Organ music by Ukrainian composers

For musicians who are interested in expanding their repertoire, The Claquers launches a series of articles where Ukrainian performers discover selected works by Ukrainian composers for each instrument. Thanks to the largest database Ukrainian Scores, you can request all mentioned pieces for free, while links to score samples and recordings are added to the text below. With these musical digests, everyone can easily find a place for Ukrainian music in their recitals, and explore Ukrainian culture. Not even because it is a reason for Ukrainians to fight, but for its worthiness to be presented on a classical music scene.

A guide thorough organ music by Ukrainian composers is written by Svitlana Pozdnysheva. She is a pianist, organist and harpsichordist, soloist of the Lviv Organ Hall, whose repertoire consists mostly of works of the 20th and 21st centuries and works of Ukrainian composers.

Circulate the English version of the recommendations among your colleagues.

Svitlana Pozdnysheva
Svitlana Pozdnysheva

It took me more than months of searching websites, libraries, asking organists and composers personally, to answer the questions: Which Ukrainian composers wrote for the organ? Which pieces thoroughly discover the nature of this instrument? Also, all this time my task as a performer was looking for works that I would fall in love with myself and therefore be able to make listeners love them. However, making such a digest implies a moment of impartiality, but what objectivity can be in love? So, in my choice, I decided to take into account the criteria of public access to the records, presence in the performers’ repertoire, and scores availability.

To familiarize yourself with the Ukrainian organ repertoire, I can advise you so far to take a look at the playlist on YouTube, where I collect Ukrainian organ works. Another useful source of sound recordings is the Ukrainian Live Classic App (download for Android and Apple), which contains a small but a very high-quality selection of recordings by Kyivan organists. At the same time, you can get sheet music of Ukrainian organ works by ordering them on the website Ukrainian Scores, which contains the largest database of scores by Ukrainian composers (not only organ pieces). There is also the most comprehensive list of music for the organ (except works of recent years) posted on the website about organs of Ukraine (in Ukrainian).

Music by Svyatoslav Lunyov

My personal top is headed by the works of Svyatoslav Lunyov (b. 1964). If you are looking for profound organ music filled with various topics, this might be for you. Among his works, it is worth highlight “Libera me” (10′, 1988; sheet music), “Seven Apocrifas” (18′, 2001; sheet music), “Svete Tykhyi” (10’, sheet music) and “Easter Stikhira” (3′) from “Passion Week” (2011), “Mozartino” (2003; sheet music), “Orgel Stück” (sheet music), Prelude and Fugue in C (4’, 1989; sheet music), and works for voice and organ. In the first place, “Libera me” was written for voice and organ, later transcripted for string orchestra (recording). This piece may be performed either as a separate work or as part of “Tristium”, a work that is included in the list of the best Ukrainian works according to The Claquers survey. Meaning “free me”, in my opinion, “Libera me” is now very resonant for every Ukrainian and even each piece of our land. Externally uncomplicated and logical, built on simple intonations, the work is filled with philosophical meanings and touches a soul deeply.

“Svete Tykhyi” (10ʼ; sheet music) and Easter Stikhira (3ʼ) were also originally written for a different ensemble, these are the final parts from the Symphony “Passion Week” for a mixed a cappella choir (recordings performed by the choir: “Svete Tichyy”, “Easter Stikhira”). “Svete Tykhyi” is a quite extensive work (it lasts about 10 minutes); given the slow tempo and non-detailed dynamics which could be organically performed by choir, it becomes a challenge for the organist to play this piece as a whole. Instead, the solemn and sublime “Stikhira”, with a clear structure and rhythm, sounds vividly on the organ.

Additionally, it is worth noting Apocrifas” (18ʼ, 2001; sheet music) by Svyatoslav Lunyov, a work derived from one musical idea. It consists of seven parts, which can be performed one by one or in separate parts during the entire concert, serving as a connecting link in the program.

Works recognized among organists

The most popular Ukrainian work among organists is Chaconne (7 ′, 1982; sheet music) by Viktor Honcharenko (b. 1959). The composer studied the organ with Arsenii Kotliarevskyi, the founder of the organ school in Ukraine, so the composer knows the specifics of the instrument well. His works combine the traditions of baroque genres with modern musical language full of tart dissonances. Chaconne is perceived as a single, monolithic piece, the music begins with mystical eights (like ”drops”) in a two-foot register. Gradually gaining strength and colored by spicy dissonances, the development reaches its highest point. However, the climax breaks off, after which the “drops” return, which now resemble fading.

In general, Viktor Honcharenko has a significance heritage of more than 20 organ works, which, in my opinion, deserve no less attention than Chaconne: Antiphons (5 ′, 1984; sheet music), Three Fantasias (1985; sheet music of first, second, third), Chorales and Choral Preludes (in particular, Choral Prelude in E minor, 6’, sheet music, sheet music), Partita (sheet music), Pastoral (sheet music), Fugue (1985; sheet music), Two Preludes and Fugues, Litany (sheet music), Second folk melodies (sheet music), and others. The Antiphons, a majestic piece built on alternating contrast stanzas, also have a lot of attention from the organists. On the other hand, another popular cycle, the Two Folk Melodies, are completely different. With a fairly transparent texture and a careful selection of expressive means, they remind of paintings drawn with watercolor paints.

Passacaglia from Passacaglia, scherzo and fugue by Mykola Kolessa (1903–2006) is also in demand among organists (8’, 1929; sheet music). Originally written for piano, it was transcripted by Arsenii Kotliarevskyi and sounds even more powerfully on organ. Complex harmonies, rich textures and expressive melodies make an unforgettable impression on listeners. Mykola Kolessa also wrote an original piece for organ – Prelude and Fugue (10’, 1977; sheet music) which happens to be one of the most complex Ukrainian polyphonic works for organ.

