May 1997

Polish Music Reference Center Newsletter Vol. 3, no. 5


Winners of Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition in New York.

I PRIZE: Christopher WELDON (Juilliard School of Music).
II PRIZE: Karl LO (Oberlin College).
III PRIZE TIE: Keiko KURACHI (Juilliard), Spencer MEYER III (Oberlin).

SPECIAL MENTION: Sean BENNETT (De Paul University, Chicago).

First prize included $2,500 plus a recital in New York and one at the Chopin Festival in Duszniki-Zdroj, Poland in August. Abbey SIMON served as chairman of the jury. Van CLIBURN, Murray PERAHIA, Ian HOBSON and Andrew ARMSTRONG were among previous winners since 1949.


Winners of FRYDERYKS 

equivalent to the Grammys

Record of the Year in Solo Category:

Piotr ANDERSZEWSKI for Piano (Bach, Beethoven, Webern).

In Chamber Music:

Bartlomiej NIZIOL, violin & Waldemar MALICKI, piano for Wieniawski.

In Symphonic Music:

Jerzy MAKSYMIUK and the Polish Chamber Orchestra for music of JASTRZEBSKI, BACEWICZ, GORECKI & MOZART.

In Contemporary Music:

LUTOSLAWSKI: Piano Concerto Third Symphony.

Wojciech MICHNIEWSKI & Sinfonia Varsovia.

In Early Music:

Ars Nova – Il Canto for Psalms.

In Jazz:

Michal URBANIAK for Urbanator 2.

This is the third year that the Polish Record Industry has presented Fryderyk statues. The statues brought out cries of protest for using Chopin’s first name in what some classical music afficionados regarded as a degrading manner.

Recent Performances

XIII International Percussion Days presented the world premiere of Benedict KONOWALSKI’s Quadruple Concerto for four percussions and orchestra. Thirty-five soloists from Denmark, Holland, Germany, Costa Rica and Poland took part.

XXXII Organ Days: Ten concerts featuring seven organists: Andrzej BIALKA, Maurycy MERUNOWICZ & Jozef SERAFIN of Poland; Jennifer BATE, Ian QUINN (NY), Thomas SAUER (Berlin) and Heinrich HAMM (Weingarten), were dedicated to the music of Schubert, Brahms and Mendelssohn.

IV International Festival of Discovered Music was held on April 17-21st in Tarnow, Poland. Artists from Austria, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Ukraine and Poland performed forgotten or little known classical music: GORCZYCKI (17th c. master), Josef MYSLIVECEKDUSSEK, FIALA and MOSZKOWSKI.

International Symposium, Musica Galiciana. Music Culture of Galicia in Respect to Polish-Ukrainian Relations. Thirty lectures were presented in Rzeszow, Poland relating to the musical culture of Galicia, a southeastern region of Poland, through 1945.

Maria SYDOR, piano, Marina KOLUPAJEV, piano and Marta NASINOWSKA, violin, artists from Lwow (Lviv), performed works of Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish composers from Galicia: Wasyly BARWINSKI (1888-1963), Nestor NIZANKIWSKY (1893-1940), Stanislaw LUDKIEWICZ (1879-1979), Adam SOLTYS (1890-1968), Aleksander ZARZYCKI (1834-1895), Jozef KOFFLER (1896-1943), Miroslaw SKORYK (1938-).

Calendar Of Events for May 1997

MAY 3: Spring Festival commemorating Poland’s May 3rd Constitution of 1791, sponsored by the Polish American Congress. At the Pope John Paul II Polish Center, 3999 Rose Dr., Yorba Linda. 5:15 p.m.
Piano recital by Dr. Lorenzo SANCHEZ (CHOPIN, PADEREWSKI and LUTOSLAWSKI).
Polish Patriotic Songs by the Polish Choir of Orange County, Piotr SIDORUK, cond.
History of Polish National Anthems by Dr. Maria Anna HARLEY, director of PMRC.

MAY 4: Adam MAKOWICZ, piano in a recital dedicated to Art Tatum. Bobby Kaye Quartet will join in singing and playing jazz and pop standards. Pepsico Theatre, Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, NY 3:00 p.m.

MAY 4: Polish Constitution Day-Cinco de Mayo Concert. The LIRA SINGERS & CUERDAS CLASICAS STRING ENSEMBLE. Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago. Free. (773) 539 4900.

MAY 4: CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2; Emanuel AX, piano, Minnesota Orchestra, Eiji OUE conducting. KUSC Los Angeles, 91.5FM at 5:00PM.

