Stanisław Moniuszko was born on 5 May 1819 to the patriotic family of Polish landowners settled in Ubiel,
near Minsk (now: Byelarus; he died on 4 June 1872 in Warsaw). His interest in music became evident early in his childhood. He was introduced to the
rudiments of music by taking private piano lessons. His formal music education took place in Berlin
in 1837 where under Carl Friedrich Rungenhagen 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 he obtained a post as an organist in Vilnus. During that time he
became acquainted with the novelist Jozef Ignacy Kraszewski and playwright-satirist Aleksander Fredro.
These contacts stimulated his interest in dramatic music. He began composing intensively writing his
first operas, other stage works, sacred music as well as secular cantatas.
At about this time he also commenced work on the collection of songs entitled Spiewnik
Domowy (Songbook for Home Use), which would have wide appeal to Polish public. The first volume
of this collection was published in 1843 and met with much interest among both the public and music
critics. Over the years the collection grew to 12 volumes - 267 songs with piano accompaniment.
Although many of the songs are simple, predominately strophic, there are also those which take on
a form of dialogues or ballads and majority testify to composers originality and melodic inventiveness.
The source of Moniuszko's melodies and rhythmic patterns often lies in Polish musical folklore.
During his lifetime Moniuszko traveled numerous times to St. Petersburg where his concerts
were very well received. Serov, the young Russian critic of the time, referred to Moniuszko's compositions
as "brilliant works." While in St. Petersburg Moniuszko met and befriended many of his contemporaries,
prominent in Russian music including Mikhail Glinka, MilyBalakirev, and Modest Mussorgsky.
To Alexander Dargomyzhsky, with whom he became very close, he dedicated his overture Bajka
(Fairytale). In 1858, thanks to the help of Maria Kalergis, Moniuszko journeyed to Paris and Berlin,
paid a visit to Bedrich Smetana in Prague, and to Weimar, where he met with Franz Liszt.
After Halka came other major operatic compositions: Straszny Dwor (The Haunted Manor),
Flis (The Raftsman), Hrabina (The Countess), and Verbum Nobile. The common trait shared by all
these works are librettos which while depicting Polish nobility and gentry, and sometimes even the
characters of common origins, above all, emphasized Polish customs and traditions, and at the time
of national strife, sustained and fostered patriotic feelings. The first part of the 19-th century is marked
in the history of Poland by her loss of statehood and the partion of her territories between the neighbors.
The music of Moniuszko's works is largely representative of the 19-th century opera, given the extensive
use by the composer of arias, recitatives and ensembles, with the exception of Straszny Dwor
(The Haunted Manor), where beautifully scored choral parts testify to Moniuszko's mastery of writing
for many voices. His music too, although stylistically distinct, evidently incorporates many national
motifs: Polish dances popular among upper classes such as polonaise and mazurka, and folk tunes
and dances such as kujawiak and krakowiak.
Hanna from "Haunted Manor"
Most crucial to Moniuszko's career was, however, his visit to Warsaw in 1848. He met there
Jozef Sikorski, the future editor of the most notable Polish music journal Ruch Muzyczny (Musical
Movement), Oscar Kolberg a well-known folk song collector, and Wlodzimierz Wolski a poet and future
librettist of Moniuszko's best known opera Halka. Named after its heroine, Halka was premiered with
great success in 1858 in Warsaw and later in Prague, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The engagement of
the composer as an opera conductor at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw followed in 1859. From 1964 he
also taught harmony and counterpoint at the Musical Institute there.
The most notable among his choral works are cantatas Sonety krymskie (Crimean Sonnets)
and Widma (Phantoms) composed to the texts of Adam Mickiewicz, the leading poet of the Polish
Romanticism. The melodic line of the former is particularly expressive and in parts of the composition
takes on the form of variations.
For more information about Moniuszko you may visit the web site of the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw (Grand Theatre) where
many of Moniuszko's operas are in the repertoire. This site (www.teatrwielki.pl) includes biographies of many artists who performed in
Moniuszko's operas. In Yahoo one may find over 800 references to Moniuszko, many pages
have biographical information and data about CD recordings. For more information in print, consult
Maciejewski's book, Moniuszko. Father of Polish Opera (Library of Congress no. is ML 410 M752 M3. Published in 1979,
London, by Allegro Press). Moniuszko's manuscripts have not been catalogued and described; no scholarly monograph on the composer is currently
available. It seems that foreign composers are more interesting for Polish scholars than the "father" of Polish national opera. Perhaps a Western
specialist in Polish music will take this challenge and start researching Moniuszko's life and work.
