Oleksandr Kozarenko. A Pierrot Lunaire of Ukrainian Music Text by Olha Komenda. Translated from Ukrainian: Lesya Lantsuta Brannman

Oleksandr Kozarenko had a charismatic personality. He was incredibly gifted as a musician and a thinker. He was endowed with a depth of feelings, fast reactions, and a sense of humor. Among musicians and artists, he was admired and revered. He liked to communicate mainly with older generations, from whom he adopted ceremonial aristocratic behavior, which often looked odd to his contemporaries.

He was terribly non-technological, and indifferent to the benefits of civilization. He did not own a computer or use the Internet, and he used a push-button phone even in his final days. He said of himself that he was “like Peter Pan, who didn’t want to become an adult for a long time.” Even though he studied in Kyiv and worked in Lviv, he identified himself as a Kolomyya resident.

Concerto Rutheno

Concerto Rutheno (1990) is scored for a prepared piano and a chamber orchestra consisting of strings, flute, oboe, clarinet, bells, celesta, vibraphone, and four bongos. It combines the features of a concerto grosso, a solo concerto, and a small polyphonic cycle.

The concertino includes two instruments: the piano, whose prepared sound resembles the sound of cymbals, and the bongos. The genre feature of the work is the kolomyika, interpreted as both a slow song and a fast dance.

“I am walking along an unfamiliar path, turning the pages of eternity” (from Mykhailo Semenko’s poem “I Alone” (Ya sam”))

 Oleksandr Kozarenko’s professional evolution consisted of four periods. The first one could be defined as the piano period (1982-1989), the time when Oleksandr Kozarenko’s performing and composing styles crystallized during the creation of his first Pysanky.

The second period was symphonic (1989-1994). At that time, Oleksandr Kozarenko developed a compositional technique of genre and style modulation (for the first time tried in the Variations for piano). The composer started using ethnic instruments in his works for orchestra more often during this period (e.g., cymbals in the Violin Concerto). Also, the author’s characteristic intonations were tested (the second subject in the first movement of the Concerto Rutheno).

The third period was focused on chamber music and music for theater (1988-2001). For the first time, the composer combined previously written compositions to create new synthetic musical and theatrical concepts, based on the principle of parody. Three separate, completely independent works, Oro for percussion ensemble, Inventions for four melodic instruments, and Concerto Rutheno for chamber ensemble, were merged into a holistic whole in the ballet Don Juan from Kolomea.

The fourth period was devoted to writing in cantata and oratorio genres (1994-2008) and showed Oleksandr Kozarenko’s interest in sacred chants (kanty), partes compositions, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra chant, paraliturgical (chants (kanty), psalms, and religious songs) and non-liturgical sources (the latter were presented in a very wide range, with prevailing Ukrainian art songs).


Pierrot’s Deathly Loops (Pyero mertvopetlyuye)

The chamber cantata Pierrot’s Deathly Loops (1994) was composed for countertenor and a chamber ensemble consisting of strings, piano, piccolo flute, trumpet, trombone, and percussion. It was based on poetic texts by the founder of Ukrainian futurism Mykhailo Semenko.

The range of the countertenor’s recitation is as wide as possible: “from cantilena in the soprano register to whispering in the baritone register” (Yuriy Chekan). The dialog between voice and trumpet, which runs consistently throughout the work, emphasizes the tragic duality of the main character.

“I put poetry in a uniform that I have never worn” (from Mykhailo Semenko’s poem “I Am Going” (“Ya idu”))

The artistic originality and aesthetic value of Oleksandr Kozarenko’s works are determined by its five main features.

The first is the iconic interpretation of a musical text, which is manifested by consistent attention to various genre and style models, including the features of Stanislav Lyudkevych, Borys Lyatoshynsky, Dmitry Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and Johann Sebastian Bach.

The second is the Ukrainian theme of his works, revealed by the appeal to ethnically characteristic sources, like kolomyika, Ostroh chant, Ukrainian poetry, and Ukrainian toponyms in titles (Ruthenia, Kolomyia, Galicia, and Pokuttya).

The third is the vocal nature of his music thinking, due to the vocal genesis of composer’s genre and intonation sources and the melodic nature of the multilayered musical texture formed by the consonance of longer and shorter phrases.

The fourth is the decentralization of textual structures, expressed by compositional mosaicism, appeal to aleatoric, quasi-improvisation, contrasts of melody and tempo, low and high genres.

The fifth is the theatricalization of artistic concepts, the essence of which is the priority of theatrical genres, theatricalization of “pure music,” and the theatrical character of themes.

“I am a synthesis of poets and dreams” (from Mykhailo Semenko’s poem “I Am a Victim of a Fading World” (“Ya zhertva pohasayuchoho svitu”))

The circle of professional communication of Oleksandr Kozarenko was wide. During his studies, he met with Tetyana Mykolayeva, Dmytro Bashkirov, and Sofia Maidanska. In Lviv, he was close to Stefaniia Pavlyshyn, Andriy Sodomora, Mariia Krushelnytska, Lidiia Shutko, Vasyl Slipak, and many others.

The most natural creative environment for the composer was theater. Almost all the composer’s musical ideas have a theatrical origin. Oleksandr Kozarenko called himself a “theatrical composer,” adding that “theater critics also believed that even his non-theatrical music was very theatrical.”

His contemporaries perceived Oleksandr Kozarenko as “an extrovert with a great artistic temperament” (Stefaniya Pavlyshyn), “a deep and extraordinary thinker” (Natalia Shvets), a composer with “a tragic worldview, duality, interest in the inner world, but also… ironic detachment” (Yuriy Chekan).