Works of Ukrainian Classicism

If you are looking for historical, classical works, then check three piano sonatas of Dmytro Bortnianskyi (1751–1825) out (recordings in C major on organ, sheet music; F major, sheet music; B flat major on harpsichord; sheet music). Bright, cheerful, elegant, these works took the best features of the era of classicism.

The organists also make their own transcriptions of masterfully written choral concerts (in particular, “Ne otverzhy mene”, 10′; choir recording, sheet music) by Maksym Berezovskyi (1745–1777), which are the source of Ukrainian choral singing tradition. Both composers studied in Italy with Padre Martini, Mozart’s teacher.

Works with a folklore flavor

If you are interested in works with an intense folklor flavor, please take a look at the cycles “Vesnianka” (in 10 pieces, sheet music) and “Carpathyan Freskas” (1993, in seven parts; recordings of the first and second parts , the finale ; sheet music) by Lesya Dychko (b. 1939). Both are an example of the New Folkloric Wave in music popular in the 1970s and 1980s. However, there is one more great work of the composer that deserves special attention — Freskas” for organ and violin based on the paintings of Kateryna Bilokur (45ʼ, 1983; sheet music; originally, a ballet written for a symphony orchestra, a recording of the ballet). The work lasts about 45 minutes, but it feels like in one breath. “Freskas” are not easy to perform, but they are very masterfully written, with an extremely expressive theme, from passionate kolomyikas to deep philosophical reflections.

Another noteworthy work from this point of view — Pasakalia on a Halician theme (1988) by Oleksandr Kozarenko (b. 1963). Among piano, composition, and musicology education, he mastered organ performance at the Ukrainian National Music Academy in Kyiv. Complex musical language and tart harmonies are brilliantely combined here with an 17–century form.

Music by composers with numerous organ works

If you are looking for works with traditional harmony and melody, you should pay attention to the works of Mykhailo Shukh (1952–2018) and Bohdan Kotyuk (b. 1947). Both composers have quite a large collection of organ works, many of which are also written on spiritual themes. The most performed are Silent prayer (3ʼ; sheet music) and Ave Maria (4ʼ; sheet music) by Mykhailo Shukh. Small and modest, they are suitable for both professional organists and beginners. There is also noteworthy Mykhailo Shukh’s extensive work, Via Dolorosa” Organ Mass (28ʼ, 1990; sheet music).

Vyacheslav Nazarov (b. 1954) is another composer who wrote a significant number of works for the organ. His works include mainly expansive works: Symphony (13ʼ, 2003; sheet music; in seven parts, originally called “Pontius Pilate”), “White Symphony” (2005; sheet music; in three parts, recording of the second part, Toccata), Spiritual Music (15ʼ, 1988; sheet music; in three parts) and other. The composer wrote a lot of music for movies, which had a noticeable influence on his music in other genres. Hence his works are distinguished by the skill of balancing between modern musical language, effectiveness and comprehensibility for the listener. If you are looking for a bright virtuoso piece for the organ, I advise you to take a look at the finale (Toccata) of the White Symphony (sheet music). If you like works that are written on popular melodies from movies and are easy to understand, check out the Fantasy Suite on the themes of Michel Legrand “Windmills of Your Mind” (sheet music; recording of the second part, “Umbrellas of Cherburg”).

Svitlana Ostrova (b. 1961) is also a prolific organ composer. As a performing organist, she published a whole collection of her own works — very bright and harmonious. Among them, there are outstanding works on spiritual themes (Lacrimosa, sheet music; Laudate Domine, sheet music; Byzantine chant, sheet music; Diptych, sheet music; “Symphony of Creation” in five parts, sheet music), polyphonic works (Passacaglia, sheet music; Chaconne, sheet music; Fugue-Joke, sheet music) and folklore works (“Spring” poem, sheet music).

Organ music is a significant part of the work of Yevhen Lyonko (1949–2006). In particular, the composer created 12 preludes and fugues , 12 concert pieces, three symphonies, and seven organ sonatas. Currently, only some of his works are available: some Concert Pieces (sheet music) and Choral Symphony No. 2, dedicated to Paul Hindemith and J. S. Bach (in three parts, 1998; sheet music). However, we are working on expanding this collection, because his music, although difficult, is unique and undeniably worth paying attention to.

All of this is only a small part of works written by Ukrainian composers for organ. Therefore, let me suggest you resources that will help you discover Ukrainian organ music:

Playlist with Ukrainian organ music on YouTube

A selection of recordings by Kyivan organists on Ukrainian Live

Scores of organ works by Ukrainian composers available on Ukrainian Scores

List of Ukrainian music for the organ (in Ukrainian)

Svitlana Pozdnysheva, 32 years old ( is a pianist, organist, harpsichordist, soloist of the Lviv House of Organ and Chamber Music. She received her musical education at the Lviv Music College named after Stanislav Liudkevych and the Lviv National Academy of Music named after Mykola Lysenko, improved her performance at organ master classes with Ivan Dukhnych, Lorenzo Gielmi, Ulla Krygul, Maria Erdman, Janusz Ostrovsky. Her solo and chamber repertoire includes works since the 17th century till nowadays, but mostly music of the 20th and 21st centuries and pieces by Ukrainian composers. Among other things, she organized concert programs and sound recordings of works by V. Bezkorovaynyi, F. Yakymenko, Ya. Yaroslavenko, B. Drymalik, I. Levytskyi, B. Kudryk, A. Rudnytskyi, performed a number of premieres. She gives concerts in many cities of Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany.

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