May 1996

Polish Music Reference Center Newsletter Vol. 2, no. 5


The month of May is very important in Polish history:

  • May 03, 1791 – CONSTITUTION proclaimed! (First written constitution in Europe and second in world after our U.S. constitution.)
  • May 05, 1798 – General Thaddeus Kosciuszko left a will leaving a large portion of his estate in America to further the cause of freedom for black slaves.
  • May 07, 1867 – Wladyslaw Reymont (1867-1925), Nobel prize winning novelist born.
  • May 18, 1920 – Pope John Paul II is born.
  • May 23, 1842 – Poetess Maria Konopnicka born (1842-1910)
  • May 24, 1543 – Astronomer Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) dies.
  • Entire month of May dedicated to MARY, Mother of God

How Does This Fit in a Polish Music Newsletter?

First of all, numerous commemorative events, including parades, films, programs of Polish music and folk dancing are being staged all over the U.S. For a schedule of some of these events contact the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C. via e-mail:

Locally, in Los Angeles, the Polish American Congress is co-sponsoring a 3-day event with the local Polish Consulate, where in addition to animated films, food and folk dancing, music written by Poland’s father of Polish opera, Stanislaw Moniuszko will feature overtures to some of his operas and a Polonaise written by the composer. All for one piano, four hands, performed by pianists Roza Kostrzewska-Yoder and Doug Yoder.

I can tie in a musical connection to all of the above mentioned historic events. For instance, General Kosciuszko, hero of the American Revolution, aide to George Washington, whose military strategy helped win the war and on which strategic site the military academy at West Point was built, is said to have composed a POLONAISE.

As for the Polish Pope connection: Polish composer Joanna Bruzdowicz celebrates her birthday on May 17th, one day before John Paul II’s birthday. She had just completed composing a Piano Sonata the day the new Pope’s election was announced. Hence, the title, “Sonata d’Octobre” dedicated to the Holy Father.

What does the poet Konopnicka have to do with music? The text to one of the most popular patriotic hymns in Poland, “ROTA,” was written by this great Polish poetess. The music was composed in 1910 by composer Nowowiejski for the occasion of the unveiling of a monument in Krakow commemorating the victory at Grunwald in 1410 over the Teutonic Knights. Another Polish link in this story – the monument was funded by the great famous pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Oh, all right! But where is the Polish music connection with COPERNICUS? Some of you may even question whether Copernicus was Polish, because some museums have identified him as a German scientist born in the Prussian city of Thorn. The Smithsonian has corrected this! The Polish spelling of the city is Torun and his name in Polish is Kopernik. He studied in Krakow where his father was born. Here is the musical connection: In 1972 and 1973 several Polish composers wrote symphonic works commemorating the 500th anniversary of Copernicus’ birth:

  • Gorecki: Symphony no. 2 “Copernican.” for sop., bar. mixed choir and orch. Composer used an excerpt from Book 1 of Copernicus’s treatise, “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.”
  • Przybylski: “In honorem Nicolai Copernici” for orchestra won Third Prize in the Fitelberg Composition Competition and a Medal from the V Artistic Spring in Lodz, 1973.
  • Fotek: “Cantatina Copernicana” for popular inst/vocal ensemble.
  • Szabelski: “Mikolaj Kopernik.” A symphonic poem for sop., 2 mixed choirs and orch. Latin text.

The last connection to May, Mary’s month! Composer Wojciech Kilar (composer of music to the film, “Dracula”) wrote an excellent symphonic work, “Bogurodzica” for mixed choir and orchestra in 1975.

Calendar Of Events

May 1. Halina Czerny-Stefanska in a Piano Recital at the Norris Theatre in Rolling Hills Estates. Box Office: (310) 544-0403. Wednesday @ 8:00 p.m. $25/22. Also presenting three Master Classes at the Kawaii Recital Hall in Compton Apr 28, May 3 & 4 from 12-5.

May 3 “POZNANSKIE SLOWIKI” (Poznan Nightingales), world famous boys’and men’s choir will perform under the direction of Stefan Stuligrosz, a capella and with organ accompaniment. Polish composers heard in the program: Waclaw of Szamotul, Chopin and Paderewski. Other appearances: Apr 28 & 29, Chicago; Apr 30, Toledo; May 2, Baltimore and May 3 & 4th in Washington, D.C. They performed in 1969 at the White House for then President Kennedy.

World Premiere Of A New Major Musical Work In Toronto!

April 20: An oratorio, “The Ludzmierz Vespers” composed by Jan Kanty Pawluszkiewicz in 1992 to a text by Leszek Moczulski was presented at St. Paul’s Anglican Church by a combined choir of about 80 voices, six soloists and the forty-piece Celebrity Symphony Orchestra. Pawluszkiewicz is a well-known composer of popular music in Poland, where he wrote for many theatre productions and films. This piece along with several new classical works mark his entrance to the world classical musical scene. He received two nominations for a “Fryderyk” (equivalent to our Grammy Award) as best composer of classical music and for best recording of classical music (“Harfy Papuszy”).

Other Concerts

Pianist Piotr Folkert appeared in recital at Carnegie Hall on April 28th in a program of works by Bach-Busoni, Beethoven, Weinberg, Szymanowski and Chopin. Folkert is a graduate of the Music Academy in Katowice, and also studied at Yale U., Indiana U. and the Mannes School of Music in New York.The II TEMPO ENSEMBLE performed works by Jarzebski, Zielenski, Milwid, Mielczewski, Wronowicz & Szarzynski as part of the Musica Antiqua Polonia festival at the New York City Library at the Lincoln Center.

Jazz pianist, Adam Makowicz, performed in the Polish-Slavic Cultural Arts Center in New York on April 20th.

