(This biography was excerpted from Lev Ginsburg's Volume 3 of "The Art of the Violoncello" pp. 310-314, translated by Yuriy Leonovich).
Born in 1872 to a poor Kharkiv family [in Dubno], Mikhail Evseevich Bukinik received his initial education at the city public school [in Kharkiv]. Early musical talent and love for the cello led him in 1885 to the Musical College of the Kharkiv branch of the Russian Musical Society (RMS), where he became a student of A. E. Glehn (Alfred von Glehn). When, two years later, Karl Davydov gave concerts in Kharkiv, he auditioned the young cellist and encouraged him to continue his work.
In 1890, when moving to the Moscow Conservatory, A. E. Glehn took with him Bukinik (as well as Isaac Ilyich Dubinsky). In the second half of the year, Bukinik was accepted for probation into his class. In 1892, already at the soiree, he played the first movement of Davydov's Concerto No. 2, and then publicly performed the first part of Schumann's concerto. In the following period, he repeatedly performed at student and open soirees, mainly playing works by Davydov and Tchaikovsky. The seriousness of Mikhail Bukinik's musical tastes is evidenced by his interest in chamber music, which manifested itself already in his student years. In addition to participating in cello ensembles (at the soirees in memory of N. G. Rubinstein, he participated in the performance of Fantasia for five cellos and double bass by K. Schubert and with I. Dubinsky played Popper's Suite for two cellos), he repeatedly performed in ensembles with piano, as well as in quartet (with K. Saradzhev, R. Gliere, and A. Medtner). In 1894, together with V. Maurina and G. Dulov, he performed the Mendelssohn trio (d-moll). In the same concert, Bukinik played pieces by Davydov, Tchaikovsky, Popper, and his classmate F. Bubek.
In the last year of his stay at the conservatory (1895), Bukinik performed Davydov’s “Fantasy on Russian Songs” with an orchestra conducted by V. I. Safonov, and at the annual concert, he performed with Davydov’s Allegro de concert. The young cellist's preference for the works of Davydov showed Bukinik and his teacher's respect for the "patriarch of the Russian cello school", their desire to instill and continue his direction.
Mikhail Bukinik graduated from the conservatory with a diploma of a free artist and a silver medal; in addition, he was presented with a cello and given a subsidy for a trip abroad; he took advantage of this subsidy in 1898.
Prior to that, he gave concerts in Moscow; known, for example, his performance with A. B. Goldenweiser of Rubinstein's Sonata in 1897. Having gone to Berlin for improvement (where he, apparently, consulted with Hugo Becker), he also performed in concerts here.
After returning to Moscow in 1899, Bukinik received an offer to teach at the Musical College of the Saratov branch of the RMS. M. E. Bukinik worked in Saratov for five years, by no means limiting himself to teaching. He did a lot for the musical and in general for the cultural life of the city; arranged concerts and literary and musical evenings, gave lectures and collaborated in the press, contributed to the organization of an art exhibition, etc.
In the chamber concerts organized by him, the best classical and modern works were played. For example, in 1902 Saratov music lovers heard Beethoven's trio (Avierino, Medzhevitenko, Bukinik), Rubinstein's Sonata (Goldenweiser, Bukinik), and Schumann's sonata (Goldenweiser). In 1904, Mikhail Bukinik organized an "Evening of New Art" in Saratov, in which he himself performed Rachmaninov's sonata (with A. B. Goldenveizeram) and Rebikov's works.
From time to time, he came to Moscow. So in 1900, in the symphony concert of the RMS in memory of N. G. Rubinstein, Bukinik played with the orchestra under the direction of V. I. Safonov, Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, still rarely performed at that time. The review of this performance said: "Mr. Bukinik performed With Tchaikovsky's forgotten Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra. This work was written in 1878 and then performed by Fitzenhagen (to whom it is dedicated), but since then it has been completely undeservedly forgotten, and only now, thanks to Mr. Bukinik, they have again gained access to concert programs. The beautiful variations of Tchaikovsky were conveyed by the young artist very gracefully, with technical completeness. In his playing, with a somewhat weak tone, there is a lot of melodiousness. He phrases with musicality. At the end of the number, the audience rewarded the artist with applause and forced him to play an encore."
In 1904, Bukinik left Saratov and soon went abroad, where he stayed until 1906. We learn about his life during this period in Germany, France, and Switzerland from his surviving letters to V. V. Maslovskaya in Saratov. After a two-month stay in Berlin, Bukinik accepted in 1905 an invitation to take the place of soloist in the symphony orchestra in Görlitz; weekly he played solo with an orchestra and also participated in a quartet. He writes about the exceptional public interest in Russian music (especially Tchaikovsky) and Russian musicians. “Of course, I play only Russian authors," Bukinik writes on February 3, 1905. "I really like Arensky. Rachmaninov's Sonata, it seems, was not to their taste; they did not understand it. But [Paul ] Juon was a great success."
One of the attached newspaper clippings says: “The new soloist, cellist of our city orchestra, Bukinik from Moscow, showed himself to be an outstanding artist, playing Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations, which had not yet been performed here. Mr. Bukinik played this graceful piece with great musicality, confidence, wide and melodious bowing, and lightness in passages and strokes. His fine instrument sounded great in the Great Hall of the Philharmonic. Thunderous applause was the response to this artistic performance."
Despite the success, Mikhail Bukinik yearned for his homeland and in 1906 he returned to Moscow. Here he developed a broad musical and social activity: he took an active part in the work of the National Conservatory (at the Society of National Universities), in organizing the Society of Orchestral Musicians, the Society for the Promotion of Chamber Music, etc.
