Music and Life: An Address

edited by Maja Trochimczyk and Joseph A. Herter


Editors’ Introduction

The typescript of this speech, given by Zygmunt (Sigismond) Stojowski (1870 -1946) on the occasion of the Polish Music Festival held in Carnegie Hall, New York, in the spring of 1944, is found in the Manuscript Collection of the Polish Music Center at USC. It was donated by Henry Stojowski, the composer’s son, and was previously found in the Stojowski Collection at his home in Baldwin, Long Island, New York (the collection includes another typewritten copy). The sub-title is a quote from Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s famous speech about Chopin, during celebrations of the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1910. [1]

The Stojowski typescript bears the following annotations: “From Cornelius H. Tuszynski, 16-18 West 46th Street, New York 19, N. Y.; Tel: BR 9-7144” in the upper left corner, and “News Release / Immediate” in the upper right corner. [2] The text consists of four numbered pages. The address has never been published in its entirety, though a lengthy excerpt had appeared in an article entitled “Polish Music Festival at Carnegie Hall,” in Stojowski’s The Polish Review vol. 4 no. 17, (3 May 1944; page 15). Stojowski was one of the editors for The Polish Review, a weekly magazine founded in 1939 and published with the assistance of the Polish Government Information Center in New York.

The 1944 address was delivered at a fund-raising dinner organized several months before the Polish Music Festival. Actually, the festival consisted of one concert held on 4 May 1944 at the Carnegie Hall in New York. On this occasion the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Grzegorz Fitelberg; two soloists participated, Bronisław Huberman (violin) and Witold Małcużyński (piano). [3] The program included music by Stojowski, Feliks Łabuński, Ignacy Jan Paderewski and Karol Szymanowski (1881-1937). [4] According to a biography of Małcużyński, the same three musicians gave several concerts dedicated to Polish music in New York and Montreal that year; [5] the Polish Festival at Carnegie Hall seems to have been a part of this tour. It is interesting to note that it is very likely that this particular concert was recorded by the US State Department, presumably for later broadcast to Poland. This statement is based on a 78 RPM recording of Stojowski’s “Suite in E-flat Major for Orchestra” that Joseph Herter found in Henry Stojowski’s collection; the Suite was issued on a State Department label. The concert celebrated the anniversary of May 3 Constitution; this Polish national holiday commemorated the country’s first democratic constitution signed in 1791 (sadly, the document’s creation did not prevent Poland’s loss of independence).[6] The event’s organizers included the Polish Embassy and the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America (PIASA) established in 1942 in New York.

Stojowski’s The Polish Review, where an excerpt of his speech was published, should not be confused with the scholarly journal of the same title issued quarterly since 1955 by PIASA. [7] The Polish Institute was founded by world-famous scholars, among them anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski and historian Oskar Halecki. The Institute was a continuation of the Polska Akademia Umiejętności (Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences), destroyed by the Nazis in 1939. However, PIASA also had an American prototype in The Polish Institute which Zygmunt Stojowski had founded earlier in New York. According to Kazimiera A. Adrianowska’s article on Stojowski which appeared on pages 6-7 in the June 1944 issue of the New York periodical Biały Orzeł, the Institute was short-lived because of lack of funds. Nonetheless, in its brief existence the Institute’s members were able to hold the first New York art exhibition of Polish classics at the Museum on Riverside Drive, present a wide range of concerts featuring Polish music and arrange anniversary celebrations for America’s greatest Shakespearean actress Helena Modjeska (Modrzejewska, 1840-1909), the Metropolitan Opera stars, including the Reszke brothers, and other artists as well.[8]

Stojowski’s activities on behalf of Polish culture in the U.S. continued through his career in his adopted country (he immigrated in 1905). He was the president of the Koło Polskie (Polish Circle), a cultural club that he founded and headed for over 20 years. The “Circle” functioned at the cultural liaison between the East Coast Polonia and Poland. [9] In the 1920’s Stojowski also served as an associate member of the American-Polish Chamber of Commerce & Industry in the United States, Inc. He subsequently chaired the Polish Musicians Committee in the U.S. active during World War II. The committee organized the May 1944 Polish Music Festival of the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, as well as another concert of contemporary Polish chamber music, held in November that year.

Because of Stojowski’s relentless welfare work during World War I for the cause of French musicians, Paderewski’s Polish Victims Relief Fund and for the sale of US War and Victory Bonds, the pianist was decorated by both the Polish and American governments. On 28 November 1924, both Stojowski—and famed soprano, Marcella Sembrich (1858-1935)—were awarded the order of “Polonia Restituta” (Odrodzenia Polski) in Poland. In the “Księga Kawalerów” for foreign citizens, Stojowski is listed as no. 2194 and described as, “artysta, muzyk” [artist, musician]. His diploma for this honor is kept in the Stojowski Collection, PIASA Archives, New York (see the image below). In addition, it might be interesting to note that the US Government’s Department of Treasury also rewarded Stojowski with a Distinguished Service Medal.

