first String Quartet to the traditions of Russian musical classics. Such quality revealed itself even more in his First Symphony, which was the final course work of the composer.’ ‹see L's letters in Grecenko› In his opinion, Lyatoshinsky was a gifted student and worked very hard on developing various compositional techniques. Further musical pieces of the composer were described by Glière as ‘intensive searches’ of individuality. Lyatoshinsky is influenced by the symbolism and expressionism: this can be traced to his choice of poetic texts which he sets to Romances; the treatment of the melody, choice of the instruments; harmonic manipulations, such as unclear tonality, dissonant chords and the complex parallel chord structures.
During this early period of the composer’s development, he draws some inspiration from musical works by Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, and Scriabin. Many young composers, like Lyatoshinsky, who were living in Russia during the early years of the twentieth century, regarded Alexander Skriabin’s (1872- 1915) experiments as a triumphant turning point in music. Taking his initial inspiration from some techniques used by Skriabin, the young Ukrainian avant- garde took tonality to its limits and beyond. In his ‘Piano Trio No.1 (1920), Lyatoshinsky demonstrates a debt to Scriabin, still searching for new musical methods and pushing boundaries of harmonic language.
At the age of 25 (1922), Lyatoshinsky, by then professor and lecturer in the Kiev Music Conservatoire, pioneered the development of Associazia Suchasnoi Musiki (The Society of Contemporary Music). (Similar establishments were organised throughout the Soviet Union.) From 1922, he taught composition. It appears that Lyatoshinsky, despite receiving a conservative musical education, was determined to raise the standards of contemporary composition; he was not only making innovative changes regarding his own music but also leading other young contemporary composers, helping them to establish new methods of writing.
Modernism did not exist as a musical discourse in Ukraine; rather, it was reflected in the works of B. Yanovsky, F. Yakimenko, M. Verikivsky, and L. Revuzky. Their musical works show influences of impressionism, expressionism, neoclassicism, and constructivism. However, it was Lyatoshinsky who captured the radical ways of modernism in his compositions, focusing on the decadent moods of morbid pessimism and motivic transformation.
From 1922 to 1925 he was director of the Association of Modern Music in the name of Mykola Leontovych. These were, arguably, the happiest years of the composer’s life, where he could express himself freely and was able to work creatively with fellow composers without any intervention from the authorities. He was working feverishly, writing music for the voice, violin and the piano. Lyatoshinsky composed Suites, Ballades and numerous songs (some of them even set to the lyrics of the Chinese ancient poets). His cycle of seven pieces for the piano Vidobragennia (Reflections, written in 1925) remains one of his most celebrated musical works. His music shows increasing decadent melancholic moods and pessimism.
Lyatoshinsky carried on experimenting with various music materials. During the 1920s he created 24 Romances (written between 1922- 1924 and based on texts by poets-symbolists), Sonata for the violin and fortepiano, and Third Quartet. His opera Zolotui Obruch (The Golden Hoop) based on the novel of the Ukrainian writer I. Franko, describes the struggle of the Ukrainians against the Mongol invaders in the thirteenth century. The opera was performed in the various theatres in Ukraine, even though it was not staged for very long. (Lyatoshinsky’s second Opera, Shchors, based on the story of the Commander Nikolai Shchors, was finished in the 1930s.)
Lyatoshinsky’s two Piano Sonatas and Sonata for the violin and the piano appear between 1924 and 1926. The Piano Sonata No.1 was his first printed work, published in Moscow, in 1926. This work was unusual for its time. It displays the fine skill of a piano player and a composer, who is not afraid of experimenting. Thus, Lyatoshinsky changes the structure of the traditional Sonata piece, creating only one movement and uses challenging rhythmic combinations. The Sonata No2 (1925), dedicated to Miaskovsky, displays the composer’s technique which includes the use of the romantic shapes and a strongly defined thematicism. Some of the melodic ideas presented by the composer are supported by a growling accompaniment, the two often functioning in cross-rhythm.
