Orchestra. A unified performing ensemble of musical instruments. Performing ensembles have been part of the Ukrainian musical tradition for at least a millennium. An 11th-century fresco in the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv depicts a group of skomorokhy (court musicians-entertainers) playing contemporary instruments as an ensemble. Other records indicate that the Rus’ armies went into battle with ensembles of drummers and trumpeters, as did those of the Zaporozhian Cossacks several centuries later. The development of the vertep (puppet theater) and school drama in the 16th and 17th centuries established a need for some more permanent form of instrumental ensembles, which grew out of the tradition of folk trio ensembles (troisti muzyky). With the growth of musicians' guilds from the 16th century and the gradual development of city orchestras, a stronger base was laid for more permanent forms of musical ensembles. At the same time, musical training became more common with the establishment of school orchestras at the Kyivan Mohyla Academy, the Hlukhiv Singing School, and Kharkiv College.
Chamber and symphonic orchestras (see Chamber music and Symphonic music) dedicated specifically to classical music were established on the estates of 18th-century hetmans, such as Ivan Briukhovetsky, Danylo Apostol, Ivan Skoropadsky, and Kyrylo Rozumovsky. With the introduction of serfdom after 1785, wealthy landowners, such as the Lyzohub, Galagan, and Boliubash families, set up private serf orchestras. The 19th century saw the establishment of civic societies dedicated to musical performance and development in Ukraine. With them came a growing number of municipal orchestras, concert tours, and opera troupes, all contributing to the evolution of professional orchestras. This trend was extended in the 20th century after the formation of the Ukrainian SSR, when a host of state-sponsored instrumental music ensembles were established for public performances and for use in radio broadcasts and film productions.
At present in Ukraine there are nine symphony orchestras (including the Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine), seven chamber orchestras, two pop orchestras, and numerous theater orchestras, army bands, and semiprofessional ensembles. In addition, the State Banduryst Kapelle of Ukraine and a number of folk music and folk dance ensembles that include folk instrument orchestras (see Folk musical instruments) have been established in Ukraine during the 20th century (most notably the Verovka State Chorus).
Important composers of orchestral music in Ukraine are Stanyslav Liudkevych, Lev Revutsky, Borys Liatoshynsky, Andrii Shtoharenko, Roman Simovych, Roman Prydatkevych, Myroslav Skoryk, and Valentyn Sylvestrov. Prominent conductors in Ukraine include Mykhailo Verykivsky, Natan Rakhlin, O. Klymiv, Antin Rudnytsky, Lev Turkevych, Mykola Kolessa, I. Blazhkov, Volodymyr Kozhukhar, and Stepan Turchak.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]