Occasionally Bukinik appeared on the concert stage. Not possessing particularly bright artistic abilities, he performed mainly in chamber concerts. The name of Mikhail Bukinik is repeatedly found in the chamber programs of the RMS, the Guild of Russian Music Lovers, the Society for the Promotion of Chamber Music, etc. A. B. Goldenweiser names Bukinik among the musicians who performed before L. N. Tolstoy.
In the concert in memory of A. S. Arensky (1906), he played Arensky cello pieces and participated in the performance of a trio (with A. N. Koreshchenko and N. K. Avierino). More than once he played with A. B. Goldenweiser and B. O. Sibor the trios of Tchaikovsky, Arensky, Taneyev. The Taneyev Trio Bukinik also played with the author in concerts dedicated to his work, in 1909 with the violinist A. Ya. Mogilevsky and in 1915 with B. O. Sibor; in the last concert, Bukinik also participated in the performance of the Quintet (author, B. O. Sibor, K. G. Mostras, V. R. Bakaleinikav, M. E. Bukinik) and Taneyev's Canzona (N. G. Raisky, S. I. Taneev, B. O. Sibor, M. E. Bukinik).
Bukinik also took part in the performance of the trio Kornilov, Gedike, and Pomerantsev together with the composers of these works (the violin parts were performed by K. S. Saradzhev, A. G. Mets, A. Ya. Mogilevsky).
In 1909, B. O. Sibor and M. E. Bukinik performed as partners of the harpsichordist Wanda Landovskaya, who came on tour to Moscow; this ensemble performed the Beethoven Trio and Rameau's Trio Concerts. Together with B. O. Sibor, M. E. Bukinik organized public chamber soirees. In 1908, for example, at one of the soirees, they performed trios of Beethoven and Rachmaninov with A. B. Goldenweiser, and a Haydn quartet with K. G. Mostras and A. K. Medtner; on the other, Beethoven's Septet, Schumann's quartet, and Brahms' Cello Sonata in E minor were performed (K. N. Igumnov performed the piano part).
Speaking about the chamber activity of Mikhail Bukinik, we should note his performances of sonatas by Rubinstein, Rachmaninov, Chopin, Brahms, and other composers. Especially often he played sonatas with A. B. Goldenweiser.
The cellist's repertoire included many pieces by Russian composers - Tchaikovsky, Arensky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, as well as his own, which he played in various concerts.
Occasionally, Bukinik also gave independent concerts. For example, in October 1910, in the Small Hall of the Conservatory, he played Chopin's Sonata (with A. B. Goldenweiser), Boellman's Symphonic Variations, Andante cantabile for cello and organ by Bubek (with A. F. Morozov), Intermezzo Op. 43 by Tchaikovsky in his own arrangement, Gliere's "Moment Musical," his own Fantasie for cello and double bass (with V. N. Praskurnin) and others of own pieces: Preludes, Concert Etude (no. 4) for cello solo, and 6 small pieces. The reviewer spoke with restraint about Bukinik's pieces, praised the performance of Chopin's Sonata and Gliere's piece, and wrote that "Mr. Bukinik's playing is thoughtful, expressive, but does not capture the listener."
Apparently, Bukinik's playing was devoid of virtuosity, showiness, and artistic scope, but it showed a great culture and understanding of the style of the music performed. This can also be judged on the basis of the responses to his participation in the cello competition held in Moscow in 1911 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the RMS. Grigory Prokofiev, for example, wrote that Bukinik "managed to give his performance of the Bach suite real artistic significance." Bukinik's program included Suite No. 5 by Bach, Concerto No. 2 by Davydov, Tchaikovsky/Bukinik Intermezzo, and his own Concert Etude No. 4.
In 1915, M.E. Bukinik was mobilized and returned to music only after the revolution. In 1919, this musician took a professorship at the Kharkiv Conservatory and at the same time worked in the Commissariat for People's Education, being a member of the "troika" that was in charge of musical education in Ukraine. (Among the Kharkiv students of Bukinik in the early 1920s was A. V. Broun, now a professor at the Kharkiv Conservatory.)
In 1922, by permission of the Ukrainian government, Bukinik left for America with his son, who was heading there to continue his education. Yearning for the homeland, he subsequently strenuously worried about returning. Together with his memories of P. I. Tchaikovsky, Mikhail Bukinik sent a short autobiography from New York to Moscow in the 1930s, in which he wrote: “In America, of course, I live in the interests of my homeland and I vividly experience everything that our great, glorious people are experiencing.
Among the pedagogical works of Bukinik: "Fingering for scales in 1, 2 and 3 octaves", "Basic exercises in shifting", "Virtuoso exercises in arpeggios", "6 Easy Pieces", "6 Easy Duets." his Four Concert Etudes are of considerable interest in terms of masterfully used virtuoso technique, dedicated by Bukinik to “dear teacher and friend A. E. Glehn," the last of which (F minor) was performed by all participants of the II International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962. His "Ten Preludes for Cello Solo" are not without musical significance, in which various techniques of cello virtuosity are no less interestingly used.
Bukinik also wrote a piece titled "Story" for cello solo
A number of Bukinik's transcriptions for cello and piano have been published, including Lensky's aria from "Eugene Onegin", Lullaby from "Mazepa", chorus from "Maid of Orleans” and Intermezzo from the Suite Op. 43 by Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein's Barcarolle, Kalinnikov's Chanson triste, Romance from Napravnik's "Dubravsky," and others.