The start of 1926 was a turning point for Lyatoshinsky’s art; afterwards it would never be quite the same again. By this time, folk music was firmly integrated into the ‘map’ of future cultural policies, providing perfect grounds for the development of Nationalism. Thus, Lyatoshinsky composed an Overture based on Four Ukrainian Folk Songs, which used complicated arrangements of folk themes. It seems Lyatoshinsky’s music was destined to follow the familiar track taken by his fellow composers. However, he carried on writing music in his preferred style, changing it and fusing with folk themes in order to fit in with the demands of the Soviet authorities.
In 1929, Lyatoshinsky composed the Ballade for piano, similar in style to his previous Sonatas. Triplets and quintuplets appear super-imposed while Lyatoshinsky manipulates, transforms and imitates motivic wave deformations heard in the bass accompaniment. These compositional methods of writing reveal defining aspects of his 1920s style and his further development.
Amongst other works composed in the 1930s are the Second Piano Trio and many arrangements of Ukrainian songs. Following the commission from the officials of the Odessa’s Opera and Ballet theatre, Lyatoshinsky made the trip to Tadzhikistan in order to study folk music and compose a ballet about the life of local people. As a result, Lyatoshinsky composed Three Musical Pieces for the violin and the piano based on the folk music of Tadzhikistan (the region very little known or even unheard of before Stalin’s nationalism idea). ‹see L's letters, in Grecenko› Amongst Lyatoshinsky’s compositions is an arrangement of a Jewish folk song ‘Genzelex’ (Little Geese). In it, he preserved an original melody and decorated it harmonically, using F major and d minor tonalities and added complex chords within the harmony. (This composition remained in the archives of the composer until it was re-discovered in 2000.)
From 1935 to 1938 and from 1941 to 1944 Lyatoshinsky taught concurrently at the Moscow Conservatory. Lyatoshinsky wrote his Second Symphony in B flat (1936) in his favourite modernistic style, obviously knowing that this was not quite what was expected of him. He is ‘painting’ disturbing images of the dark reality of Soviet life, often using means of atonality. Written in the conventional three- movement form, the symphony is full of contrasting moods and severely dramatic conflicts. Lyatoshinsky, indeed, had taken a huge risk. His Symphony was finished at the time when Dmitry Shostakovich and other composers were singled out for political attack during the so-called Musical Conference, which in real life amounted to political hearings.
Lyatoshinsky, like any other composer, was very keen to organise performances of his works (this can be evident from his letters.) but the planned premiere of Lyatoshinsky’s Symphony (in February 1937) did not take place. It is not entirely clear why this particular performance of Symphony No 2 was delayed until 1941. It can be only suggested that he experienced some difficulties and it was not possible for him to achieve this sooner. His non-performed Symphony was already gathering some negative comments in the local press (as well as Shostakovich’s Fourth) regarding its unnecessary complexity and the absence of positive images of Soviet life.
At the orchestral rehearsals, Lyatoshinsky noted that ‘members of the orchestra were divided’‹see Lyatoshinsky's letter, in M. Kopiza›; some praised his works and others criticised it. Some musicians ‘were incredibly insolent’ that “it was no music at all”, “it is rubbish” and “definite 100% formalism”. Lyatoshinsky replied that he was surprised of such a reception and could not believe that ‘musicians from Moscow could allow such a rude unethical attack’ towards him. He admitted that it was understandable that there would be different opinions about his composition, but it was not a work of a formalist. ‘I have written it sincerely’, carried on Lyatoshinsky, ‘using my own characteristic musical language’. After his speech, the orchestra musicians ‘were shouting so much as if someone was physically attacked’ and ‘emotions were high’. It was unfortunate for Lyatoshinsky that a representative from the newspaper Musica, D. Zhitomirsky was also present at the above rehearsal. After the following five days, he wrote a very critical article in the Sovetskaya Musica. Lyatoshinsky recalled that he had ‘never heard such destructive criticism’ in all his life.
