Chylińska’s Magnum Opus

In mid-October, PMC Director Marek Żebrowski spent a very brief weekend in Kraków to honor the crowning achievement in the long and successful career of musicologist, writer/editor and PMC friend, Teresa Chylińska. He wrote the following dispatch about the events of the weekend below:

October 18 was an important day for Polish music—it will be remembered for a long time as the official conclusion of the publishing of the Complete Works of Karol Szymanowski. This critical edition is a product of almost fifty years of patient, detailed, and dedicated work by Teresa Chylińska, the Editor-in-Chief for the entire series. Her exacting approach of comparing Szymanowski’s extant manuscripts, first editions and all other relevant sources led to exemplary results, and each of the 26 volumes in the PWM Edition and 17 volumes in the PWM/Universal International Edition features extensive commentary and notes written by the greatest experts in the field.

Chylińska’s half century of research on Szymanowski yielded not only a beautiful and useful set of musical scores but also a great number of books, articles, essays and other scholarly contributions that issued from under her pen. There is no other expert on Szymanowski in the world that could even approach the depth and quality of Chylińska’s scholarship—and there never may be a more sympathetic and thorough researcher who will be so devoted to the legacy of Poland’s greatest composer after Chopin. Thanks to Chylińska, we saw the publication not only of Szymanowski’s entire correspondence, but of absolutely everything that he ever wrote throughout his life. As if this wasn’t enough, in 2008 came Karol Szymanowski i jego epoka [Karol Szymanowski and His Times], which firmly anchored Chylińska’s monumental academic achievement. On the breathtaking canvass of three richly illustrated volumes with over 1500 pages, Chylińska managed to capture Szymanowski’s fascinating life that began on the far southeastern reaches of Poland, now part of the Ukraine. Szymanowski’s extensive family tree, history of the area and the momentous events of the Bolshevik Revolution followed by Szymanowski’s relocation to Poland after World War I, as well as his personal life, friends and career, and the musical milieu in independent Poland, plus everything else related to this great composer can be found in Chylińska’s vast study.

One can argue that Szymanowski wasn’t a lucky man. At 55, he died young, and World War II that broke shortly thereafter had pushed his music out of the limelight. Later, with the new generation of post-war composers coming on stage, by the 1960s Szymanowski was gradually consigned to the periphery of Polish music. But just when it seemed that he would be another respectfully treated but politely shunned figure in Polish music, a young musicologist in Kraków was charged with coordinating the publication of a source edition for Szymanowski’s entire creative opus. This young researcher—a student of the legendary Professor Zdzisław Jachimecki at the Jagiellonian University—graduated in 1953 and shortly thereafter began working for the Polish Music Publishers (PWM). The rest—as the saying goes—is history: since 1965, with her usual vim and vigor, Chylińska focused all her energies and talents on Karol Szymanowski’s music and life.

Chylińska’s quest for materials that would be included in her Szymanowski edition took decades and many trips around the world. She visited Austria, Germany, Italy, England, Soviet Union, Ukraine, and the United States. Little by little, she discovered manuscripts and searched various libraries and collections, finding many rare and highly-relevant materials. Throughout decades of her enthusiastic research, Chylińska gave countless talks worldwide and presented numerous papers at various international conferences. She also wrote entries for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, PWM Music Encyclopedia, and Pipers Encyclopedia of Music Theatre, among others. Not quite content to spread the word on paper, Chylińska took to the airwaves with a cycle of 22 one-hour long radio shows that provided the Polish Radio Program 2 listeners with a unique musical and spoken biography of Karol Szymanowski during the years 2002-2003.

Teresa Chylińska’s outstanding achievements in the field of musical culture were recognized with a number of very prestigious awards, including the Polish Composers’ Union Award (1996), Honoris Gratia Award from the President of the City of Kraków (2006), the Golden Gloria Artis Medal (2006), The Polish Cultural Foundation Award in Kraków (2007), and the Jan Długosz Award (2009).

On October 18 the Golden Salon at the Kraków Philharmonic was filled with special guests and media for an official ceremony marking the conclusion of Chylińska’s magnum opus. A panel discussion, moderated by the current Editor-in-Chief of PWM, Daniel Cichy, provided much fascinating detail about the long journey of the Szymanowski project (shown above). Professor Mieczysław Tomaszewski, who served as PWM’s Editor-in-Chief since 1954 and Director from 1965-1988, recalled the early days of the Szymanowski project. Andrzej Kosowski, the current director of the Institute of Music and Dance (and former PWM Chief Editor), provided pithy insights about the last decade of working on the Szymanowski Edition. When her turn came, Teresa Chylińska, deftly deflected the lavish praise she received from her friends and colleagues, preferring to focus solely on the beloved subject of her work.

Afterwards, the crowds moved to the Philharmonic Hall to hear a concert of Karol Szymanowski’s works. Once again, before the music could speak many others had spoken, praising Chylińska’s achivements; a letter from the Minister of Culture was duly read and a special award was presented to the laureate. Finally, Maestro Michał Dworzyński sprang onto the podium and vigorously led a much-augmented Kraków Philharmonic Orchestra in Szymanowski’s highly charged and densely orchestrated Overture in E major, Op. 12. Soprano Wioletta Chodowicz and tenor Rafał Majzner followed this rousing opener with a brief and passionate love duet from Szymanowski’s one-act opera, Hagith. The inclusion of Hagith on the program that night recognized the closing volume of Szymanowski’s Complete Edition, which is devoted solely to this rarely-heard work. Next, mezzo-soprano Urszula Kryger shared her nuanced and deeply musical interpretations of Love Songs of Hafiz. Op. 26 is a seminal composition in Szymanowski’s output where neo-romantic and Germanic musical influences are replaced by more sensual sonorities, inspired by the early modernist French-music. Finally, after the intermission, pianist Ewa Kupiec gave a highly assured if rather percussive reading of Szymanowski’s Symphonie-concertante, Op. 60 for piano and orchestra. Throughout the concert, Maestro Dworzyński (Kraków Philharmonic’s Artistic Director since 2013), kept a firm hand on the ensemble and soloists, proving his superb command as a conductor and musician.

All in all, it was a successful evening and a fitting conclusion to an enormously successful effort. There aren’t too many composers in the history of music whose entire opus has been published in a first-rate critical, source edition, and whose correspondence and personal world were illuminated by such a stellar research. Although we know that success has many fathers, in this case it’s the mother of all success, the Editor-in-Chief of the Complete Works of Karol Szymanowski, who deserves the highest accolades. Thanks to Teresa Chylińska we have reached a long-awaited milestone in the history of Polish music. Dedicating her professional life to this monumental task, she has brought it to a triumphant conclusion. As the Romans used to say, ab uno ad omnes—from one to everyone—and we gratefully agree.