Composers’ Anniversaries

by Marek Zebrowski

The year 2019 will mark several important anniversaries for Polish musicians. The most prominent of them, Stanisław Moniuszko, was born 200 years ago, on May 5, 1819. Proclaimed the father of Polish opera, Moniuszko’s legacy will be celebrated with concerts, conferences, and reissues of his music throughout Poland and the world. The Moniuszko Year was launched with a Gala Concert at the Polish National Opera—Teatr Wielki in Warsaw on January 5. Opera theatres throughout Poland will stage Moniuszko’s operas, including Hrabina, Straszny dwór, Flis, Halka, Verbum nobile and Paria. Directed by Mariusz Treliński, several of these works will be presented in opera theatres in Vienna, Brussels, Lviv and Vilnius, among others. On May 5 there open festivals will be held on streets named after the composer. More details on particular events will be reported in the coming issues of this Newsletter. Stay tuned!

Maria Szymanowska

The other composer whose birthday celebrations were officially launched by the Senate of the Polish Republic is Maria Szymanowska. This remarkable woman composer and touring virtuoso pianist was born in Warsaw 230 years ago on December 14, 1789. She was a close friend of such leading poets as Mickiewicz, Pushkin and Goethe, and an esteemed colleague of Mendelssohn, Rossini, Lipiński and Cramer, among others. Appointed a pianist to the Imperial Court of Russia, Szymanowska (a divorced mother of three) moved her family to St. Petersburg, where she died during a cholera outbreak.

Speaking of women composers, this year marks a double anniversary for Grażyna Bacewicz. Born 110 years ago on February 5, 1909 in Łódź, she died in 50 years ago, on January 17, 1969 in Warsaw. Remarkably prolific as a composer, Bacewicz was also a virtuoso violinist and an excellent pianist with a substantial international touring career, who premiered her violin and piano repertoire and also was one of the first interpreters of Karol Szymanowski’s violin concertos. Her polymathic talents extended to writing several novels and short stories that, except for a small volume of selected prose, Znak szczególny, still await publication.

Another composer from Łódź, Roman Ryterband, was born in Poland’s second largest city 105 years ago, on August 2, 1914. After the outbreak of World War II, Ryterband spent his life in Switzerland, Canada and the U.S. and died in Palm Springs 40 years ago on November 17, 1979. A pianist, conductor and composer, he is almost unknown in Poland and a conference and concert featuring his music is planned for late November 2019 at the Łódź Music Academy. Polish Music Center will commemorate Ryterband—as well as Moniuszko and Bacewicz anniversaries—with a special program on our Spring Concert at USC on March 23.