First, I’m pleased to report that the Concerts of Polish Music at Ravinia, discussed in a previous posting, actually endured much longer than I wrote. I’ve since learned (with the help of Brother Bill Hallas in accessing the archives of the Congregation of the Resurrection in the Irving Park neighborhood) that the concerts lasted yearly until 1938.
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Even though I’ve made a conscious effort to place emphasis (particularly for performance purposes) on songs with lighter subject matter or mood, a person can’t help but see the slant in Polish classical songs towards pessimism and, yes, depression. Those composing songs under the Third Partition utilized the poems of the day; using coded imagery to depict resistance and patriotism was a great tool, used countless times to squeeze past the censors.
Cenzury (Censors’) markings appeared only on music printed in the area of the Polish Partitions controlled by Imperial Russia. The following pieces were published in Warsaw (Russia controlled) as opposed to Kraków (Austrian controlled):
Seeing markings like this made life under these Partitions seem closer and more relevant, and definitely more real…
Even though examples abound in my archive of Polish songs of bodies and hearts torn apart, and eternal goodbyes of young men off to battle, I’d argue that these obsessions were almost always necessary and, upon thoughtful consideration, unremarkable.
To show wider subject matter of Polish songs, I’ll offer two poems which were put to music by Eugeniusz Pankiewicz (1857-1898), a short-lived composer of world-class talent. I really hope to record these in the near future.
The Water Roars
Adam Asnyk (1838-1897)
Huczy woda po kamieniach,
A na głębi cicho płynie –
Nie sądź ludzi po zachceniach,
Ale prawdy szukaj w czynie.
Water roars over the rocks,
But quietly flows in the depths –
Do not judge people by their desires,
But search for truth in action.
Kto prawdziwe czuć niezdolny,
Ten się szumem słowa pieści –
Potok głośny a swawolny
Mało wody w sobie mieści.
The person who truly feels powerless
Is the one who is concerned with noise of words –
The brook is loud but careless,
And there’s little water to be found in it.
Lecz spokojnej cisza toni
Zwykle wielką głąb zwiastuje –
Na wiatr uczuć swych nie trwoni,
Kto głęboko w duszy czuje!
But the peaceful silence of the deep
Usually portends the great fathoms –
Whoever feels deeply in his soul,
Doesn’t squander his feelings on the wind!
Michał Bałucki (1837-1901)
Był poranek cudowny, uroczy,
Słonko z deszczu przetarło swe oczy
i promieńmi złotemi, drzącemi
Do zbudzonej uśmiecha się ziemi.
It was a miraculous, charming morning
her eyes were paved with sunshine through rain
and their rays seemed golden, trembling to
awaken to the earth with a smile.
W taki ranek z jednego okienka
Jasnowłosa wyjrzała panienka
i skinęła mi przyjaźnie główka,
i rzekła mi na dzień dobry słówko.
On such a morning, the blonde maiden
looked out from a window
and warmly lifted her head to me
and gave me a sweet word.
A mnie było w duszy w one rano
Od spojrzenia tego tak świetlano,
Że choć potem za tę szczęścia chwilkę,
Zapłaciło męką serce biedne,
To przecierpiałbym raz jeszcze tyle,
By mieć jeszcze chwilkę taką jednę.
But I felt in my soul that fragrant morning –
Amidst such bright glances as these –
And though after those happy moments
Our poor hearts paid with anguish,
If I had to suffer one more time like this,
I’d have one more moment like this.