Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ukrainian Art Song Project World Premiere and CD Launch

Hosted by Brian Deedrick, Artistic Director Edmonton Opera

The Ukrainian Art Song Project is delighted and proud to be presenting the World Premiere and CD Launch of Yakiv Stepovyi- The Art Songs, part of a 15 year project to record the art songs of 26 of Ukraine’s most eminent classical composers.

Yakiv Stepovyi was one of Ukraine's first 20th century modernist composers. He was Musical Director of the Ukrainian State Theatre of Music and Drama, director of the Folk Conservatory, director of music education at the Ministry of Education, organizer of the Ukrainian State Symphony Orchestra, and the State String Quartet. His classical compositions include works for piano, choirs, and most significantly, art songs.   

The Art Song was established by Franz Schubert as a poetic-musical form. HisGretchen am Spinnrade (1814) and Der Erlkönig (1815) defined the new genre. All in all, he wrote more than 600 songs. In Germany, Schubert was followed by other composers of art songs like Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Hugo Wolf. In France, composers like Gabriel Fauré, Jules Massenet and Claude Debussy contributed to the genre. Among the Slavic composers of art songs were Aleksandr Dargomyzhsky, Modest Mussorgsky and Pyotr  Tchaikovsky in Russia, Antonin Dvořák in Bohemia, Stanislaw Moniuszko in Poland and Mykola Lysenko in Ukraine.

During the 1950s and 1960s Ukrainian musicologists managed to publish editions of collected works of many Ukrainian composers, but this was more of a scholarly endeavour than an attempt to stimulate the performance of Ukrainian classical music. In the post-Soviet era, it is up to performers like Pavlo Hunka and others to discover and share these melodic treasures with the rest of the world.

Pavlo Hunka, bass-baritone, was born to a Ukrainian father and English mother. He studied Modern Languages and practised as a lawyer before embarking on his vocal studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in the U.K. He began his career at the Basel Opera Company, Switzerland, singing many of the bass-baritone roles of his repertoire. At the same time, he completed his vocal training with Kammersängerin Maria Sandulescu. Since Basel, Pavlo has performed in many of the major opera houses of the world, including those of Paris, Vienna, Munich, Florence, Amsterdam, Salzburg, Madrid and Moscow; with leading conductors, including Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta, Richard Bradshaw, Jeffrey Tate, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Peter Schneider. His repertoire includes: Golaud (Pelléas et Mélisande); the title roles in Wozzeck and Falstaff; Alberich (Siegfried); Hunding (Die Walküre); and Wot! an (Wagner’s Ring Cycle); Kaspar (Der Freischütz); Tomski (The Queen of Spades), Barak (Die Frau ohne Schatten), and Bluebeard (Bluebeard’s Castle). Operatic recordings to date: Fidelio (Sony and Chandos);Un Ballo in Maschera (Sony). Pavlo is the driving force behind theUkrainian Art Song Project.

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