Left - Classical bandura made by William Vetzal.
Right - Kobzar Tkachenko with his students.
The classical bandura was chiefly used by kobzars in solo performance as an accompaniment to epic ballads called dumy, also for religious psalms and historic folk songs. It was also used for the playing of dance tunes. Several exponents of the traditional classical bandura such as Julian Kytasty, Volodymyr Kushpet, and Mykola Budnyk are now coming to the forefront. Interest in this traditional bandura playing in Ukraine and the West is growing. Instruments of this type are now being made by individual craftspeople in Ukraine and Canada. Occasionally in music sources one comes across the incorrect politicaly motivated use of the word "bandore", instead of bandura.
This has resulted because of the suggestion by the Russian academic A. Famintsyn that the Ukrainian people had borrowed the bandura from England from a guitar-like instrument developed invented in 1561 by John Rose that he called a bandore. This has since been disproved. The first mentions of the bandura in Ukraine now date to more than a hundred years earlier.
The Kharkiv Bandura
The Kharkiv style of bandura playing was developed by Hnat Khotkevych. At the turn of the century Khotkevych published the first textbook for bandura in 1909 in Lviv. This text introduced the method of playing the classical bandura with 20 strings. In the 1920's the bandura was introduced as an instrument taught at the Kharkiv Conservatory. A new concert instrument evolved having 30 to 31 strings, tuned diatonically through four octaves. The instrument was held so that the player could use both hands over all the strings. It was later made in three orchestral sizes: piccolo, prima and bass. These early Kharkiv banduras were designed by Leonid Haydamaka. The Kharkiv bandura was developed into a fully chromatic instrument by the Honcharenko brothers in 1946. Further developments continue to take place in North America mainly in the instruments made by Bill Vetzal in Canada.
T. Paliyivetz - master bandura-maker, Poltava, with newly made Kharkiv banduras for the Polta va Bandurist Chorus
Hryhoriy Bazhul with the Kharkiv bandura
The Kharkiv style of bandura-playing disappeared in Ukraine and was used at one time only by emigre bandurists. Recently Professor Vasyl Herasymenko in Lviv has made several Kharkiv-style instruments and has actively tried to reintroduce the style back into mainstream Ukrainian musical life. The most renown exponents of this style in Ukraine are Oleh Sozansky and Taras Lazurkevych in Lviv. The contemporary Kharkiv bandura is now a chromatically tuned instrument with a mechanism on each string that allows the instrument to be retuned into various keys quickly.
Ken Bloom with his Kharkiv bandura
The Kyiv Bandura
The Kyiv bandura was developed in the 20th century based on the classical instrument. The instrument differed from the classical bandura in that it had many more strings. Additional chromatic strings were introduced onto the instrument, initially just the leading note string in 1916 and then all 5 chromatic strings in 1925 bt bandura maker Olexander Kornievsky. In 1956 the Chernihiv musical instrument factory began manufacturing a scientifically redesigned instrument developed by master bandura-maker - Ivan Skliar. Since then the instrument has been stable in its shape and method of playing. The contemporary Kyiv bandura is made in several sizes and types. The most common is the standard 'prima' instrument made by the Chernihiv Instrument Factory with 12 bass and 43 treble strings tuned chromatically through almost five octaves. The professional concert bandura is the same size and shape as the 'prima'. It has 62 to 65 and a universal mechanism like that of a harp to rapidly change the tuning of the strings. Smaller sized instruments for children with 42 strings are also available, and alto, bass and contrabass banduras are used in professional bandura choruses in Ukraine.
The Lviv musical instrument factory now manufactures small size concert banduras with mechanism with 65 strings and a full range geared toward younger players. These instruments were designed by Professor Vasyl Herasymenko, and will no doubt help establish a professional class of bandurists. The Kyiv bandura has developed into a very capable virtuoso instrument, with original music such as suites, sonatas and concertos being composed for it by professional composers. Gradually it is leaving the confines of its folkloric environment. Courses in bandura are now being taught in several conservatories in Ukraine and brilliant performers are now emerging.
With the popularity of Ukrainian folkloric instrumental and vocal ensembles the need for orchestral banduras to even out the sound in the upper and lower registers became important.
The first orchestral banduras were Kharkiv-style banduras designed by Leonid Haydamaka in the late 1920's made for the Metalsit Ukrainian Folk Instrument Orchestra. N. Lupych made a fretted bass bandura for the Kyiv Bandura Chorus in 1935. The Honcharenko brothers developed bass and contrabass banduras with a fretboard and treble strings, in the experimental workshop of the Shevchenko Bandurist Chorus in Ingolstadt, Germany. Ivan Skliar also developed alto, bass and contrabass banduras for the Kyiv Bandurist Chorus in the early 1960's. These instruments were built on the principles of the Kyiv concert bandura and some included a retuning mechanism. In the 1970's a fretted bass was developed by Mykola Chystota for the Kiev Bandurist Chorus. This instrument had three bass stings tuned in fourths and 12 chromatically tuned treble strings. The ease of playing and sound quality of these instruments was so good that they soon replaced the bass banduras developed by Ivan Skliar.
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