In 1948 Lyatoshinsky came to the National Conference of the Composers in Moscow (19 April) even though he was already excluded from the Composers’ Union of USSR. As he mentioned in his letter, ‘I will be a participant of this [forthcoming] Conference, not a composer. My 3rd Symphony cannot be performed yet while my ‘old’ works remain, are disregarded by everyone and they are banned from performances [ne stoit i nelzia pokazivat].’‹L's letter, M.Kopiza› In May 1948 he responded to a letter from Gliére, ‘I feel much the same- very bad; as the result of the previous events, I have completely “disappeared” from all concerts and Radio programs. If I was to say it in one word, for now, I am dead as a composer [!], and when my resurrection will take place, I don’t know.’ This letter was written after Lyatoshinsky received another ‘dose’ of severe criticism of his Symphony No.2. This work was dismissed and performances forbidden; Lyatoshinsky was labelled as a ‘formalist’ and his music as ‘anti-people’s’.
During the Second World War, Lyatoshinsky created some chamber works, ‘beautiful compositions’ (as observed by Glière ) such as Ukrainian Quintet (for the piano, violin, viola and cello), Shevchenko’s Suite for the piano (featuring a legendary long-suffering Ukrainian poet), Ukrainian Quintet Fourth String Quartet (based on the Ukrainian themes), Suite for the Quartet, Second Trio for the piano and many solo and choir arrangements. Remarkably, Lyatoshinsky chooses themes for his compositions based on the songs with a melancholic character, such as Pechal za Pechaliu (The Sadness is following Sorrow). During these years, Lyatoshinsky carried on his work as an academic and a composer.
Between 1941- 1943 many faculties of the Moscow Conservatoire, including the music department, were relocated to Saratov, a town near the Russian river Volga. Lyatoshinsky expected to work not only as a composer but as a public figure. During this time, Lyatoshinsky established contacts and worked collaboratively with the administrators of the local Concert Hall and Radio Committee; he took charge and led operations to save and transport Ukrainian musical manuscripts to the areas of non- conflict. At this time Lyatoshinsky approached the transitional moment in his music, achieving the necessary compromise between pessimistic decadence and revitalisation. It is characterised by the demands of the renewal in the face of anxiety and despair, reviving a vital driving force by means of modernistic fusion of atonality with the motivic realisation of folk song, encapsulated in the polyphonic writing.
In 1946, Lytoshinsky’s Ukrainian Quintet was honoured with the Stalin prize (in 1952 he received another Stalin prize, this time for the music in film about a Ukrainian national poet and a revolutionary hero Taras Shevchenko).
In 1951, the composer re-discovers energy despite previous set- backs and carries on writing his Third Symphony which develops themes of heroic struggles placed against pessimistic dejection which were interpreted by his contemporaries as epic philosophical themes of war and peace. Lyatoshinsky presents himself as a demonstrative traditionalist, master of the symphonic writing and tradition of thematic development. At the same time, he considers structural and expressive forms of decay, deformation, mannerism, nihilism, sickness and convalescence. The Symphony establishes the connections with Lyatoshinsky’s keen interest in stylistic hybridity expressed through the use of the classical form, motivic development, atonality and primitivism of folk song.
Lyatoshinsky was actively seeking and arranging performances of his Symphonies. His Fourth Symphony (in B minor) was performed shortly after the composer had written it (in October 1963 he was still finishing the orchestration for this work and in February of the same year it was performed in the Moscow Conservatoire.).One more performance was planned for the Congress of the Composers of the Ukraine, in March 1963 and another one in February 1966, this time for the Congress of the composers of Russia. In his letter to A. Dmitriev, he admits that the Fourth Symphony contains ‘autobiographical features’ and is ‘very precious’ to him. ‹L's letter, in Grecenko› ‘The ring of the bells that you hear’, he writes, ‘reflects the passing of time, memories of the past centuries; centuries, covered… with the dust of eternity and the ring of the bells.’
After the death of Stalin, Lyatohinsky at least was free to speak his own symphonic mind, making free use of motivic development, dissonances and atonal language. In his next and last Fifth (Slavonic) Symphony (in C major), the composer included the Russian folk song as the main theme and a song from Yugoslavia as a secondary theme. Lyatoshinsky carried on using folk material in his music, widening his repertoire of folk themes and making references to the other republics of the Soviet Union, such as Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Slovakia.
