A commitment to uncovering Voices from the East , leads us to the much undiscovered work of Ukrainian composer Feodor Akimenko (1876-1945).

You might have heard of Akimenko as the first composition teacher of Stravinsky, or perhaps as a student of Rimsky-Korsakov.

A composer, pianist and musicologist, Akimenko was born in the Ukraine in 1876 and at age 10 was sent to St. Petersburg where he sang in the court a cappella choir. It was here he began to compose, and later teach.

Akimenko emigrated to Prague in 1924 and while living there began to rekindle his interest in Ukrainian culture. He effectively began a journey of Ukrainization, after growing up in a Ukraine that had undergone ‘Russification’ (during all the nineteenth century, until 1918, Ukraine was officially called ‘Little Russia’). This reunification with the culture of his home country lasted for the rest of his life. Though by then living in Paris, his late work was strongly marked by Ukrainian themes, featuring works such as Ukrainian Suite and Ukrainian Pictures, Christmas carols and choral arrangements of Ukrainian folksongs.

The composer was also greatly influenced by the prevailing Russian and later French genre of Salon music. Angel: Poem Nocturne was an important work in his stylistic development. Based upon the poem of the same name by Mikhail Lermontov, Akimenko perfected an individual lyrical use of expressive romantic Impressionism to embody the calm nocturnal mood of the poem.

We’re just at the beginning of the discovery of Akimenko’s music; much treasure remains to be heard.

We perform Akimenko’s Angel: Poem Nocturne at the BBC Proms at Bristol Beacon on 25 August.

“This is music with deep meaning, it searches for identity and beauty and is all wrapped up within a musical language that fuses east and west. These are absolute orchestral masterpieces that deserve to be known.”  Chief Conductor Kirill Karabits on the Voices from the East series