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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Rada LYSENKO: Ukrainian music will die without followers

1 December, 2011 - 00:00

An event that can be called a “dress rehearsal” of future official celebrations that will be held not only in Ukraine, but abroad as well, took place at the Mykola Lysenko Memorial House (part of the Museum of Prominent Figures of Ukrainian Culture, 97 Saksahansky Str.). Kyivites are familiar with the exhibit of the museum dedicated to the prominent Ukrainian composer, public and culture activist Mykola Lysenko. Unique items from composer’s archives, memorial belongings that were given by his descendants, are presented here. Authentic floors, moulding, tile stoves have been preserved here. This is the place where Lysenko lived until his death in 1912. A part of his collection of Ukrainian folk musical instruments (lyre, torban, cymbals, kobza) is exposed on the walls of his office. Here Lysenko worked on his operas Taras Bulba, Eneida, Nocturn, and last issues of Music for Kobzar. Traditionally, during these memorial days, the classic’s music is performed in this house. Rada Lysenko, artist’s granddaughter, piano player and teacher at the National Music Academy of Ukraine, plays it. Rada told The Day about the plans for the double anniversary (170 years since Lysenko’s birth and 100 years since his death), about family traditions, legendary grandfather, and about herself.


We met Rada Lysenko at the National Music Academy of Ukraine in a class where she gives piano lessons. She has celebrated her 90th birthday this year, but she still continues her pedagogic work. We were present during one lesson and admired the wonderful duet performance by the pedagogue and her student, postgraduate from China, Sin Sin Ma.

“Sin Sin came to me after she graduated from the conservatory,” Rada Lysenko started the conversation. “She is from China. She has been studying in Ukraine at the Mykola Lysenko school since the 7th grade. When she found out that I am a granddaughter of the outstanding composer, she asked me for some music by my grandfather. She learned it so fast and played it so skillfully, that I offered her to take part in Mykola Lysenko Contest. We shall celebrate Mykola Lysenko’s double anniversary in 2012: 170 years from the date he was born in and 100 years since he deceased.

“Last year I managed to organize a concert “Lysenko and the Followers” for his birthday at the Small Hall of the National Music Academy of Ukraine. The followers are represented by Revutsky, Kosenko, Shtoharenko, Kolessa, Barvinsky. I think that there should be a “Contest of Lysenko and the Followers.” Once my husband, Andrii Shtoharenko, had cared about preserving the national music culture. He is also one of the followers of my grandfather’s music traditions.”


“The court sentenced me to pay a 10,000 hryvnias fine to neighbours for disturbing their peace,” continues Rada Lysenko. “And there is nothing I can do about this. After the Lysenko concert I fell ill, because there was a lot of responsibility on me personally. My heart ached so badly I could not even walk. I was taken to hospital, and while I was there, my neighbour sued me. She wanted to sue me for 90,000 hryvnias for moral and phy-sical damage (allegedly, she fell ill because of music and had to spend over 90,000 hryvnias on expensive medicine). It is funny, but she won the case! Though I only have to pay 10,000 to her. I appealed against the court decision, and attached a letter from the National Music Academy of Ukraine direction board, but the case is still going on. The neighbor is categorical and demands that I should pay her.”


“I studied at the Kyiv Music Conservatory in Professor Abram Lufer’s class, who was a chancellor at that time. Heinrich Neuhaus was our degree examinator. He was from Kirovohrad and loved Ukraine tremendously,” Rada Lysenko recollects. “I dreamt to be taught by him ever since I was a child. Neuhaus noticed me at the exam, and he told the teachers about it, but I felt embarrassed to come up to him. I fi-nished the conservatory after the war, besides, I lost three years. During the war we were taken away from Kyiv. They put us on a train and sent to Germany. But we ran away in Lviv. We found an organization that helped refugees: it accomodated people and fed them twice a day. Lysenko’s last name was an icon for Lviv citizens!

“Upon my return to Kyiv and graduation from the conservatory I thought I was too old for studying. But nevertheless, I asked my father to put in a word for me. My dad wrote a letter and Neuhaus responded immediately. He said that though he was aged and had a lot of students, he would gladly teach me because he liked my performance and my talent, and also that “she does not bring dishonor upon her fine name.” But he warned that I had to pass the entrance exams by myself. I successfully applied for the postgraduate program, but they did not want to register me in Moscow (there were no dormitories, and they prohibited to register new residents at that time). I went to the head of the police department. He listened to my story and sighed. But when I told him that I am from Ukraine, he cheered up. He told me, that his wife is Ukrainian too, and she sings “Viiut vitry, viiut buini” all the time. “But my grandfather wrote this song!” I exclaimed. And the problem was solved right away. “Vitry buini” helped me to receive a residence permit in Moscow.”


“My parents talked about my grandfather often. He was a public activist, he spent a lot of time on this. He had two university degrees: a Russian one and a West European one. Mykola Lysenko had a gift to persuade people. He had a lot of friends: his cousin Starytsky, Lesia Ukrainka, who was a frequent guest at the Lysenko house, her mother, Olena Pchilka, bandura players. Mykola Lysenko composed at night, because he had to teach during The Day. And not because he had a calling for pedagogy, but because he had a family to support. Though it would be so much better if he had spent more time on composing. Lysenko taught girls from the Intsitute for Noble Maidens. Then he donated money for the school construction. My grandfater was a choir conductor, went on tours with it. By the way, he adored the choir greatly.

Our family preserves the traditions. My mother was from Poltava. She loved to sing and knew a lot of songs. We sang duets quite often. My daughter Natalia continues our music dynasty: she teaches at the National Music Academy of Ukraine. She used to be great at painting when she was a child. We started to teach her how to paint, but music won over. My grandson’s older daughter also plays grand piano. So music traditions, started by my grandfather, are kept in the family.