Myroslav Skoryk was born in what was then-Polish Lviv into a family of intellectuals with music in its bloodline. His parents were educated at Vienna University, and while they had no formal training, they were musical and fostered his interest from an early age, while his great aunt was acclaimed Ukrainian soprano Solomiya Krushelnytska. It seems preordained Skoryk would become an accomplished composer, pianist and conductor and it is as the former he made his mark. His operas and symphony music, as well as music written for both the big and small screens, make up his catalogue of musical masterpieces, and his bio is lengthy and speaks for itself – but it is not enough to understand the man behind the music. What’s On meets the maestro at the National Opera House to understand what it’s like to be a classical music composer in the 21st century.
The international festival Days of Music of Myroslav Skoryk is a big event that involves different musical ensembles, orchestras and foreign soloists you’ve worked with. What is the programme like?
The festival opens on 13 September with opera Moses here at the National Opera House and finishes with ballet 24 Caprises by Paganini (Skoryk composed a score for the ballet). In between there will be concerts involving both national and academic orchestras. I am taking my 75th birthday very seriously, so I am making a kind of life’s summary with this festival.
Looking back at your long and successful career, can you tell us who has been your main teacher not only in music, but in life as well?
I must admit my father played a crucial role in my life: he had his own musical ambitions, he used to play violin and even tried composing a bit. It was he who encouraged me to become a composer, especially when I, as a young boy, would rather be playing football with friends than studying music. Being a historian and ethnographer, he urged me to write music to Ivan Franko’s poem Moses. This was impossible in Soviet times, as this poem was disapproved of by the regime, so unfortunately my father never had the chance to hear the result, but I’m happy I fulfilled my father’s wish.
Despite having a variety of symphonic music, operas and so on in your portfolio, your Melody A Minor remains your most-recognisable piece, due, in part, to it being used for Holodomor commemoration ceremonies every year. Did you ever envisage a melody you wrote for a Ukrainian movie back in the 1980s, would be so enduring?
It was absolutely unexpected – a composer can never guess which of his melodies will become widely recognised and which won’t. It’s quite surprising, as the melody itself is not easy at all – it’s not a music you catch on to after hearing it for the first time. As for being used for Holodomor commemorations – if I’m honest, I had doubts about whether to allow it. But then I thought my Melody reflects feelings of sorrow and compassion, but at the same time it’s not absolutely mournful, it also has a life-affirming mood, so I decided to let the music live its own life.
Realistically speaking, what prospects does a young Ukrainian composer have in Ukraine these days?
Choosing to be a composer in any country is tough. It demands a lot of work and a lot of good luck as well. The whole world today is experiencing the crisis in classical music, as pop music with its fast turnaround hits dominates. For the past 10 years pop music has strangled classical music both in concert halls and in cinemas. It makes no sense to fight with pop music; we simply need to wait out this period and know what people like to listen to. I sometimes visit modern music concerts but enjoy operas and ballets at the National Opera House more.
Days Of Music Of Myroslav Skoryk
Concerts, operas and ballets will take place at the National Opera House of Ukraine (Volodymyrska 50), National Philharmonic of Ukraine (Volodymyrskiy Uzviz 2), Tchaikovsky National Musical Academy (Architect Horodetsky 1/3), National Academy of Culture of Ukraine (Lavska 21)
13 September – 13 October
by Kateryna Kyselyova