A bassoonist’s DNA

Zachary Senick rediscovers his Ukrainian roots in a very personal way.



During my Master’s Degree I wanted to find a piece by a Ukrainian composer to include in my recital because I have Ukrainian heritage with my family originally from Stari-Kuty, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, and Sydoriv, Ternopil oblast in Western Ukraine. Unfortunately, I initially found very few results when researching possible options, all of which were not easily accessible. The music was either unpublished or out of print due to the tumultuous political climate of the Soviet Union.

The inspiration…

This led to the first problem I encountered in tracking down music by Ukrainian composers: basically, all of the information regarding Ukrainian composers is written in Ukrainian using the Cyrillic alphabet, and there is practically no resources published on Ukrainian wind music. At first, this research was a daunting task as I did not know the language. However, having taken two years of Ukrainian classes, I can now read well and write at a basic level helping me find information. First I started with Google searches in Ukrainian. Then, I started reading on Ukrainian composers in different encyclopedias and handbooks, such as the National Union of Ukrainian Composers membership books. From there, I began compiling a list of works for bassoon by Ukrainian composers which grew into a catalogue of works for solo bassoon, with piano, with harpsichord, concertos, and various chamber works ranging from duos, trios, quartets, wind quintets, and more. I have tracked down the scores for about half of the music, but I am still searching for the rest!

Finding the music…

The second problem I encountered is that the majority of this music is unpublished and only exists in a manuscript meaning every piece is physically located in a different location. Therefore, tracking down the music has involved sending lots of emails to find a lead on each piece, such as finding contact information if the composer is living or if a library or organization they were associated with might have the music. I started contacting composers whose contact information I could find online. This was when my research began to snowball as most people I spoke with were able to provide me with contact information for another composer, librarian, or family member of a deceased composer who could help me track down these scores. I slowly found one piece at a time through this process. Eventually, a couple of composers heard about my project and reached out to me. Over the last two years, I have been in contact with around 30 composers, family members of deceased composers, and librarians. Next, I began contacting various organizations in Ukraine, such as Ukrainian Classical Live, and libraries in Ukraine, such as the National Music Academy of Ukraine Library. Finally, I contacted Ukrainian bassoonists Taras Osadchiy and Yuri Konrad, who premiered many of these works and have helped provide scores and information on the pieces.

It has been a fascinating experience learning more about these composers and their works directly from the composers themselves or through their family members. I have also had the opportunity to meet a few composers in person. For example in November 2022, I met and had coffee with composer Alexander Jacobchuk, who had recently moved to the Toronto area from Ukraine. He played many recordings of his works for me, showed me medals he won for his compositions, and told me interesting stories about his career and life.


Dmytro Kyryliv and Zachary…


As my project and research evolved, I have had the opportunity to collaborate on new music with some of the composers I have been in contact with. It has been an exciting and rewarding process to experience new works coming to life, from nothing but an idea in the beginning stages to a fully finished piece. One thing that I find interesting about the process is getting to know every detail behind the music and composer’s inspirations by being able to ask any questions I have regarding their intentions. For example, what the meaning and thought process behind a particular marking in the score is. I will premiere two works for bassoon and piano at the end of May 2023 by Sergey Pilyutikov and Dmytro Kyryliv. Additionally, another two pieces are currently being written by Andriy Lehki (woodwind quartet) and Oleksii Shvyrkunov (bassoon and piano).


Turns for Bassoon and Piano – Sergey Pilyutikov (b. 1965)

Sergey Pilyutikov is a composer active in Kyiv, Ukraine. I first contacted him via email at the beginning of October 2022 to ask about a solo bassoon piece he wrote, which I read about in my research. Unfortunately, he informed me that the work was unpublished, and the manuscript got lost in his move from Kharkiv to Kyiv a long time ago. However, he offered to write a new piece for me to premiere at my recital in May and to include in my project. A couple of months later, he sent me the finished score and information behind the piece.

Description of the piece written by the composer:

“Conventionally, the composition consists of three parts. The first is the sphere of rapid movement in which all the virtuoso possibilities of the modern bassoon are revealed. The second is the sphere of meditation and quiet singing. The third is a stormy, concert finale that unites the main ideas of the first and second parts.”

Molfar for Bassoon and Piano – Dmytro Kyryliv (b. 2002)

            Dmytro Kyryliv is a composer originally from Ternopil, Ukraine, and active in Vienna. I first contacted him via email at the end of March 2022, asking about a solo bassoon piece he wrote, Carpathian Sketches. He told me about the work and sent me the music for it. He also offered to write me a new piece to premiere. Then, at the end of last summer, Kyryliv was visiting Toronto, and I met up with him. We discussed various ideas and inspirations for the piece. We both agreed that it would be interesting to take inspiration from Ukrainian folklore and folk music and combine it with contemporary techniques. Kyryliv decided to utilize aspects from folk music, such as the Ukrainian minor scale, and elements from contemporary music, such as multiphonics. Over the next couple of months, we exchanged messages and spoke on Zoom to discuss the piece and its idiomatic techniques, including good multiphonics to use and if specific passages worked well on the bassoon. Kyryliv then finished the final draft of the piece at the beginning of January. Since then, I have been learning and rehearsing the piece while sending various questions to get clarification on different elements to fully understand the intentions behind everything he wrote in the piece.



