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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mykola Ovsianiko-Kulikovsky (1768–1846) was the subject of a famous musical hoax.

In 1948, composer and violinist Mikhail Goldstein announced that he had discovered the manuscript of a symphony by Ovsianiko-Kulikovsky in the archives of the theater in Odessa. The G minor work, numbered 21, was said to have been written in 1809; it bore the inscription "for the dedication of the Odessa Theater". The discovery caused a great deal of excitement in Soviet musical circles, for it was seen as proof that Russia had been able to produce a symphonist of comparable stature to Joseph Haydn. Furthermore, the symphony contained Ukrainian folk songs and ended with a Cossack dance, showing that the composer had a nationalist awareness. This piece was subsequently proven to be a fake.


Purported composer

Little is known about Ovsianiko-Kulikovsky's life besides his dates of birth (1768) and death (1846). A native of Kherson Oblast, he is known to have been a landowner and patron of the arts; in 1810 he presented his orchestra of serfs to the Odessa Theater. No evidence has yet come to light to suggest that he was active as a composer.

Hoax discovery

The piece was performed in Odessa and in Kiev in 1949, and was published by the state music publishers in 1951. It was also quickly recorded for Melodiya by Yevgeny Mravinsky, and was soon the subject of treatises by two Soviet musicologists. One of the musicologists to study the work was a composer and Kiev conservatory professor named Gleb Taranov, who was asked to examine the manuscript of the symphony. Upon completing his examination, he concluded that neither Ovsianiko-Kulikovsky nor Mikhail Goldstein had written the symphony. Goldstein, however, stated that the symphony was in fact his own work. He had been stung when a critic savaged his use of Ukrainian themes in one of his own pieces, claiming that as a Jew he could not understand Ukrainian culture and had no right to use it in his music. When Goldstein replied that Beethoven also made use of Ukrainian themes in his "Razumovsky Quartets" the critic said bluntly that "Beethoven was not a Jew." The symphony, then, was written as an act of revenge, to prove that he could, in fact, write "Ukrainian" music. Vsevolod Chehovets, a philosemitic Ukrainian musician-friend of his made the suggestion to ascribe the symphony to "Ovsianniko-Kulikovsky".

Goldstein was branded a liar and a traitor to Soviet culture for his actions; in 1964 he emigrated from Ukraine to West Germany. He spent his remaining years teaching and working as a musicologist in Germany.

The Melodiya recording of the symphony has recently been reissued.


Ovsianiko-Kulikovsky: Symphony No. 21. full score, 22.2 x 30cm 79pp. Moscow, Muzgiz, 1951. 480 copies printed.


The hoax was and continues not to be acknowledged and the work continues to be taught in courses on Ukrainian music at the major conservatories in Ukraine.


MELODIYA - MEL 1000933 Evgeni Mravinsky Glazunov & Ovsianiko-Kulikovski

Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra
Evgeni Mravinski, conductor
  • Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) Symphony No. 4 in E flat Major en, op. 48
  • Nikolai Ovsianiko-Kulikovski (Michael Goldstein) Symphony No. 21 in G minor
1 CD - ADD - TT: 55' 42
Recorded in 1948 (Glazunov) & 1954 (Ovsianiko-Kulikovski)




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