MAY 11: Kosciuszko Foundation Chamber Music Series. Program 8. ARCADIA PLAYERS. Kosciuszko Foundation Hall, NY. 3:00 p.m.

MAY 16: LIRA CHILDREN’S CHORUS. State of Illinois Building, Chicago. 9:00 a.m.

MAY 17: Wojciech KOCYAN, piano. Recital of works by CHOPIN, Beethoven, Liszt, Debussy, Scriabin, Rachmaninov. Pacific Unitarian Church, Rancho Palos Verdes, (310) 378-9449. 7:30 p.m. $10.

MAY 18: String Trio by Jozef KOFFLER. Chamber Music Series @ the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C. (202) 488-0427.


Recent Releases

Deutsche Gramophone: PENDERECKI’s Second Violin Concerto dedicated to and performed by Anne-Sophie MUTTER . Ms. Mutter credits Witold Lutoslawski for her love for contemporary music. Tamara Bernstein reported in the Los Angeles Times (Mar 2, 1997) that MUTTER initially hesitated when Swiss conductor and new music patron Paul SACHER asked her to premiere Chain II by LUTOSLAWSKI. She quoted the violinist: I quickly fell in love with the improvisatory elements of the piece and its new sound world…from that moment I was hooked.

Favorably reviewed in Gramophone (May 1997 issue):

TESTAMENT (SBT 1089) : Bryce Morrison stated that no more ‘musicianly’ performance of CHOPIN’S B flat minor Sonata exists than this new release by recorded by Emil GILELS.

NAXOS 8-553300 : Michael Oliver finds that pianist Martin ROSCOE successfully demonstrates the wide range of SZYMANOWSKI’S pianistic style in this recording of the Mazurkas (op. 50 nos. 5-12), Variations, Masques and Fantasy in C. [Note: Mazurkas 1-4 have been recorded earlier by Roscoe as Piano Works, V. 1. NAXOS 8-553016.]

Other records reviewed:

PHILIPS CD 454 440-2: Violinist Leila JOSEFOWICZ plays Bohemian Rhapsodies. Virtuoso works by Sarasate, WIENIAWSKI, Saint-Saens, Massenet, Ravel & Chausson.

COLLINS CLASSICS 1485-2: SCHARWENKA Concertos for piano and orchestra. Nos 2 and 3. Seta TANYEL, piano. Hanover Radio Philharmonic Orch. Tadeusz STRUGALA conducting.

FHMD9671: Tim Parry stated that this new disc of music for four hands is worth having just for the delightful MOSZKOWSKI set ‘Aus aller Herren Landern.’ Also included is Dvorak’s Ten Legends. performed by husband and wife team Isabel BEYER and Harvey DAGUL.

PHILIPS 446-709-2PH.: BRAHMS Sonatas for violin and piano, Viktoria MULLOVA, violin, Piotr ANDERSZEWSKI , piano. The ANDERSZEWSKI/MULLOVA,performance of exceptionally wide and expressive range was highly praised by Duncan Druce. He was especially impressed by the imagination and detailed expression of pianist Piotr ANDERSZEWSKI.


Born This Month

  • May 5, 1819: Stanislaw MONIUSZKO. Died June 4, 1872.
  • May 2, 1846: Zygmunt NOSKOWSKI. Died July 23, 1909.
  • May 17, 1943: Joanna BRUZDOWICZ.


Died This Month

  • June 4: 125th anniversary of MONIUSZKO’s death.
  • June 12: 100th birthday of Alexander TANSMAN.
  • June 29: PADEREWSKI died 56 years ago in 1941 .

A Brief History of Polish National Anthems

by Maria Anna Harley


The English term “national anthems” has a Polish equivalent of “state hymns”–and both terms have the same meaning if the nation and the state are one; if not–and this happened in Polish history–important differences arise, some of which will be discussed here. While the British hymn God Save the King/Queen (first printed in the middle of the 18th century) is often described as the earliest national anthem, it should be, rather, called the first “state anthem.” It was preceded by many earlier national hymns, including the Polish Bogurodzica/The Mother of God which originated as far back as the 13th century. This ancient chant, one of the earliest written documents of the Polish language, has a firm place in Polish cultural history.

