NOTES ABOUT NIKOLAI DMITRIEVICH OVSYANIKO-KULIKOVSKY'S SYMPHONY NO. 21 IN g MINOR
By Frank Forman

[These notes are about a work recorded by the great Russian conductor, Evgeny Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, for the Soviet record label, Melodiya, in 1954. It was released twice on that label as D 851/2 and D 2954/5 and also issued in the United States in 1956 as one side of a Westminster LP, XWN 18191. The notes come from _Mravinsky Discography_, edited by Kenzo Amoh, Frank Forman, and Hiroshi Hashizume (Osaka: The Japanese Mravinsky Society, 1993 March 20). An updated version of the discography, but with much peripheral matter deleted, was published as Frank Forman and Kenzo Amoh, "Evgeny Mravinsky Discopgraphy," _ARSC [Association for Recorded Sound Collections] Journal_, Vol. 25, No. 1 (1994 Spring).]

This symphony, aside from Marius Casadesus' composing the so-called "Adelaide Concerto" and attributing it to the young Mozart, is one of the most notorious fake antiques in the annals of music. It originated when a Ukrainian- Jewish composer, Mikhail Emmanuilovich Goldstein (1851 Odessa-1989 Hamburg) had written a work on Ukrainian themes and a critic claimed the composer could not understand Ukrainian music, since a different blood flowed in his veins. It was pointed out that Beethoven himself used Ukrainian material in his works; "he was not a Jew," was the response. One of Goldstein's friends suggested he make fools of the critics, as Fritz Kreisler had done, by passing off an original work as the music of an earlier Ukrainian composer. Goldstein chose Nikolai Dmitrievich Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky, an actual historical figure and landowner who had presented his serf orchestra to the Odessa Theater in 1810. Goldstein then announced in 1948 that he had "discovered" a symphony while searching in the Odessa Conservatory library, of which he was then the librarian. The ostensible work was Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky's Symphony no. 21 in g minor, subtitled "for the dedication of the Odessa Theater," and composed in 1809. The work caused general rejoicing among the Soviet cultural commissars. Here was proof positive that Mother Russia, in the face of all those Czarist-imported Italians and Frenchmen, could produce a symphonist of Haydn's stature--or nearly. Furthermore, this symphonist was no slavish imitator, but a true patriot who had ended his work with a Cossack dance. (Never mind that the composer and dance were technically Ukrainian.) It was premiered in Odessa and Kiev in 1949, published in 1951 by the [Soviet] State Music Publishers, hastily recorded by Mravinsky for Melodiya, and made the subject of at least two dissertations by Soviet musicologists. The hoax was finally revealed when one of the musicologists, Taranov, asked to examine the manuscript. (Likewise, Casadesus was unable to produce manuscripts for his own fake antiques, which also included viola concerti by J.C. Bach, Handel, and Hummel.) Taranov was asked to give his opinion: he concluded the symphony was written neither by Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky nor Goldstein! Goldstein was branded a liar, an opportunist, and a traitor to Russian culture for making the outrageous and self-seeking claim that he had written the symphony. Goldstein himself emigrated to East Germany in 1964, leaving this madness behind him. He worked as a musicologist in East Berlin and Israel in 1967 and later taught at the Menuhin Music School in England and the Musashino Academia Musicae in Tokyo. He finally settled in Hamburg in 1969 and joined the faculty of the Hochschule fr Musik and the editorial staff of Reimann's _Musik Lexikon_. [Compiled from Allan Ho & Dmitry Feofanov, _Biographical Dictionary of Russian/Soviet Composers_ (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1989), pp. 182-3, and David Mason Greene, _Greene's Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers_ (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1985), p. 488.]

The English version of the trilingual text of the Melodiya 1956 reissue, D 2954-5 (the original 1952 issue was on D 851/2), reads as follows (grammar corrected): "The fate of this composition is unusual in the full sense of the word. PremiŠred in Odessa in 1809 on the day when the town theater was opened, the composition vanished, leaving no trace, and was found only 140 years later. It was again successfully performed at a concert in Kiev. "It was ascertained that N.D. Ovsyaniko- Kulikovsky (1768-1846), a native of Kherson province, was the author of the symphony. But this supposition still needs confirmation. The meaning of the figure "21" which the score bears is so far also not clear. Does it mean that the composer had created more than twenty symphonic works or that this figure has some other, yet unknown meaning? This problem is being given the necessary attention and will probably be solved. But the music of the symphony tells us a lot. "It is obvious that the author is a master, possessing a free style of music writing. Methods of development of the material tell us of great influence of the symphonic style of the Viennese classics and that the author had been thoroughly acquainted with or even studied under some of the Viennese musicians. At the same time it is quite obvious that in his symphony the composer does not simply aim at imitating the great masterpieces of Mozart and Haydn but to transplant their creative gains onto his native soil and to inspire the music of his symphony with the poetry of Ukrainian folk melody. "Themes of the First Movement are very close to Ukrainian folksongs. It begins with a lyrical, soft introduction of a sincere character (Adagio), which is followed by a buoyant Allegro, which is full of motion. "The Second Movement (Adagio) bears the name "Romance" and is melodiously close to works of this type, which are very common and loved in the Ukraine. As in many Ukrainian ballads, you can hear in this movement the tunes of lyrical folksongs. "The Third Movement--Minuet (Allegro)-- also possesses the features of simplicity, nobleness, and soft humor that connect this classical form with Ukrainian folk music. In the trio of the minuet, the author makes use of a genuine Ukrainian folk song, "Oh, at the Hill, at the Ferry." "The most vivid, as far as national coloring is concerned, is the Finale (Presto), with its brilliant Cossack national dance, which is full of gaiety. Before the listener pass dances of young lads, swift as a whirlwind, and which give place to graceful and swimming dances of girls. It is as if the composer was painting a colorful picture of the life of his people. "The symphony as a whole gives a true picture of the peculiarities of the Ukrainian character: deep lyricism and meditation, soft humor, and boisterous manifestations of energy and merriment. "The symphony was published in 1951 by the State Music Publishers. It has been edited for the modern symphony orchestra by A.G. Svechnikov."

