Coryphaeus of Odessa choral school

The article is written for the 90th anniversary of Professor Hryhoriy Lioznov, in 2014. The author of the article is Leonid Butenko (1948-2018), Honored Artist of Ukraine, Candidate of Art History, Professor of the Department of Choral Conducting of the Odessa National Music Academy named after A. Nezhdanova, chief choirmaster of the Odessa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater (1974-2018).

The commemoration of the anniversary began in Kyiv. In the crowded Great Hall of NMAU named after P. Tchaikovsky Hryhoriy Semenovych was greeted by representatives of the capital’s music community, the world-famous ensemble – the Ukrainian national honored academic Folk Choir named after G. Veryovka and its artistic director, – Hero of Ukraine, Laureate of the State Prize, Professor, Academician, People’s Artist of Ukraine – Anatoliy Avdievsky (longtime close friend of H. Lioznov, since he was a student).

Hryhoriy Lioznov

The warm relaxed atmosphere warmed with Odessa-style humor prevailed both during the solemn part, where Hryhoriy Semenovych was awarded the Anniversary medal of K. Pigrov – the founder of the Odessa Choral School, – and during the master class, which was artistically conducted by Hryhoriy Semenovych personally.

As a musician and choral conductor, Hryhoriy Semenovych was formed and brought up under the direct guidance of the founder of the Odessa Choral School K. Pigrov. It should be noted that when G. Lioznov was invited by K. Pigrov to work with the choir as a choirmaster, the combined choir of the conservatory and music collage was a brilliant concert ensemble, known for its skills far beyond the country. Representing a unique phenomenon among the educational choirs of music universities, its composition, quality parameters, fine interpretation of pieces often surpassed the best professional groups, which is easy to notice when comparing archival records of different performances.

The founder of the Odessa choral school K. Pigrov during his art life created wonderful choirs, which were distinguished by excellent training, flexibility, soft sound. He founded a well-known professional group – the National Choir of the Republic of Moldova “Doyna”. But the main merit of K. Pigrov, of course, was the creation of the first choral school in Ukraine, whose pupils were as dedicated to their work, as its founder. K. Pigrov was also accompanied by a phenomenally talented choral conductor-interpreter D. Zahretsky, – a teacher of conducting of Hryhoriy Semenovych – a profound musician-encyclopedist V. Ship, and a number of other Pigrov- choirmasters who form the core of the choral school named after him.

V. Verdi, V. Ship, K. Pigrov, H. Lioznov

The example of Pigrov’s selfless service to the choral art became a guide for Hryhoriy Semenovych as well. Wherever he worked, his creative activity was marked by bright achievements. The highest artistic level of the student choir of the conservatory allowed Hryhoriy Semenovych to realize his refined interpretations, creative ideas and to improve himself as a master musician.

In the late 1980s, getting the leadership of the famous student group, Hryhoriy Semenovych significantly expanded the creative range, including works of avant-garde and post-avant-garde trends in the repertoire. Such an unexpected repertoire deviation not only did not harm Pigrov’s school, but, having established it as an open self-developing system, the universal principles of which are able to ensure the artistic performance of works of any direction, gave it new breath. For example, after performing Michel del Aguila’s Requiem in Vienna (conducted by Hobart Earle), Austrian music critic E. Baumgartner noted that “the concert was brilliant thanks to the excellent smooth sound of the Odessa Conservatory choir with impeccable sound culture of the greatest nobility.”

H. Lioznov, O. Tarasenko

What is the secret of Hryhoriy Semenovych’s conducting art?

Let’s leave aside the conversation about his talent and turn to the analysis of the components of his performing interpretations – strikingly subtle, thoughtful, convincing. Undoubtedly, Hryhoriy Semenovych’s thinking is deeply artistic and emotionally expressive. He is an excellent connoisseur of musical styles. His sound choral palette is precise and colorful. Expressive means are demanding, adequate to the sound state of a particular style of piece. It is not about the authenticity of the performance, but about its technical side: phrasing, articulation techniques, principles of dynamics, nature of sound, tempo-rhythmic pulsation, which create a special sound “bouquet” that determines the work of a particular style, and more broadly – to a particular epoch. At the same time, we emphasize in the performance of the choir under the direction of Hryhoriy Semenovych the individual imprint of the personality, the features that make up the personal style.

The last is based on the high general culture of the master and his clear worldview, as a conductor, to the reproducible images of the piece. The choice of tempo, and the whole tempo-rhythmic side of the performance, always unmistakably determines the level of talent of the musician, the depth of his penetration into the figurative system of the piece. The clear architectonics of the compositions during the performance of choral pieces by Hryhoriy Semenovych acquires flexibility, elasticity, fluidity. The tempo-rhythmic pulse not only attracts the listeners of the concerts to exciting form- and style-forming processes, but also turns them into an active participant in the performance. And so we can tell about each of the components of the performing arts of conductor H. Lioznov, where all the components merge into a common generalizing style of the musician-performer – the intonation of music.

The art of figurative and semantic intonation of music today is a rare quality of a performer. This is especially noticeable in choral program music, where the text is a detailed program for both the performer and the listener. If the listener finds a complete fusion of musical flow and figurative text, it can speak not only about the perfection of the composition, but also about the skill of the performer, who managed to soften, retouch possible inaccuracies of the piece, inconsistencies of literary text and musical means used by the author of composition. The vivid choral performance, which remains in the memory of the audience, presents us a conductor-interpreter as a co-author, although we do not deny the secondary nature of the performing art.

Hryhoriy Semenovych has a talent to speak to listeners in a convincing, bright and figurative choral language. This is especially surprising, because he communicates with the audience with a large team of singers who convey the vision of the conductor monotonously, solid, mono-emotional, trembling, etc., in other words, there is a collective demiurgic process organized and guided by the will and talent of the conductor.

G. Shpak, H. Lioznov, V. Regrut

Pigrov’s choral school, along with universal technological “equipment” and understanding of the secrets of performing skills, developed students’ artistic thinking, or more precisely – its theatrical type. In this regard, Hryhoriy Semenovych was better prepared than others in his student years, as from an early age his love of painting, theater and especially poetry taught him to see vivid images above the text of the poems. Skillfully mastering all instruments of choral expression, Hryhoriy Semenovych convincingly embodies them in his interpretations, which was constantly emphasized by music critics.

As the artistic director of the choir class, Professor H. Lioznov brought up a galaxy of choral conductors who worthily represent the Odessa Choral School at the most prestigious international competitions and festivals. Students of Hryhoriy Semenovych Lioznov successfully develop the basic principles of the choral school, its rich performing traditions both in Ukraine and abroad. Words of deep gratitude to their mentor sound in their speeches, articles, academic works.

The material for the site was prepared by the leader and conductor of the student choir of the Odessa National Music Academy named after A. Nezhdanova, Associate Professor of Choral Conducting, Candidate of Arts, Chairman of the Odessa Regional Branch of the Ukrainian Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych of the National Ukrainian Music Union Shpak Halyna.

The use of materials from the site is allowed only with a link (hyperlink) to “All-Ukrainian Choral Society named after M. Leontovych“.