What is an art song?
How does it differ from a folk song?
An art song is a poem of high literary quality set to music specified by the composer. It is usually performed by one singer and accompanied by a pianist. The piano score, however, has an expressive rather than merely an accompaniment role. Unlike the folk song, the art song is intended to be performed at a recital or in another formal concert setting. A folk song, on the other hand, usually describes something about a way of life or about traditions. It is usually improvised or arranged by or for the performer.
In Western Europe, the genre of the art song was conceived at the beginning of the 19th century, by which time composers, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven had incorporated such songs in their musical output as essential elements of their own emotional and artistic development.
Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and Hugo Wolf further developed this art form, setting music to the poems of some of Germany’s greatest poets, Heinrich Heine and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Mykola Lysenko was the most committed of all Ukrainian composers to the art song genre. His 133 art songs relate a wonderfully descriptive and passionate story of life in 19th- and early 20th century Europe. He composed art songs to texts by Ukrainian poets such as Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, Lesia Ukrainka, Oleksander Oles, Panteleimon Kulish, Volodymyr Samiilenko, Dniprova Chaika, but also to the poems of Germany’s Heine, Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz and Russia’s Semen Nadson.
The Ukrainian Art Song Project has already recorded and released the art songs of Mykola Lysenko, Kyrylo Stetsenko, Yakiv Stepovyi, and the first four Galician composers: Denys Sichynsky, Vasyl Barvinsky, Stefania Turkwich and Stanyslav Liudkevych. Additionally, a compilation CD of art songs composed to the poems of Taras Shevchenko has been released. Plans are also in place to record the art songs of the following eminent Ukrainian composers: Yuli Meitus, Heorhi Maiboroda, Yaroslav Lopatynsky, MyroslavVolynsky, Valentyn Sylvestrov, Dmytro Klebaniv, Ihor Sonevytsky, Mykola Dremliuha, Petro Haidamaka, Nestor and Ostap Nyzhankivsky, and Mykola Fomenko.