The Henryk Wars Collection

Henryk Wars with his Polish Parade Orchestra, Teheran 1942

Known in the U.S. as Henry Vars, Henryk Wars (1902-1977) was the most prominent film composer in Poland in the 1930s with over 50 scores to his credit before 1939. After arriving in the U.S., he resumed his film-scoring career in Hollywood, using the phonetically equivalent version of his name, Henry Vars. The Collection features manuscripts of his recently discovered symphonic works dating from the years 1947-1973, as well as a number of popular songs, written in Poland in the 1930s and in the United States after Vars settled in Hollywood in 1947.

The manuscripts of heretofore unknown symphonic music were discovered by the composer’s widow, Elizabeth, and sorted out during the years 1999-2003. A special June 2005 concert by the Łódź Philharmonic Orchestra led by Krzesimir Dębski introduced Vars’s most important orchestral works to the Polish public. The Wars Collection was officially donated to the Polish Music Center by Elizabeth Vars on 11 November 2005 and commemorated with a concert at USC’s Bovard Auditorium celebrating Poland’s Independence Day that presented a selection of Vars’s most popular works to a capacity audience.

The Henryk Wars Manuscript Collection highlights include:

  • Symphony No. 1 (in four movements)
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (in one movement)
  • City Sketches (orchestral suite in three movements)
  • Sonatina for Orchestra (in three movements)
  • Maalot Overture for Orchestra
  • Score to the film Fools’ Parade (1971)

Additional works in the collection include various orchestral show tunes (3 by 3 for orchestra, In Waltz Tempo for orchestra, Adagio for orchestra, Religioso for orchestra), solo piano pieces (Sunrise in Manhattan, Lady with a French Poodle), as well as orchestral parts for various symphonic works, drafts and sketches for show tunes, piano reductions and early versions of Vars’s symphonic opus, etc.

Thanks to the composer’s family—his daughter Diana Mitchell and son Robert Vars, the Wars Collection is augmented by sheet music with Vars’s most popular songs written in Poland in the 1930s and in the U.S. after 1947, as well as photographs, recordings of songs (Flipper, Good Love, Little Shepherd, etc.) as well as scans of family photographs taken between the late 1930s and early 1970s in Poland, Russia, Persia, Palestine, Egypt, Italy, and the United States.

Contributions of Vars’s photographs with the Damski family in Los Angeles and of a rare LP featuring music to the 1955 film Ski Crazy! with the composer’s autograph inscribed to Dr. Eva Damski-Muchnick further augment this exceptional collection.