Vedel’s music combines the tradition of polyphonic choral singing, popular in Ukraine at the time, with local influences such as melismatic phrases.
ARTEM VEDEL (1767, Kyiv – 1808, Kyiv), the son of a Kyiv bourgeois, received his musical education at Kyiv’s Mogilev Academy (1776-87), where he rose to fame as a top singer and violinist taking part in the academic choir and orchestra. In 1788, at the request of the commander-in-chief of the armies of Moscow and Moscow Governorate Yeropkin, Vedel is sent by the Academy’s superior, Metropolitan Samuil Myslavsky, to Moscow, where he assumes the duties of directing the choral band until 1792.
After returning to Kyiv, he again directs the Academy choir. An important moment in the composer’s biography was his meeting with Tsarist army general Levanidov in 1794, who invited him to lead the corps choir. This choir soon becomes the leading one in Kyiv. In April 1796, General Levanidov is transferred to Kharkov and takes Vedel along with him, along with the best singers and musicians. This good fortune of the composer is interrupted by the death of Catherine II in November 1796, of which General Levanidov was a favorite. Paul I-go’s ordinances, which forbade free musical activity in the army, harmed Vedel’s continued career. The composer, who had reached the rank of captain, resigned and took a position as a music teacher at the Kharkiv College. Subsequent stiffening of tsarist cultural policy (by a decree of October 10, 1797, the tsar forbade the singing of concerts and “other poems invented in Orthodox chant” in churches) forced Vedel to return to Kyiv. Suspected of freethought, on the basis of an unexplained plot, he was declared mentally ill and at the age of 32 was placed in an asylum, where he remained until his death for nine years. Vedel’s outstanding talent is evidenced by his choral concertos (more than 20) and other compositions for choir. The vocal parts are characterized by instrumental virtuosity, giving an idea of the high level of performance of the time. Vedel’s music combines the tradition of polyphonic choral singing popular in Ukraine at the time with local influences in the form of, for example, melismatic phrases and melodic features of Ukrainian songs.