Taras Shevchenko Museum of Canada
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Museum Building

Taras H. Shevchenko
Museum & Memorial
Park Foundation

1614 Bloor St. West
Toronto, Ontario
M6P 1A7
Tel: 416-534-8662
Fax: 416-535-1063

 

Shevchenko in Music

Ukrainian folklore had an immense influence on Taras Shevchenko’s poetry.  This is evidenced through his frequent employment of motifs, images, symbols, rhythms and poetic style, with the themes of his early poetry being the closest to those of Ukrainian folk songs.   However, Shevchenko did not copy folkloric models but  creatively reworked them, imbuing them with new, lofty perceptions.  This, in turn, influenced the general populace to adopt his poems as popular songs of the day.

Of all his lyrical poems, the ones dealing with loneliness, seeking a better lot, separation from loved ones and women’s fate most often evolved into songs. All of them, like many songs of this genre, are written in a minor key with long, drawn-out melodies, or in the Romance style. Also set to music, were Shevchenko’s beautiful and descriptive landscape lyrics found in passages from ballads and poems with their spiritual depictions of nature. Among them are “The Mighty Dnieper”, “Beside the Cottage Cherry Tree”, “O Boisterous Wind”, etc. His poem-meditations, such as “Thoughts of Mine” and “The Days Go By” often became songs, as well.



Illustration to Kobzar, 1840,
St. Petersburg

Shevchenko’s political lyrics introduced an entirely new dimension into song.  A prime example was “My Testament” followed by “With Stark injustice all around” (excerpt from the poem “The Heretic”) and others.  Both express an active call to battle.

Once they entered the folk repertoire, songs based on Shevchenko’s lyrics developed of life of their own.  They have been popularized by both amateur musicians and professional composers.

Some of Shevchenko’s poems became songs in his own lifetime.  Among them are "Tyazhko-vazhko v sviti zhyty", “Nazho meni chorni brovy”, “Such is Her Fate” (excerpt from the poem “Bewitched”).  In 1860, the poem “Thoughts of Mine” was set to music by O.Rubets.  In 1868, music for “My Testament” was composed by Mykola Lysenko.  Later, “My Testament” was set to music by M.Verbytsky, H.Hladky, K.Stetsenko and others.

More than eighty songs, based on the lyrics of Shevchenko, were composed by Mykola Lysenko.  This tradition was followed Konstantyn Stetsenko (“Evening”, “The Eagle Soars, the Grey One Soars”), Yakiv Stepovy (“Thoughts  of Mine”, “O My Beauteous Star of Evening”, “The Wind Blows, Speaking With the Grove”), Stanyslav Lyudkevych, (“The Sun Sets”), Vladyslav Zaremba, (What do my black hairs avail me”, “I am Rich and Beautiful”), Andrij Shtoharenko (“Shoes in Visions, Shine Entrancing...”), and others.

Facilitated by the efforts of subsequent generations of amateur and professional composers, to this day, Taras Shevchenko’s poetry continues to be incorporated into the popular repertoire.

Visitors are invited to share music fiiles for this page by submitting your mp3-files to shevchenkomuseum@bellnet.ca

Such is Her Fate, Excerpt from the poem "Bewitched" (Taka ii Dolya), Music by V. Zaremba. Perfomed by Anatoly Mokrenko and Orchestra of Folk Instruments of the Ukrainian Television, Conductor - Victor Hutsal, recorded in 1970.
"Bewitched" is one of the first published poems of Taras Shevchenko. He wrote it in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1838.

The Mighty Dnieper, Excerpt from the poem "Bewitched" (Reve ta Stogne Dnipr Shyrokyj), Music by I. Kryzhanivsky. Performed by the H. Maiboroda National Honoured Bandurist Capella of Ukraine.

Thoughts of Mine (Dumy Moi), Ukrainian Folk Song, arrangement by H. Maiboroda. Performed by Borys Hmyrya and State Bandurist Capella of Ukraine.
This poem was written by Taras Shevchenko in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1838. An excerpt from the poem became a Ukrainian folk song.

My Testament (Zapovit), Music by Hordij Hladky (1870). Performed by The Honoured State Academic Capella of Ukraine "Trembita".
Shevchenko wrote this poem in Perejaslav, Ukraine on December 25, 1845, at the age of 31.
Over 60 interpretations of "My Testament" exist. M. Lysenko, Y. Stepovy. Here the most well-known version is presented.

Bandura-Player, The Grey Eagle (Banduryste, Orle Syzyj), Ukrainian folk song, adapted by M. Hvozd, Performed by V. Didenko and The H. Maiboroda National Honoured Bandurist Capella of Ukraine.

O My Beautiful Evening Star, Excerpt from the poem "Princess" (Zore Moya Vechirnyaya), Music by Hordij Hladky. Performed by Borys Hmyrya and the Ukrainian Radio Folk Orchestra.
Shevchenko's poem "Princess", 1847, containes this prelude, which was put on music by the Ukrainian choir conductor, teacher and composer Hordij Hladky.

O My Beautiful Evening Star, Excerpt from the poem "Princess" (Zore Moya Vechirnyaya), Music by Oleh Kyva. Performed by Nina Matvienko.

O My Beautiful Evening Star, Excerpt from the poem "Princess" (Zore Moya Vechirnyaya), Music by Yakiv Stepovyj, arrangement by S. Kushnyruk. Performed by Bohdan Kosopud.

I Care Not (Meni Odnakovo), Music by Mykola Lysenko. Performed by Ivan Kozlovsky.

The Torches Flame, the Music Plays (Ohni Horiat', Muzyka Hrae), Music by Mykola Lysenko. Performed by Ivan Kozlovsky.

O Boisterous Wind (Vitre Bujnyj), Performed by The Cossak Choir of Kuban'.

Beside the Cottage Cherry Trees (Sadok Vyshnevyj Kolo Haty), Music by Mykola Lysenko. Performed by Valentyna Ivanenko.

Finale from the Cantata "Rejoice, O Desert Wilderness" (Raduysya, Nyvo Nepolytaya), Music by Mykola Lysenko (1883).

Entr'acte and Excerpt from Act 3 of Opera "Kateryna", Music by N. Arkas - based on the poem by Taras Shevchenko. Performed by The Choir & Symphony Orchestra of the Kyiv Radio, Conductor - Konstantyn Symonenko, Kateryna - Lilia Lobanova.

Collection of Ukrainian handicrafts and folk art
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The son of a serf, Shevchenko became not only an artist and academician of Saint-Petersburg Academy of Art, but one of the most versatile people of 19th century. His paintings and graphics reflect a refined world that did not resemble his own life...(more)

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Taras Shevchenko Death Mask
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since December 18, 2012