Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Celebrating The Mastery of Polish Classical Music

Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872)

Celebrating The Mastery of Polish Classical Music is an exhibit presented by the Polish Arts and Culture Foundation and the Art, Music and Recreation Center in the Steve Silver Beach Blanket Babylon room on the 4th floor of the Main Library. This exhibit runs from April 4 through June 4, 2009.

This exhibit looks at the lives of two 19th century Polish composers, Frederyk Chopin and Stanisław Moniuszko. While Chopin established his fame as a pianist and composer through the capitols of Europe, the lesser-known Moniuszko worked primarily in his native Poland.

Stanisław Moniuszko was born in 1819 in Ubiel, near Minsk in present-day Belarus. His interest in music became evident early in his childhood. His formal music education took place in Berlin in 1837 where he studied composition and choral conducting. Several of his songs composed during this period were published by the firm of Bote & Bock and were favorably received by the music critics.

After returning from Berlin, Moniuszko obtained a post as an organist in Vilnus. He began composing intensively, writing his first operas, other stage works, and sacred music, as well as secular cantatas. Moniuszko wrote fifteen operas in Polish and is regarded as Poland’s greatest operatic composer. The composer’s engagement as an opera conductor at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw followed in 1859. Beginning in 1864 he also taught harmony and counterpoint at the Musical Institute there.

As noted in the International Dictionary of Opera “he has become associated above all with the concept of a national style in opera, and to some extent he himself fostered this idea.” His music, although stylistically distinct, incorporates many national motifs: Polish dances popular among upper classes such as the polonaise and mazurka, and folk tunes and dances such as kujawiak and krakowiak.

Moniuszko died on June 4, 1872, in Warsaw.

The San Francisco Public Library has two scores of Moniuszko’s music. The most beautiful Moniuszko [Najpiękniejszy Moniuszko] (Polskie Wydawn. Muzyczne, 2006) is an anthology of his short piano works. We also have a set of parts for his First String Quartet (Polskie Wydawn. Muzyczne, 1999).

Two library databases, Oxford Music Online and the Biography Resource Center, include biographical entries about Moniuszko.

For those who can read Polish, there is a full length biography Stanisław Moniuszko: Dziedzictwo, Zycioys I Muzyka: Zarys Biograficzny‎ by Bolesław Wilczyński (1900) available through Google Books.

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