Although the hoax was revealed over thirty years ago, the work is still regarded as genuine in some references. _The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians_ (1980), for example, states in its article on Ukrainian music: "A number of outstanding composers were active [in Ukraine] in the 19th century, including Nykolay Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky, whose Symphony No. 21 was discovered in manuscript in the Odessa archives in 1949 by the violinist Gold'stein. The symphony shows advanced compositional techniques; structurally it closely resembles Haydn, although it is based on Ukrainian folk themes. It was given premiŠre in 1809 at the inauguration of the Odessa theater" (Vol. 19, p. 407).

I doubt the error will ever go away entirely. In 1917 H.L. Mencken published "A Neglected Anniversary," which he had thought was an obviously false history of the use of the bathtub in America. Later he wrote: "I had confidence that the customers at the [New York] Evening Mail would like it. Alas they liked it only too well. That is to say, they swallowed it as gospel, gravely and horribly. Worse, they began sending clippings of it to friends east, west, north, and south, and so it spread to other papers, and then to the magazines and weeklies of opinion, and then to the scientific press, and finally to the reference books. To this day it is in circulation, and, as I say, has broken into the reference books, and is there embalmed for the instruction and edification of posterity.... "My point is that, despite all this extravagant frenzy for the truth, there is something in the human mind that turns instinctively to fiction.... It is a sheer impossibility for human beings to think exclusively in terms of the truth. For one thing, the stock of indubitable truths is too scanty. For another thing, there is the aversion to them that I have mentioned. All of our thinking is in terms of assumptions, many of them plainly not true. Into our most solemn and serious reflections fictions enter--and three times out of four they quickly crowd out all the facts. "That this is true needs no argument. Every man, thinking of his wife, has to assume that she is beautiful and amiable, else despair will seize him and he will be unable to think at all. Every American, contemplating Dr. Coolidge [then President of the United States], is physically bound to admire him: the alternative is anarchy. Every Christian, viewing the clergy, is forced into bold theorizing to save himself from Darwinism. And all of us, taking stock of ourselves, must resort to hypothesis to escape the river. "What ails the truth is that it is mainly uncomfortable, and often dull. The human mind seeks something more amusing, and more caressing. What the actual history of the bathtub may be I don't know: digging it out would be a dreadful job, and the result, after all that labor, would probably be a string of banalities. The fiction I concocted back in 1917 was at least better than that. It lacked sense, but it was certainly not without a certain charm. There were heroes in it, and villains. It revealed a conflict, with virtue winning. So it was embraced by mankind, precisely as the story of George Washington and the cherry tree was embraced, and it will live, I daresay, until it is displaced by something worse--and hence better" (_The Chicago Sunday Tribune_, 1926/7/25). As late as 1948, Mencken noted that, "scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions." I myself last spotted the bathtub hoax passed off as serious history in late 1991.

The 1956 Westminster issue of the ostensible Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky symphony did not expose its authorship, but that was during the days when even mild criticism of the Soviets could result in the withdrawal of future licensing arrangements with Melodiya. So American record companies, wishing to continue using Soviet material, had to be very careful. Likewise, when Yehudi Menuhin recorded the Adelaide Concerto, with Pierre Monteux and the Paris Symphony about 1938, the notes said only that the work was orchestrated by Marius Casadesus. Menuhin, who was about nineteen years old at the time of the recording, must have felt proud at being given the honor of making the first recording of the work. When Menuhin re- recorded the work for EMI about 1976, the liner notes were also kind to him and noted merely: "Mozart is said to have composed his Concerto in D ("Adelaide"), K.Anh. 249a, in 1766, at the age of ten for the royal violinist Madame Ad‚laide of France, eldest daughter of King Louis XV. The young musician wrote the piece, destined for a "petit violon," or "violon de dame," as a simple sketch on only two staves, the upper being devoted to the solo part and the tutti, while the lower accommodated the bass part. The score, traced to a private collector in France, was edited for publication by Marius Casadesus; cadenzas, brilliant but somewhat unidiomatic, were provided by Paul Hindemith. The composition is fluent and graceful; its charms are real and beguiling."

Being nice to Menuhin by not embarrassing him is one thing, but the sheer sycophancy of many liner notes of Western releases of Soviet recordings is another matter entirely. These notes often scrupulously followed whatever was then the current Soviet propaganda line. Finding out when the Soviets first dropped Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky from their roster of composers would truly be "a dreadful job." Perhaps he is still in certain Soviet reference works. Mencken again: he wrote an expos‚ of his bathtub hoax, which was printed in several newspapers, including the Boston Herald. "And then on June 13, three weeks later, in the same editorial section but promoted to page 1, this same Herald reprinted my 10 year old fake-- soberly and as a piece of news!"

1993 January 10