Bogurodzica is a religious hymn, a simple prayer for personal happiness on earth and for a blessed life in heaven. It is addressed to Mary asking her for intercession and it does not mention issues of national identity. Nonetheless, this beautiful, quiet chant served the country as its anthem and was called, for instance by Jan Dlugosz, “carmen patrium”/the song of the homeland.” It was sung by the Polish troops in the battle against the Teutonic Knights held at Grunwald in 1410 (one of the landmark events in Polish history, defending national independence) and served as a coronation anthem for the Iagiellon dynasty of Polish kings through the sixteenth century. According to the research of Professor Hieronim Feicht, whose extensive essay on this topic appears in Studia nad Muzyka Polskiego Sredniowiecza/Studies of the Music of the Polish Middle Ages [Cracow: PWM Edition, 1975], Bogurodzica has textual links with Czechy and Eastern Christianity, and musical links with early French songs, folk music and the plainchant of the Latin Church. This “hymn of the nation” must have been very popular, since, despite the many wars that ravaged Poland, it survived in sixteen manuscripts dating from the period between the 15th and the 18th century.

During the partitions (19th century), Bogurodzica was usually printed in patriotic-religious hymnals as the first, most ancient and revered song, followed by Boze cos Polske/God who protects Poland, Z dymem pozarow/With the smoke of the fires, and Dabrowski’s Mazurka. To this day, Bogurodzica is being sung in Polish churches, serving the religious and aesthetic needs of the people. The ornamental melody of haunting beauty is too difficult for amateurs, but hearing it performed by professional singers, nuns, or monks, is an unforgettable experience. Composer Andrzej Panufnik was so impressed with its solemn grandeur that years after hearing it wrote a symphony based on and dedicated to Bogurodzica, entitled Sinfonia Sacra (1963). Another contemporary composition based on this melody is Marta Ptaszynska’s Conductus–A Ceremonial for Winds (1982).


In the 17th and 18th century Poland did not have a royal dynasty that would ensure a continuity of rule; the kings were elected by all the gentry gathering for Seyms [National Assemblies], and the country was gradually disintegrating into chaos. While Poland was losing its political power and cultural strength, the symbols of its statehood also changed: a variety of songs were sung to replace Bogurodzica, none of them notable or well remembered. However, when Poland reached the lowest point in its history, during the partitions at the end of the eighteenth century, a resurgence of interest in defining and protecting national identity led to the creation of a number of songs, which, in time, competed for the title of the “national anthem.”

In 1774, the patriotic poet-bishop, Ignacy Krasicki wrote a hymn to “Holy love of the beloved homeland” which is, till this day sung at the Military Academy [Szkola Rycerska]; and appropriately so, since it calls for ultimate sacrifices for the sake of the country, including the offerings of poverty and death. Krasicki’s subsequent hymn, written for the first anniversary of the proclamation of the 3rd May Constitution (in 1792) is more joyous in nature and is set to a popular, memorable melody. Either of these songs could have become the Polish anthem, had the country survived and had the Constitution remained its highest law. Unfortunately, the history proved otherwise; and the hopes felt at the moment of defining the country’s first fully democratic Constitution gave way to disillusionment and despair when Poland was divided by Russia, Prussia and Austria in a series of partitions (1773, 1791, 1795), the last of which removed the country from the map of Europe.

Not all was lost, of course, and Poles gathered to fight for their country’s independence; assisted through this struggle with song. This is when the current Polish national anthem, entitled Dabrowski’s Mazurka, came into being. In 1797, General Jozef Wybicki who was a member of the Polish troops which served Napoleon in Italy and Spain, penned a song to bid farewell to the departing Polish army. The Polish Legion, led by General Dabrowski, had hoped to come with the napoleonic troops “From Italy to Poland” to liberate their country, and the Mazurka’s text made this hope explicit. The troops fought and won with Napoleon, and a short-lived “Duchy of Warsaw” was born from this hope, to die in 1815 for the next one hundred years.

The first line of the text states that “Poland is not dead, as long as we live” and Poles have continued to sing these words through the 19th century, while struggling for their country’s reemergence. Thus, Napoleon Bonaparte became immortalized in Poland’s national anthem… Another unusual fact relates to the anthem’s music, a traditional melody of a swift mazurka. In the 19th-century a variant of this mazurka became a pan-Slavonic hymn “Hey Slovane” which in 1945 was declared the national anthem of Yougoslavia. Now, of course, it no longer serves this function. It is interesting to notice that the two melodies are virtually indistinguishable, except for the first three notes.