Figure 1: First page of the Stojowski typescript. PMC Collection.

Wherever There is no Music, Life Also Ceases!

An Address by Zygmunt Stojowski


In days when travel was neither a frantic flight from the storm, nor a stern duty imposed by civic conscience, but the leisurely indulgence of human curiosity amidst strange places and people, I came across a quaint little cemetery in a mountain village of Southern France. There I found, engraved on an old tombstone, an odd inscription that has remained in my memory. “Here reposes Monsieur Blanc. He lived happy and made music for nobody!” Scarcely a musician’s epitaph! Its underlying philosophy puzzles because it differs from our own. Love of music is strong in our souls, and we believe music can open the shutters to a happier world. In war as in peace we need music to soothe and warm our hearts, to stir and steal our courage. Recently the President of The New York Philharmonic Symphony spoke of the moral and social forces inherent in music. Music is really a biological force. The fountain gushes forth whenever human depths are stirred. “Wherever there is no music, life also ceases!”—Paderewski said in his noble address at the Chopin centennial in 1910, in the city of Lwów, the main cultural center of south-eastern Poland since the fourteenth century.[10]

I still shiver when I recall listening with bated breath, in Los Angeles, nearly five years ago, during the fateful September 1939, to the strains of Chopin’s Military Polonaise broadcast from the Polish capital of Warsaw, undefended but bombarded, the voice of its undaunted Mayor announcing daily: “We are holding out” until one day nothing but silence come—ominous, tragic, deadly.[11] A hundred years ago Schumann called Chopin’s music “cannons buried in flowers.”[12] No wonder Hitler forbade it in Poland. Did not the sound of trumpets blast the walls of Jericho? Now the world is hoping that “fortress Europe” will crumble under the strains of Shostakovich Symphonies. [13] The Poles would be the first to applaud, provided it be understood all symphonies have to come to an end and stop, making room for other sounds, sounds native to the victims rescued from Wagner’s, or rather Hitler’s “funeral pyre.”

Free critics will not disarm in the presence of any symphony an our armchair strategists must realize there are other overtures than that to the latest Italian melodrama of the Duke of Addis Ababa.[14] I do not mean to tread on dangerous political ground nor to trample on anyone’s more or less sensitive toes, but there is no blinking the fact that Poland, first among the Allies to fight “for our liberty and for yours”—as the Poles proudly proclaim on their banners—Poland by a strange irony of fate is now a burning issue and a throttled voice.[15] Since “ours is the right side,” as Prof. Ralph Burton Perry says, we do not despair of the issue.[16] As to the voice of Poland, temporarily hushed, a distinguished poet now in our midst, has it that “misfortune has taught Poland to be herself and to sing.” [17]

Poland forever fights and hopes, suffers but creates. That song of hers mankind has learned to know and love by the immortal message of Chopin, the homeless exile who has found a home wherever there is a piano in the world. Chopin’s inspired interpreter, the great musician-statesman Paderewski, more than any man had the right to say: “we incarnate the majesty of Poland’s martyrdom,” when opening the National Council of his stricken country on the soil of noble France then still free.[18]

“Art is service,” Paderewski believed and taught. May I not remind you that many Polish artists have served the cause of music in America, to mention only the “golden days” of the Metropolitan Opera, to which such stars as the unforgettable Sembrich, the two de Reszkes, Didur and others lent lustre.[19] Transient alas! are the glories of this world, but Art endures![20] Music’s inspiring stream flows on unabated. Every new wave throws upon these hospitable shores refugees rich in talent and eager to serve. Polish thought is indestructible, American generosity boundless. I know you will welcome the announcement that a Festival of Polish Music is to be given in Carnegie Hall on the evening of May 4th, under the auspices of the recently founded Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences which, with the Paderewski Hospital in Edinburgh, is the only hearth of Polish culture active nowadays. The Philharmonic Society Orchestra will be directed by an eminent conductor-composer, Mr. Gregor [Grzegorz] Fitelberg, former leader of the now silenced Warsaw Philharmonic, acclaimed in all European capitals, in Rio de Janeiro, and in Buenos Aires, in a program devoted to Polish composers from Paderewski to the moderns, including the prematurely stricken Szymanowski. [21] Two brilliant soloists will add to the occasion, the master violinist Huberman, firmly anchored in the affection of the American public, and Witold Małcużyński, crowned with fresh laurels from South America and Canada.[22] That will be an event of exceptional artistic and high moral value, in these days of trial and anxiety.