During the 1960s, Lyatoshinsky was accepted as a member of the Composers’ Union of the USSR. Amongst other privileges, he enjoyed there were ‘cultural’ trips abroad, where he met other fellow composers and discussed his works. Such tours, completed with cultural programmes of performances and composers’ meetings were assuming a function (particularly during the Cold War period) as advertisements for and ambassadors of both national pride and communism to the non- communist world. Some of these outings were recorded in Lyatoshinsky’s letters. He writes about visiting England for two weeks as a return favour after two British composers (he does not specify who they were) stayed in Moscow six months earlier.
Lyatoshinsky’s cultural trips continued, with visits to Austria and Switzerland; his wife accompanied him. This was an opportunity time for the composer to promote his works and establish himself as an international composer. Unknown to him there was limited time to achieve this ambition. After completing the various choir works and his Festive Overture for the Symphonic orchestra in 1968 he died suddenly, leaving behind his plans for composing his Sixth Symphony.
Lyatoshinsky was the owner of many medals for his achievements. In 1938 and 1955 he was granted ‘A sign of Honour’, in 1946- ‘For Heroic Achievement’ and ‘Labour Red Flag’. In the 50th of year of the Soviet Rule he received the medal of ‘Lenin’. Posthumously, Lyatoshinsky obtained a distinction as the People’s Artist of the Ukrainian USSR in 1968 and had been honoured as a great Ukrainian Composer in 1971, receiving the Shevchenko National Prize, after his death.
Lyatoshinsky wrote a variety of works, including five symphonies, symphonic poems, and several shorter orchestral and vocal works, two operas, chamber music, and a number of works for solo piano. His earliest compositions were greatly influenced by the expressionism of Scriabin and Rachmaninov (Symphony No.1). His musical style later developed in a direction favored by Shostakovich, which caused significant problems with Soviet critics of the time, and as a result Lyatoshynsky was accused (together with Prokofiev and Shostakovich) of formalism and creation of degenerative art. Many of his compositions were rarely or never performed during his lifetime. The 1993, a recording of his symphonies by the American conductor Theodore Kuchar and the Ukrainian State Symphony Orchestra (on the Naxos/Marco Polo label) brought his music to worldwide audiences.
Honours and awards
- second class (1946) - Quintet for Ukrainian
- first class (1952) - for the music for the film "Taras Shevchenko" (1951)
- Shevchenko National Prize (1971) (posthumous) - for the opera "The Golden Hoop" (1930)
- People's Artist of the Ukrainian SSR (1968)
- Honoured Artist of the USSR (1945)
- Order of Lenin
- The Golden Ring, opera in 4 acts opus 23 (1929) (revised in 1970)
- Shchors, opera about Nikolay Shchors in 5 acts after I. Kocherha and M. Rylsky opus 29 (1937)
- The Commander, opera (1970)
- 5 symphonies
- Symphony No. 1 A major opus 2 (1918–1919)
- Symphony No. 2 B minor opus 26 (1935–1936) Revised in 1940.
