Stepovy Yakiv Stepanovich (real surname Yakymenko) (born October 20, 1883, Kharkiv, Ukraine – died November 4, 1921, Kyiv, Ukraine) was a Ukrainian composer, teacher, music critic, representative of the Ukrainian music intelligentsia of the first quarter of the 20th century, one of the founders of the national school of composers and a follower of Mykola Lysenko’s traditions.
Yakiv Stepanovych Stepovy was born Yakymenko in 1883 in Kharkiv, in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine) into the family of a retired non-commissioned officer. His father loved music and sang in the church choir. Yakiv had two brothers, Fedir and Mykola, who were also musically gifted. Fedir and Yakiv, later became outstanding Ukrainian composers.
At first Yakiv’s elder brother Fedir started studying music at St. Peterburg Court Chapel, and then in 1895 Yakiv joined him. In the chapel the boys played the piano and string and wind instruments, sang in the choir, learned to conduct. In 1902, Stepovy graduated from the chapel and entered the St. Peterburg Conservatory. His teachers were Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (theory, composition, instrumentation), Anatoly Lyadov (harmony), and Jāzeps Vītols (analysis of musical forms). Stepovy graduated from the conservatory in 1909, but received his diploma only in 1914. His friendship with Nikolai Myaskovsky began during Stepovy’s student years. At Myaskovsky’s house Stepovy became acquainted with famous musicians such as Sergei Prokofiev, Ihor Glebov and others.
Since 1906 Stepovy had been actively involved in the organization of Shevchenko’s literary-musical gatherings in St. Petersburg, there he introduced Ukrainian music to the audience. Stepovy began his career as a Ukrainian composer. In 1904-1905, he wrote the vocal cycle Periwinkles (Barvinky) based on texts by Ukrainian poets; in 1907-1909, Stepovy wrote vocal cycle Songs of Mood (Pisni nastroyu) based on the poems by Oleksandr Oles.
During the summer of 1909-1914, he often visited Ukraine and recorded Ukrainian folk songs. Stepovy interacted with Ukrainian musicians, in particular with Kyrylo Stetsenko, whom he visited in Tivrov in 1911.
Several Stepovy’s concerts took place in Russia. In 1912, Stepovy took part in a literary-musical gathering in St. Petersburg in memory of Taras Shevchenko. He wrote the piano work Prelude to the Memory of Taras Shevchenko for this event.
In 1914, Stepovy was mobilized into the tsarist army, he served at the front as a clerk for the military hospital train and returned from the war only in 1917. In the same year he became a teacher of theoretical disciplines at the Kiev Conservatory. On behalf of the Ukrainian authorities, Yakiv Stepovy together with Mykola Leontovych, Kyrylo Stetsenko, and Oleksandr Koshyts organized a music department at the Ministry of Education. Soon Stepovy became the head of the music section of the All-Ukrainian Musical Committee attached to the People’s Commissariat for Enlightenment. In 1919, he became musical director of the Muzychna Drama Theater, directed by Les Kurbas, and the State Vocal Ensemble. In 1920, initiated by Yakiv Stepovy, the performances of the State String Quartet began. He also worked on the project of creating a conducting institute. Stepovy wrote the work Popular Course of Elementary Music Theory and short review articles for the journal Muzyka (Music).
Yakiv Stepovy worked fruitfully as a composer, he had many creative plans, but, unfortunately, in the prime of life he died of typhoid fever on November 2, 1921 in Kyiv.
The leading genres of Stepovy’s work are chamber-vocal and piano music. The composer wrote songs and romances on the poems of Ukrainian poets such as Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, Lesya Ukrainka, Oleksandr Konysky, Mykola Chernyavsky, Oleksandr Oles, Mykola Vorony, Maksym Rylsky and others. For Ukrainian national musical culture Stepovy’s romances are especially important.
The most notable place in Stepovy’s works is occupied by vocal cycles – Periwinkles (Barvinky; 1904-1905) on the texts of various Ukrainian poets, Songs of Mood (Pisni nastroyu; 1907-1909) on the poems of Oleksandr Oles, and Three Poems (Try virshi; 1911) by Maksym Rylsky. Stepovy’s work also includes a romance based on a text by Heinrich Heine (translated into Russian by L. May).
He wrote a number of instrumental pieces: for cello – Cantabile, for violin – Romance, Melody, for piano – rondo, sonata, fantasy, Prelude to the Memory of Taras Shevchenko (1912), two symphonic suites on Ukrainian themes, etc. Stepovy arranged folk songs. He compiled the first collection of revolutionary songs in Ukraine (International, Varshavyanka, etc.). He began work on the opera The Captive (Nevol’nyk) by T. Shevchenko (the manuscript has not survived). Stepovy published collections of songs for children For Small children (Malym dityam), Snowdrops (Prolisky) – 3 issues; Five School Choirs (P‘yat’ shkil’nykh khoriv), Kobzar – a collection of 20 poems by Taras Shevchenko).
You can find and download free scores of the composer:
FIVE MINIATURES :
- Small waltz in A major, Op. 10 No. 1
- Prelude in D minor, Op. 10 No. 2
- Prelude in E major, Op. 10 No. 3
- Like a Dance, Op. 10 No. 4
- Little Poem in A minor, Op. 10 No. 5
- Waltz in B minor, Op. 5 No. 1
- Elegy in A minor, Op. 5 No. 2
- Dance in C major, Op. 5 No. 4
- Lullaby, Op. 7 No. 3
- Dance in A major, Op. 14 No. 3
- Prelude in A minor, Op. 7 No. 4
- Prelude in B-flat minor, Op. 9 No. 1
- Mazurka, Op. 9 No. 2
- Song Without Words, Op. 9 No. 3
- Prelude in F major, Op. 12 No. 1
- Prelude in D minor
- Rondo in G major
- Rondo in B minor
- Fantasy in E minor
- Prelude to the Memory of Taras Shevchenko, Op. 13