For this is not meant to be merely another concert. It aims to combine the vital lure of music with a cherished national tradition. On May 3, 1791 the Polish Constitution was enacted, the supposedly unruly Polish nobility voluntarily renounced those exclusive rights and privileges to conquer which humanity had to fight for a long, bloody fight in other lands. This day is celebrated as a national holiday wherever a handful of Poles is gathered abroad. The Polish Ambassador has been asked to deliver a brief address on this occasion, to link this anniversary to our concert of May 4th.[15] It will be the only speech. Thereafter we shall rely on Art alone to set our hearts beating for a noble country whose indomitable people are still “holding out!”

Let me conclude with some wistful thinking. The key to all artistic triumph success in life: is to that better world for which the ordeal of battle makes us crave and hope, that key is human sympathy. Let me take your presence here as proof of human sympathy.[16] Let me thank you with all my heart!



[1]. The quote in Stojowski’s original title (replaced here for the sake of brevity) comes from Ignacy Jan Paderewski, O Szopenie; Mowa wygłoszona na obchodzie Szopenowskim w Filharmonii dnia 23 Października 1910 [About Chopin: A Speech Delivered during the Chopin Celebration at the Philharmonics on 23 October 1910] (Lwów: Nakładem Tow. Wydawniczego, 1911). Polish reprint with English and French translations appeared as Chopin, trans. Joanna Pasztaleniec-Jarzynska and Katarzyna Diehl (Warszawa: Stowarzyszenie Bibliotekarzy Polskich, 1991). An early English translation by Laurence Alma-Tadema was published as Chopin: A Discourse (London: W. Adlington, 1911); A French version in which the speech was erroneously dated to 1911 appeared in Wanda Landowska, ed. “Discours de Paderewski, prononce au pied du monument de Chopin, a Lemberg en 1911” [Paderewski’s speech, given at the foot of the Chopin monument in Lemberg in 1911], Cahiers Wanda Landowska no. 14 (1997): 12-20. A recent French translation appears as Discours sur Chopin, prononcé le 23 October 1910 r Lvov, r l’occasion du 100e anniversaire de la naissance de Frédéric Chopin (Paris: Association Paderewski, 1990). [Back]

[2]. We were not able to locate any information about Cornelius H. Tuszynski or his connection to Stojowski. [Back]

[3]. Grzegorz Fitelberg (1879-1953) was an eminent Polish-Jewish conductor and composer, dedicated to the promotion of Polish music, especially contemporary, e.g. by Karol Szymanowski. Bronisław Huberman (1882-1947) was a Polish-Jewish violinist who founder the Palestine Philharmonic after World War II. Witold Małcużyński (1911-1947) was a Polish virtuoso-pianist, perhaps the only student of Paderewski who matched his style and charisma with a dramatic style of his own. More information about these three musicians may be found in notes to Stojowski’s address below. [Back]

[4]. Further details about the program are currently not known.[Back]

[5]. Konstanty Regamey, Witold Małcużyński (Kraków: PWM, 1960), p. 21.[Back]

[6]. See Norman Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), vol. 1. [Back]

[7]. PIASA’s scholarly journal, The Polish Review, currently edited by Prof. Joseph W. Wieczerzak, publishes articles from many disciplines—political science, sociology, literary studies, musicology, history, etc., about various aspects of Polish culture. [Back]

[8]. Modjeska’s American career might be known to contemporary American readers through its interpretation in Susan Sonntag’s In America: A Novel (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000). Reszke brothers were opera singers singing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and other distinguished opera companies: Edward Reszke (1853-1917) and Jan Reszke (1850-1925). [Back]

[9]. Information about the Polish Circle comes from Kazimiera Adrianowska, “Stojowski,” Biał Orzeł vol. 6 (June 1944): 6-7. In 1928 members of the board of this organization signed a congratulatory letter for Ignacy Jan Paderewski, on the occasion of Poland’s Tenth Anniversary of Independence. This text is reproduced in Part I of “Paderewski and the Tenth Anniversary of Poland’s Independence,” in the present issue of this Journal. [Back]

[10]. For the source of Paderewski quote see note no. 1 above. Lwów, called Lemberg by Germans, is now a Ukrainian city, Lviv. [Back]

[11]. The capital of Poland was surrounded and attacked by German forces in September 1939; the city capitulated on September 28, eleven days after Stalin and Hitler signed a pact dividing Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union. Through the siege, the expressive voice of Stefan Starzyński (1893-1943), the president of Warsaw, provided solace to the city’s defenders through daily radio broadcasts. The recordings of Starzyński’s voice still exist. During the broadcasts Chopin’s music was performed live by Polish-Jewish pianist, Władysław Szpilman (1911-2000) who survived the war by hiding in the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto. Szpilman’s last broadcast took place on 23 September; see his war-time memoirs which appeared in English as The Pianist (London: Gollancz, 1999; New York: Picador USA, 1999) and have provided the basis for Roman Polanski’s film of the same title. [Back]