- Symphony No. 3 B minor opus 50 "To the 25th Anniversary of the October revolution" (1951)
- Symphony No. 4 B♭ minor opus 63 (1963)
- Symphony No. 5 C major "Slavonic" opus 67 (1965–1966)
- Fantastic March opus 3 (1920)
- Overture on four Ukrainian Folk themes opus 20 (1927)
- Suite from the Opera "The Golden Tire" opus 23 (1928)
- Lyric Poem (1947)
- Song of the reunification of Russia opus 49 (1949–1950)
- Waltz (1951)
- Suite from the Film music "Taras Shevchenko" opus 51 (1952)
- Slavonic Concerto for piano and orchestra opus 54 (1953)
- Suite from the Play "Romeo and Juliet" opus 56 (1955)
- "On the Banks of Vistula", symphonic poem opus 59 (1958)
- Orchestration of String Quartet No. 2 A major opus 4 (No. 2 Intermezzo) for orchestra (1960)
- Polish Suite opus 60 (1961)
- Slavonic Overture opus 61 (1961)
- Lyric Poem "To the Memory of Gliere" opus 66 (1964)
- Slavonic Suite opus 68 (1966)
- Festive Overture opus 70 (1967)
- "Grazyna", ballade after A. Mickiewicz opus 58 (1955)
- Festive Cantata "To the 60th Anniversary of Stalin" after Rilskov for mixed chorus and orchestra (1938)
- "Inheritance", cantata after Shevtshenko (1939)
- 5 string quartets
- String Quartet No. 1 D minor opus 1 (1915)
- String Quartet No. 2 A major opus 4 (1922)
- String Quartet No. 3 opus 21 (1928)
- String Quartet No. 4 opus 43 (1943)
- String Quartet No. 5 (1944–1951)
- Piano Trio No. 1 opus 7 (1922) (revised in 1925)
- Sonata for violin and piano opus 19 (1926, published by Muzgiz (State Publishing House) and Universal Edition in 1928)
- Three Pieces after Folksong-Themes for violin and piano opus 25 (1932)
- Piano Trio No. 2 opus 41 (1942)
- Piano Quintet "Ukrainian Quintet" opus 42 (1942)
- Suite on Ukrainian Folksong-Themes for string quartet opus 45 (1944)
- Suite for wind quartet opus 46 (1944)
- Two Mazurkas on Polonian Themes for cello and piano (1953)
- Nocturne and Scherzino for viola and piano (1963)
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- Elegy-Prelude (1920)
- Piano Sonata No. 1 opus 13 (1924)
- Seven Pieces "Reflections" opus 16 (1925)
- Piano Sonata No. 2 "Sonata Ballade" opus 18 (1925)
- Ballad opus 22 (1928–1929)
- Ballad opus 24 (1929)
- Suite (1941)
- Three Preludes opus 38 (1942)
- Two Preludes opus 38b (1942)
- Shevchenko-Suite (1942) Not finished.
- Five Preludes opus 44 (1943)
- Concerto Etude-Rondo (1962–1965)
- Concert-Etude (1962–1967)
- "Moonshadow", song after Verlaine, I.Severyanin, Balmont and Wilde opus 9 (1923)
- Two Poems after Shelley opus 10 (1923)
- Two Songs after Maeterlinck and Balmont opus 12 (1923)
- Four Poems after Shelley opus 14 (1924)
- Poems for baritone and piano opus 15 (1924)
- The Sun Rises at the Horizon, song after Shevtshenko for chorus
- Water, Flow into the Blue Lake!, song after Shevtshenko for chorus
- Seasons after Pushkin for chorus
- Po negy kradetsya luna after Pushkin for chorus
- Kto, volny, vas ostanovil after Pushkin for chorus
Incidental and Film music
- Music to the Play "Optimistic Tragedy" (1932)
- Music to the Film "Taras Shevtshenko" (1950)
- Music to the Play "Romeo and Julia" (1954)
- Music to the Film "The Hooked Pig's Snout" (1956)
- Music to the Film "Ivan Franko" (1956)
- March No. 1 for wind orchestra (1931)
- March No. 2 for wind orchestra (1932)
- March No. 3 for wind orchestra (1936)
- Orchestration of Lysenko's opera Taras Bulba (Co-operation with L. Revutsky)
- Orchestration of Gliere's Violin Concerto (Co-operation with K. G. Mostras)
- List of Ukrainian composers - see other Ukrainian composers of the same period
- "Library of Congress Record Link to Recording of 4th and 5th Symphonies". Retrieved 2008-08-29.
- publication date from Hofmeisters Monatsberichte. See http://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno-buch?apm=0&aid=1000001&bd=0001928&teil=0203&seite=00000271&zoom=5
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boris Lyatoshynsky.|
- "Boris Lyatoshynsky". Naxos Records. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
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- University of Nottingham, music department, dissertation by N. Stevens 'Lyatoshinsky: The journey of the defiant composer in Stalin's controlled Russia'