The piece takes inspiration from Ukrainian folklore. The title Molfar comes from Hutsul culture and refers to men with supernatural abilities living in the forests of the Carpathian mountains. Their abilities combine different elements of magic, fortune-telling, and healing. Their powers often focus on herbalism, the practice of using herbs and plants to treat illnesses. However, in oral stories throughout history, Molfars have often been depicted as channeling their powers through black magic for evil purposes. Musically the piece takes inspiration from traditional Hutsul folk music through the utilization of scales such as the Ukrainian minor scale, which raises the 4th and 6th scale degrees on a natural minor scale. Kyryliv also incorporates contemporary rhythms, harmonies, and extended techniques such as multiphonics to depict a mysterious picture of a Molfar’s life in the mountains.


Recording Project…

Along with researching and tracking down music, I am also trying to record the works which have no existing recordings. Last summer, I put together a woodwind quartet to record two pieces. As part of this project, I had to create the parts myself because I could not find any that existed for the quartet written by Borys Lyatoshynsky. After I finished notating the parts, we rehearsed throughout the summer, and I soon realized how difficult it is to make a good edition. Throughout our rehearsals, we discovered many corrections I needed to make to the parts as well as mistakes in the score. Eventually, we recorded the quartets at the end of August in Saskatoon.


Amanda Gourlay (flute), Glenda Lindgren (oboe), Zachary Senick (bassoon), Allie Harrington (clarinet) in Saskatoon


1st page of Zhylinsky’s Fagotina

Two works for bassoon and piano you should check out…

 Fagotina for Bassoon and Piano – Oleksandr Zhylinsky (1955-2020)

This piece is equivalent to the popular concours pieces written for the Paris Conservatory bassoonists. It begins and ends with a slow, lyrical section contrasted with a virtuosic middle section featuring showy technique, fast articulation, and syncopated rhythms. This piece could be an excellent addition to a recital program for a bassoonist already familiar with the concours repertoire. I tracked down this work by contacting Zhylinsky’s wife, who got someone to scan the manuscript in the basement of an archive in Kyiv, Ukraine.

 Fagotina was written in 1983 and revised in 1986 as the mandatory piece for the All-Ukraine bassoon competition. Zhylinsky was born on December 1st, 1955 in Berdyansky, Zaporizhia oblast of Ukraine. He graduated from the Kyiv State Institute of Theatrical Art, where he studied acting and singing. Later he studied composition under Levko Kolodub at the Kyiv Conservatory, graduating in 1987.

Length: 5.5 minutes / Range: Bb1 – D#5 / Unpublished – a copy of the manuscript is available / Standard Notation, no extended techniques / Key: features Ukrainian tonality and harmonies. (lyrical sections: 0 #/b’s; middle section: 1 #/b) / Meter: various metrical changes from from 2/4, 4/4, 3/4, 6/4, and 7/8

Recording: https://youtu.be/qWHNhIN5XXY

Three Pieces for Bassoon and Piano – Volodymyr Runchak  (b. 1960)

Three pieces come from a collection called The Bassoonists Notebook. This collection also includes two interesting pieces for solo bassoon. Runchak wrote this collection as a student at the Kyiv Conservatory from 1979-1984, and it was premiered at the end of his studies by bassoonist Taras Osadchiy. I tracked down this work through communication with the composer. The three pieces are in a typical slow-fast-slow fashion through Improvvisazione, Burlesca, and Dialogo. This work prominently represents the avant-garde movement popular in Ukraine during the 1970s and 1980s. This work is minimalist in style, developing an opening melodic and rhythmic motif that is transformed throughout the three pieces through hyperchromaticism, derivation of traditional phrase construction and interlocking form. The work is centered around the concept of contrasting characters that the bassoon can achieve, from beautiful legato lines to humorous staccato passages. This would be a great work for a bassoonist looking to branch into contemporary music who has not learned extended techniques yet.

Runchak was born in Lutsk, Ukraine on June 12th, 1960. He is an active composer and the Artistic Director of the New Music in Ukraine Concert Series since 1986.

Length: 12 minutes / Range: Improvvisazione (F#2 – Eb5) Burlesca (C#2 – Db5) Dialogo (C#2 – Bb4) / Unpublished – available from the composer / Standard Notation, no extended techniques / Key: atonal / Meter: mixed meter changes throughout

Zachary Senick is pursuing a DMA at the University of Toronto. Read more about him here.

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