[12]. In the course of his abundant writings on music, Robert Schumann deals extensively with Chopin, interpreting his piano works in his peculiar fictitious way. Schumann’s opinion about Chopin’s significance among other great composers of his time can be found in “Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Chopin.” In the collection of short essays entitled The Museum, Schumann deals with the Twelve Études, Op. 25. See Robert Schumann’s Gesammelte Schriften über Musik und Musiker [Robert Schumann’s complete writings on music and musicians], 5th ed, 2 vols., (Leipzig, 1914) [Note by Anne Desler]. [Back]

[13]. The symphonies of Dmitri Schostakovich were frequently performed in the U.S., especially his Leningrad Symphony (no. 11). These broadcasts were noted with irritation by Hungarian émigré composer Béla Bartók whose dislike for that piece was expressed in its parody in one of the movements of his Concerto for Orchestra (1943).[Back]

[14]. “Duke of Addis Ababa” is an allusion to nonsensical plots of Italian comic operas (e.g. Rossini “L’Italiana a Algier”) and French vaudevilles. [Back]

[15]. The banner’s inscription “Za wolność waszą i naszą” [for freedom, yours and ours] dates back to the Spring of the Nations (1848) and its use by the Polish troops of General Józef Bem, fighting to liberate Hungary from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The phrase also serves as the last line in the hymn of the Polish Army in America, written by Paderewski in 1917 and entitled Hej, Orle Biały [On, white eagle]. The text of this patriotic song is reproduced in Maja Trochimczyk, “Paderewski and Poetry” in the present volume. [Back]

[16]. Ralph Burton Perry (1876-1957) was a professor of philosophy with interests in international matters; he published The Approach to Philosophy (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1905). [Back]

[17]. We were not able to locate the source of this poetic quotation.[Back]

[18]. Paderewski gave this speech during the first meeting of the National Council of the Republic of Poland (an exile government; Narodowa Rada Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej) on 23 January 1940 in Paris. He was elected the president of the Council. The speech was recorded by the United Broadcasting Company. See Małgorzata Perkowska, Diariusz Koncertowy Paderewskiego (Kraków: PWM, 1990): 196. [Back]

[19]. Marcellina Sembrich-Kochańska (1858-1935), a soprano praised for the “flute-like” quality of her voice, was a soloist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York until her retirement from the stage in 1917; Edward Reszke (1853-1917; bass) and Jan Reszke (1850-1925; tenor), appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in the last decade of the 19th century, Edward’s was active there in 1891-1902, Jan (known as Jean) in 1901-1905. Adam Didur (1872-1946; bass), after singing in operas conducted by Toscanini, returned to Poland. [Back]

[20]. A paraphrase of an ancient Latin maxim, “Vita brevis, ars longa.”[Back]

[21]. Grzegorz Fitelberg (1879-1953) was a composer and conductor who had the greatest influence on the development of contemporary music in Poland in the 20th century. As the director of the Warsaw Philharmonic, Fitelberg programmed contemporary music and fostered the careers of Polish composers on the international arena, taking their works on tour. Karol Szymanowski was one of his choices. Fitelberg’s achievements as a conductor are celebrated in a competition of his name, held every five years in Katowice, Poland. See Igor Markiewicz and Iwona Bias, Grzegorz Fitelberg 1879-1953: Życie i dzieło [ Grzegorz Fitelberg 1879-1953: Life and work] (Katowice: Fibak Marquard, 1996). For a list of his compositions see Iwona Bias, Katalog tematyczny dzieł Grzegorza Fitelberga [Thematic catalogue of works by Grzegorz Fitelberg] (Katowice: Wyższa Szkoła Muzyczna, 1979).[Back]

[22]. Małcużyński’s dramatic talent and larger-than-life stage personality influenced the passionate and romantic (yet powerful) interpretations of music. His friendship with Fitelberg and Huberman was cemented during the South American tour, extended into North America in 1944. For more information about Bronisław Huberman see: Barbara von der Luhe, “Ich bin Pole, Jude, freier Kunstler und Paneuropaer: Der Violinist Bronislaw Huberman,” Translated: “I am Pole, Jew, free artist, and pan-European”: The violinist Bronislaw Huberman Das Orchester: Zeitschrift fur Orchesterkultur und Rundfunk-Chorwesen 45 no. 10 (October 1997): 8-13. Tzvi Avni, ed., “The Bronislaw Huberman Archive (1882-1947). Catalogue (Tel-Aviv: Central Library for Music and Dance, 1977); An Orchestra is Born. The Founding of the Palestine Orchestra as Reflected in Bronislaw Huberman’s Letters, Speeches, and Articles (Tel-Aviv: Yachdav, 1969). [Back]