The Dabrowski Mazurka was declared the official anthem of the country in 1926, after Jozef Pilsudski took control of the country. Poland was independent since 1918, and had no official anthem for the first eight years of its existence. The valiant Mazurka became a winner in a competition for the position of the national anthem with several other revered songs: Choral, Rota, and Boze cos Polske. The Choral [With the smoke of the fires] by Kornel Ujejski (1846) expressed sorrow at the peasant’s uprising of 1846, with a prayer that such events from which “one’s hair turns grey”–as the first strophe has it–would never happen again. With its first line “with the smoke of the fires, and with the dust of fraternal blood” it was, perhaps, not an appropriate text to celebrate Poland’s independence–although it served as a national hymn in the Austrian part of the divided country. Another candidate, Rota, by Maria Konopnicka (1908) to the music by Feliks Nowowiejski (1910), was also too limited in scope. This song expressed the sentiments of the Polish farmers in the Prussian-occupied part of Poland who were forced off their land: “We shall not leave the land of our forebears” they sang in resistance. Rota became very popular after 1910, the year when the Grunwald Monument was unveiled and the anti-German feelings reached their peak.

Finally, the most serious contender to the role of a national anthem was the hymn “God who protected Poland” by Antoni Felinski (1816). With its refrain of “God bless–or liberate–our homeland” it is still a very popular prayer for the country sung in all Polish churches. It became a hymn of the nation during the January Uprising against the Russians in 1860-62, but its origins do, paradoxically, link Poland and Russia. The hymn’s original refrain stated “God bless the king”–meaning Tsar Alexander the First, who, after the defeat of Napoleon became the first ruler of a newly established Kingdom of Poland. The original text was soon changed, by replacing “king with “homeland” and the song became so popular in the patriotic movements thats its origins were forgotten. After 1862, it was banned in the Prussian and Russian-occupied parts of Poland. In fact, even in 1928, two years after the declaration of Dabrowski’s mazurka as the official anthem of the country Boze cos Polske was labelled “hymn narodowy/national anthem” in a hymnal of the Catholic Church [X. Jan Siedlecki: Spiewnik Koscielny z Melodjami na 2 Glosy/Church Songbook with Melodies in Two Voices. Lwow-Krakow-Paris: Priests Missionaries, 1928].

After WWII Dabrowski’s Mazurka continued to serve as the official anthem of Poland, reminding Poles about the duty to be active for the sake of their homeland. Its affective power was not diminished by its use by the generally disliked socialist government. However, the Solidarity movement chose another song for its unofficial hymn: “Zeby Polska byla Polska/Let Poland be Poland” by Jan Pietrzak (1976). Written after the unrests of Radom and Ursus it is not a call to armed struggle, and not a prayer for the country, but rather a meditation on the past wars, fought by generations of Poles to “Make Poland, Poland.”


How does the Polish anthem relate to the musical symbols of other countries? The Dabrowski’s Mazurka belongs to a type of anthems-marches that is generally associated with the French anthem, La Marsellaise, written for the marching troops of the French revolution. These marches are usually fast and energetic, filled with enthusiasm for the new world order that their texts call for. While the Polish anthem shares these features of a “call to arms” — to fight for Poland’s independence, it is a swift, boisterous dance in a triple meter, not a steady march.

Interestingly, foreign orchestras often perform the Mazurka in a slow fashion, transforming its joyful reasurrance that Poland still lives in us, into a sort of a funeral march. There is a reason for it, because many national anthems belong to a category modelled upon the British “God Save the King/Queen” –a prayer for blessings to be bestowed upon the monarch. These hymns are usually very solemn, instilling in their listeners a profound devotion for their country. Some of their textual variants describe the beauty and riches of the land, instead of enumerating the virtues of the monarch.

The countries of Latin and Southern America have hymns of a different type, resembling Italian operatic arias. Some of these arias have actually been written by Italian composers. The rule seems to be: the smaller the country, the longer and more elaborate the anthem, with more different parts, longer orchestral introductions. Not surprisingly, El Salvador’s anthem is the longest. South-American countries are also very serious about the legal protection of their anthems. In Brasil, for instance, it is a criminal offence to perform the national anthem in a different tempo and a different key that officially prescribed. A singer once had a bad luck of intoning the anthem too high and too fast; she was saved from imprisonment only because she thus celebrated the election of the new president of the country. Luckily, Polish authorities do not arrest anyone for singing off-key… And with that thought let me finish this brief exploration of the convoluted history of Polish national anthems, a suitable topic for May–the month when the country celebrates the memory of its first and most revered Constitution.