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Galicians I: The Composers

Denys Sichynsky (1865-1909)

In his youth, Denys Sichynsky studied with pianist Wladyslaw Wszelaczynski in Ternopil.  Wszelaczynski  was a pupil of Karol Mikuli, the director of the Lemberg Conservatory in Galicia.  Prior to his private studies with Mikuli, Sichynsky had already started to write art songs.  

During the 1890s Sichynsky led an unsettled life.  He worked as a music teacher, copyist, arranger, conductor, performer, organizer, critic, and composer.  It is from this period that most of his art songs originate.  In 1891 Sichynsky helped found the Lviv “Boian” Choir and, in 1902, he organized a Ukrainian music school in Stanyslaviv (Ivano-Frankivsk) where he settled during the last decade of his life.  

Stylistically, Sichynsky’s music is mid-late romantic.  There is a wonderful sense of melody, reflecting the melos of Ukrainian folksongs.  Many of his art songs are through-composed, rich in modulation, and operatic in style.


Denys Sichynsky (1865-1909)

Stanyslav Liudkevych (1879-1979)

Stanyslav Liudkevych first studied composition with his mother who herself was a pupil of Mykhailo Verbytsky, the composer of Ukraine’s national anthem.  While at university, Liudkevych was a student of Mieczyslaw Soltys at the Lemberg Conservatory.  In Vienna, he studied with Alexander Zemlinsky, Hermann Gradener, and Guido Adler; he also attended Hugo Riemann’s lectures in Germany.  

In 1908, he succeeded Anatole Vakhnianyn as director of the Lysenko Institute.  During World War I, Liudkevych was drafted into the Austrian army.  Captured by the Russians, he spent time in Kazakhstan as a prisoner of war.  In 1919, he resumed work at the institute in Lviv.

In 1936, Liudkevych became head of the musicological commission of the Shevchenko Scientific Society.  From 1940 to 1972, he taught at the Lviv State Conservatory.  Despite being a 20th-century composer, Liudkevych maintained a post-romantic palette that was later tempered by Soviet neo-folklorism.  In fact, under the Soviet regime his creative output dwindled.  At one of the first meetings with the Communist Party in 1939, the composer is reputed to have quipped, “liberated [by the Communists]—there’s nothing one can do about that…


Stanyslav Liudkevych (1879-1979)

Vasyl Barvinsky (1888-1963)

Vasyl Barvinsky also began his musical studies with his mother, who was herself a pupil of Karol Mikuli, the director of the Lemberg Conservatory in Galicia.  Vasyl studied at the Lemberg Conservatory and, from 1908 to 1914, was a pupil of Vitezslav Novák in Prague.  Barvinsky became the director of the Lysenko Institute in Lviv after Stanyslav Liudkevych was drafted into the Austrian army,

 As a pianist, Barvinsky toured Soviet Ukraine in 1928 with cellist Bohdan Berezhnytsky.

When the Soviets merged the Lemberg conservatory in Galicia with the Lysenko institute, it was Barvinsky who was appointed director of the new Lviv State Conservatory.  Privilege, however, was short-lived.

 In 1948, intrigue led to denunciation and Barvinsky was exiled to a labour camp in the Mordovian ASSR.  All his music scores were publically burned!  Barvinsky returned to Lviv in 1958 a broken man and spent the rest of his days unsuccessfully trying to recreate his lost works.  The surviving art songs are representative of the composer’s post-romantic and often impressionistic style.


Vasyl Barvinsky (1888-1963)

Stefania Turkewich (1898-1977)       

Ukraine’s first woman composer is Stefania Turkewich .  She began her music studies with her mother, who was a pupil of Karol Mikuli, the director of the Lemberg Conservatory in Galicia. Then, at the Lysenko Institute in Lviv, she was taught by Vasyl Barvinsky.  After World War I, Turkewicz studied in Lviv with Adolf Chybinski at the Lviv University, and also at the Lysenko conservatory. She then moved to Austria and studied with Guido Adler at the University of Vienna and Joseph Marx at the music academy.

 In 1925, she travelled with her first husband to Berlin where she studied with Franz Schreker and the influential expressionist, Arnold Schoenberg; in Prague she studied with Zdenek Nejedly at Charles University, with Otakar Sin at the conservatory, and with Vitezslav Novak at the music academy.  She received her doctorate in musicology in 1934.  From 1935 to 1939, she taught harmony and piano at the Lysenko Institute in Lviv, and, from 1940 to 1944, she lectured at the Lviv State Conservatory.

 Fleeing from the Soviets, Turkewich immigrated to England with her second husband in 1946.  There she spent much of her time composing, but many of her works have never been performed.  Stylistically they are much more modern, but still hearken back to Ukrainian folksongs, when they are not post-romantic, atonal or expressionistic in character.


Stefania Turkewich (1898-1977)