Book launch for newly published work on Vedel is held in Edmonton
by Halyna Kotovych
EDMONTON - "Artem Vedel: Divine Liturgy and 12 Sacred Choral Concerti," is Maestro Wolodymyr Kolesnyk's contribution to the rewriting of music history," declared musicologist Olesia Talpash at the book launch of this first published edition of Artem Vedel's autographed manuscript, held November 12 at the Youth Unity Center (SUM) in Edmonton.
"This publication brought to fruition Wolodymyr Kolesnyk's ultimate goal and dream to make Vedel's manuscripts, which had been buried over 200 years in the Central Library of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv, accessible to musicians and choirs around the world. Unbeknownst to the late maestro, this is also his last gift to the world of music that he loved with a passion." "After Maestro Kolesnyk's death in 1997, the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta with the help of the Friends of the Vedel Project in Toronto, worked with even greater conviction and vigor to overcome all problems and adversity in order to put this book into the hands of music lovers," said Irene Szmihelsky music educator and former president of UMSA, in speaking about the initiation, progress and culmination of the project which was proposed by Maestro Kolesnyk in 1995.
In her presentation Ms. Talpash gave an overview of Vedel's life, explaining why Vedel is little known in the context of Western, or mainstream, music history. Artem Vedel (1767-1808), a contemporary of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, is one of the most prominent Ukrainian composers of the 18th century, and most closely represents Ukrainian music traditions of the time. Vedel, like other highly educated Ukrainian musicians, was thoroughly familiar with Western European music and compositional practices. According to Yakov Soroker, author of "Ukrainian Musical Elements in Classical Music," Romantic composers who often relied on the music of Eastern countries for inspiration, did not demonstrate an awareness of a distinct Ukrainian music, often "misidentifying" it as "Russian," "Hungarian" or "Turkish."
This can be partly explained by the fact that Vedel lived in times that were very difficult for Ukraine. The reign of Catherine II was a time of intense subjugation of Ukrainian culture to Russian culture. Singers, musicians, writers, poets, and scholars were "invited" or forcibly transferred north in the service of Imperial Russia. There were reprisals against those who resisted Vedel was arrested and put into a mental asylum. As Ms. Talpash put it: "Today, we talk about having to make it in Toronto or New York; the move to Moscow or St. Petersburg to further one's career was not ... always self-initiated."
The brevity of Vedel's creative life, some 12 years in all, was nevertheless productive in terms of his output as a singer, choral conductor and composer of more than 80 extant works. These consist entirely of sacred and liturgical music for unaccompanied choir, as required by the Eastern rite. His 21 choral concerti while revealing a strong relationship with Ukrainian folklore, kant and psalm melodies, drew on Western European classicism, especially that of Italy, for aspects of form, harmonic language and choral texture.
After Vedel was incarcerated, his works were banned from publication and performance well into the early 20th century. Nevertheless, his music circulated in the form of handwritten copies, resulting in many versions of his works, few of which were true to the original manuscripts.
Now, finally, his greatest works have been published in a beautiful hardcover 380-page tome: 12 sacred choral concerti, six excerpts from the divine liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and a work for trio and choir. This edition is notable in its attention to both authenticity and practical accessibility; its bilingual format and transliterated concerti text make it an excellent resource for musicologists and performers.
Maestro Kolesnyk himself contributed a much-needed article on the proper interpretation of Vedel's music. Consequently, the significant amount of scholarly theoretical research contained in the volume will help the glorious music of Vedel take its rightful place in the history of Ukrainian and global music tradition.
Halyna Kotovych is secretary of the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, December 24, 2000, No. 52, Vol. LXVIII
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