POLISH OPERA PLANS STILL ALIVE IN BUFFALO! Stanislaw Moniuszko’s opera, “Straszny Dwor (Haunted Castle)” has been rescheduled and will be produced in the fall of the 1997 season.

Plans For Summer Travel Or Study Abroad

The Kosciuszko Foundation has several programs ranging from 3, 4 or 6 weeks in various cities in Poland which include language and culture for college credit or not. Cost of the program which includes room and board and some sightseeing ranges from $650-$1100. Application deadline for most programs is MAY 15th. (212) 734-2130. Fax: (212) 628-4552.Copernicus University of Torun is pleased to announce a summer school session in HUMANITIES & SOCIAL SCIENCES. July 1 to Sep 15, 1996. Cost $450. Contact the Dean’s Office (Prof. & Dr. Lech Witkowski) by fax (48) 56 26659 or e-mail: lechwit@pltumkll.bitnet.

Join the “POLONAISE MUSIC FESTIVAL July 24-August 1st! Honorary music director: Krzysztof Penderecki; Artistic director: Elzbieta Penderecka; Program director: Marta Ptaszynska. July 25-29 in Warsaw will include a Mozart Concert in the Royal Castle; performance of Mozart’s opera, “The Magic Flute;” Opera arias performed by Poland’s best soloists; Gala concert by winner of the XIII Chopin Piano Competition of 1995 with the Warsaw Philharmonic. In Krakow: July 29-Aug 1. Organ concert in a Franciscan Gothic church; Concert by “Sinfonia Varsovia” conducted by Penderecki in the Krakow Opera House; “Il Canto” Ensemble playing in the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a UNESCO site. For details: 1-800-388-0988. Pat Tours of West Springfield, MA.

This year the “WARSAW AUTUMN” INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL will take place Sep 20-28. Compositions by Bartok, Britten, Messiaen, Weill, Schnittke, Cage, Takemitsu, Varese, Kagel, Kurtag, Reynolds, Xenakis, Globokar, Skrowaczewski, Krenz, Penderecki, Dlugosg, Tarnopolsky, Lason, Kapuscinski, Biezan, Szeremeta, Mykietyn, Kotonski. Wielecki, Lutoslawski and Knapik have been scheduled. Chamber groups from Holland, Spain, Hungary and other countries will perform, including “Continuum” from the USA.


The Polish Peddlar has an attractive brochure free for the asking: (216) 237-6924 or write to 1754 Boston Road, Hinckley, OH 44233. RECOMMENDED:

(1) A book for children about the childhood of CHOPIN with full color illustrations on each of the 24 pgs. CHOPIN. By Ann Rachlin. $5.95 plus shipping.

(2) “Polish Traditions, Customs & Folklore” by Sophie Hodorowicz-Knab. $19.95.

(3) “Polish Heritage Songbook” compiled by Marek Sart. 80 songs, 172 pgs. $14.95.


Look for: Earl Wild, piano/Arthur Fiedler & the London Orchestra in a performance of Paderewski and Scharwenka Piano Concertos.

Also: Roman Palester (1907-1989) “Concertino for alto sax and string orchestra” (1938). Performed by David Pituch, sax, and the Polish Chamber Orchestra under J. Maksymiuk. Pituch is an American who has been living and teaching in Poland for many years. Palester is an outstanding Polish composer who left Poland in 1949 and as a consequence his music was banned and all reference to him in the literature was deleted for many years. This is a composer who is respected by his peers in Poland and whose music is now being published and performed there. His Fifth Symphony was highlighted at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1988. His opera, “Death of Don Juan” was presented in 1992 at the festival by the Krakow Opera Co. This is a beautiful work. Anyone looking for something new to bring to the forefront could not find a better selection in the operatic repertoire!


Born This Month

  • May 02, 1846 – Zygmunt Noskowski
  • May 05, 1819 – Stanislaw Moniuszko
  • May 17, 1943 – Joanna Bruzdowicz

Composer of the Month

Stanislaw Moniuszko

Regarded in Poland as the “Father of Polish Opera.” His role is similar to that of Glinka and Smetana in their countries. He is also regarded as Poland’s “Schubert,” having written over 300 songs.

The value of Moniuszko’s work, in light of his nation’s plight to preserve its identity at a time when the Polish language was being eradicated by the neighboring partitioning powers from educational and public life, lies in the affirmation and formulation of a strong national feeling. He wrote fifteen operas and several operettas with an abundance of forceful social overtones under the watchful constraints of the Tsarist censorship. The majority of his songs were intended for performance by amateurs [Twelve volumes of “Spiewniki Domowe” (Home Song-Books)] to keep the Polish language alive and to elevate the quality of music for the masses. Moniuszko wrote, “I have been trying to select the lyrics from the verses by our poets. For if beautiful poetry linked to beautiful music is capable of finding its way to the least musical ears and hearts, then modest music with excellent poetry may hope to be received favorably; and anything that is national, native, linked to our homes, that carries the sweet memories of our childhood will always please those who have been born and brought up on this soil.”

He was born at Ubiel (near Minsk) and after some training at home was sent to study in Berlin (at age 17) with Karl Rungenberger. After his return to Poland he became organist at the Cathedral of St. John in Wilno (Vilnius), composed (in addition to songs and operas, he wrote chamber and church works of all kinds) and also taught (Cesar Cui was one of his students). In 1858 he was appointed conductor of the Warsaw Opera after the success of his opera, “Halka” where he remained until his death in 1872.

His most successful and popular operas are “Halka” and “Straszny Dwor.” On October 8, 1935 “Halka” received its 1,000th performance in Warsaw alone. Compact discs of these two operas are available from H&B Recordings (800-222-6872). They also have a CD with operatic overtures to his operas, Halka, Verbum Nobile, Bajka, Jawunta, Flis and Paria.