“I am eternal, brave and young!” (from Mykhailo Semenko’s poem “I Am a Victim of a Fading World” (“Ya zhertva pohasayuchoho svitu”))

Considering Oleksandr Kozarenko’s place in Ukrainian musical history, it becomes clear that the composer consistently throughout his life in all kinds of his activities, was the biggest apologist for Mykola Lysenko’s achievements, and furthermore was a postmodern reflection of Lysenko’s genius.

His winning of the Mykola Lysenko Piano Competition in 1984 marked the beginning of 20-year-old Oleksandr Kozarenko’s career as a concert pianist. The defense of his dissertation, Mykola Lysenko as the Founder of the Ukrainian National Musical Language in 1993 (at the age of 30) marked the end of his studies and his return to Lviv. A gift to himself for his 50th birthday was the recording of the CD Piano Music by Mykola Lysenko Performed by Oleksandr Kozarenko (2012).

Meanwhile, he was performing at conferences, writing articles, performing at piano recitals, and organizing concerts and festivals. The composer’s last days in the hospital were brightened by preparing for publication a book about Mykola Lysenko. Oleksandr Kozarenko planned to complete the book by his 60th birthday but passed away before the book’s completion.


Ukrainian Requiem

Ukrainian Requiem (2008) is scored for symphony orchestra, mixed choir, and soloists to texts by contemporary Ukrainian poet Nazar Fedorak. The work is dedicated to the victims of repression, deportation, and famines of the twentieth century in Ukraine. Referring to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem and Krzysztof Penderecki’s Polish Requiem, Oleksandr Kozarenko’s work is at the same time full of deeply Ukrainian character, which is expressed in work’s timbre, modes, and melodies.

“I opened the locked door…” (from Mykhailo Semenko’s poem “Invitaion” (“Zaproshennya”))

 The brilliant master of subtext, Oleksandr Kozarenko, has reached incredible heights in constructing associative connections and inventing brilliant artistic metaphors. Thus, the German language in the title of his work Konzertstück is an allusion to the German Baroque and music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The ancient Latin name “Rus’”, Ruthenia, in the Concerto Rutheno is a symbol of Galicia (the Rus’ Kingdom) and, more broadly, of Ukraine. \

This kind of play of meanings is very characteristic for all Oleksandr Kozarenko’s works, regardless of genre. Created by signs — verbal, numerical, intonational – following Mykhailo Semenko’s Pierrot, it invites us:

I will show you many worlds.

Original and whimsical…

(from Mykhailo Semenko’s poem “Invitation”).

Oleksandr Kozarenko (24.08.1963, Kolomyia – 12.03.2023, Ivano-Frankivsk) was a Ukrainian pianist, composer, and musicologist.

He graduated from the Kyiv Conservatory with a degree in piano (prof. Vsevolod Vorobyov, 1988), composition (prof. Myroslav Skoryk, 1989), and postgraduate studies in musicology (prof. Ivan Lyashenko, 1993). He was also an intern at the University of Würzburg (2004).

Oleksandr Kozarenko was a Laureate of the Mykola Lysenko International Music Competition (1984), and received the Levko Revutsky (1996), Leo Vitoshynsky (1999), Mykola Lysenko (2001), Stanislav Lyudkevych (2008), and Borys Lyatoshynsky (2011) awards.

He was a Candidate of Arts (1993), Doctor of Arts (2001), Professor (2002), and Honored Artist of Ukraine (2008).

Oleksandr Kozarenko was a member of the National Union of Composers of Ukraine, the New Music Association, and the Shevchenko Scientific Society (chairman of the Musicology Commission). He was awarded the Andrey Sheptytsky Medal (2000).

In 1994-2010, he was a Professor, Head of the Department of Music Theory, Vice Rector for Research at the Mykola Lysenko Lviv Higher Music Institute, and since 2007, at the Mykola Lysenko Lviv National Music Academy.

In 2010-2023 Oleksandr Kozarenko was a Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Culture and Arts, and Head of the Department of Philosophy of Arts at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv.

In 2009-2023, he was a Professor Ordinarius at the Ukrainian Free University (Munich).

About the Author

The Claquers is a Ukrainian online magazine devoted to classical music that unites a group of music critics with the mission to foster a critical conversation about art music in Ukraine and beyond. The Claquers organization was founded in June 2020 by musicologist Stas Nevmerzhytskyi and three colleagues: musicologist Dzvenyslava Safian, music theorist Liza Sirenko, and cultural critic Oleksandr Ostrovskyi.

The publication’s provocative name suggests the context in which The Claquers was conceived. After two previous generations of proactive critics who had careers in education and cultural promotion, classical music criticism was limited to either positive reviews or no reviews at all. A fresh and uncensored eye on events in classical music life in Ukraine was needed to shake up the musical community and complete the country’s classical music ecosystem.

Unlike in western Europe and North America, art music audiences in Ukraine are much younger. The collective of writers with The Claquers is also young, and has taken on the task of explaining to these new listeners why a long tradition of classical music in Ukraine exists, and how it became a part of today’s cultural life. As a group The Claquers considers its main goals: to educate about contemporary classical Ukrainian music, to build bridges with popular culture by publishing about diverse musical genres and other arts (such as music in literature or in film), to expand the critical tools of music criticism with audio podcasts, and to cultivate audiences abroad via an English version of the website.

The Claquers was made possible by generous funding that enabled its establishment and is sustained by the generosity of donors on Patreon. This singular and engaged Ukrainian online hub devoted to classical music continues to engage people in this music and invite new authors.

Stas Nevmerzhytskyi (ФОП Станіслав Невмержицький), individual proprietor

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Location of a individual proprietor:
Ukraine, 04212, Kyiv city, TYMOSHENKA STREET, building 2K, room 302

Date and number of entry in the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, individual proprietor and public organizations:
10/16/2020, 2000690010002052048


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