LIST OF WORKS
- Bettly - comic opera in two acts. Libretto F. Schober (after Scribe and Melesville)
Wilno 1872; First perf.: Wilno, May 20, 1852;
- Flis (The Raftsman) - opera in one act. Libretto S. Boguslawski, 1858;
First perf.: Warsaw, September 24, 1858;
- Halka - opera initially in two acts, later enlarged to four acts. Libretto W. Wolski, Wilno 1846;
First perf.: Wilno, January 1, 1848.
- Hrabina (The Countess) - opera in three acts. Libretto W. Wolski, Warsaw 1859;
First perf. : Warsaw, February 7, 1860.
- Paria - opera in three acts. Libretto J. Checinski (based on a play by K. Delavigne), 1859-69;
First perf.: Warsaw, December 11, 1869.
- Rokiczana (The King of Peasants) - unfinished opera.
Libretto J. Korzeniowski.
- Sielanka (Idyll) - opera in two acts. Libretto W. Marcinkiewicz.
- Straszny dwor (The Haunted Manor) - opera in four acts. Libretto J. Checinski, Warsaw 1861-64;
First perf.: Warsaw, September 28, 1865.
- Verbum Nobile - opera in one act. Libretto J. Checinski, Warsaw, 1860;
First perf.: Warsaw, January 1, 1861.
Masses and Other Sacral Works:
- Beata - operetta in one act. Libretto J. Checinski, Warsaw 1870 or 1871;
First perf.: Warsaw, February 2, 1872.
- Ideal (Idol) - operetta in two acts.
Libretto O. Milewski, Wilno, 1840 or 1841.
- Jawnuta (The Gypsies) - idyll in two acts. Text F.D. Kniaznin, Wilno, 1850;
First perf.: Wilno, May 20, 1852.
- Karmaniol czyli Francuzi lubia zartowac (Karmaniol or Frenchmen Like To Joke) -
comic opera in two acts. Libretto O. Milewski (after Theaulon de Torges and Jaime);
- Loteria (Lottery) - trifle (epigram) in one act.
Libretto O. Milewski, 1842 or 1843; First perf. : Minsk, 1843.
- Nocleg w Apeninach (Overnight in Appenines) - operetta in one act. Text A. Fredro,
composed during the period of studies in Berlin 1837-1840; First perf.: Wilno, 1839.
- Nowy Don Kiszot czyli Sto Szalenstw (The New Don Quixote or Hundred Follies) - operetta in three acts.
Text A. Fredro; First perf.: Warsaw, 1923.
Cantatas and Choral Ballads:
- Litanie ostrobramskie ( Litanies of Ostra Brama) mixed choir, organ and orchestra. Latin texts.
- Funeral Mass in D-minor for 4-part mixed choir and organ.
Text by F. Felinski, 1850.
- Mass in A-minor for 2 voices (soprano and alto) and organ.
Text by A. E. Odyniec. Wilno.
- Mass in E-minor for 2 sopranos, alto and organ. Text by A.E. Odyniec - Polish,
and Achilles Bonoldi - Latin, Wilno 1855.
- Mass in E-flat major for solo voices, mixed choir, organ and string quintet. Latin text.
- Mass in B-flat major ‘Piotrowinska' (Piotrowin Mass) for solo voices, mixed choir and organ.
Warsaw 1872, First perf.: Warsaw, May 19, 1872.
- Oto drzewo krzyza (Ecce lignum crucis). Motet for baritone solo, mixed choir and organ.
Latin text and Polish translation by M. Kotarbinski. Warsaw 1872, First perf.: Warsaw, March 29, 1872.
- Modlitwa Panska ‘Ojcze nasz' (The Lord's Prayer "Our Father") for 4-part mixed choir and orchestra
or organ, First perf.: Warsaw, June 17, 1859.
- Psalm ‘Ne memineris' for solo voices, mixed choir,
organ and string quintet. Latin text.
- Psalm ‘Vide humilitatem meam' for mixed choir,
sting quintet and organ. Text in Polish translation.
- Requiem aeteranam for 11 solo voices, mixed choir and orchestra.
- Milda. Cantata for solo voices, mixed choir and orchestra. Text from Witolorauda by J. I. Kraszewski.
Wilno 1848. First perf.: Wilno, December 18, 1848.
- Nijola. Cantata for solo voices, mixed choir, and orchestra. Text partly from Witolorauda.
Wilno after 1848.First perf.: Wilno, March 8, 1852.
- Florian Szary (The Grey) Ballad from the unfinished opera Rokiczana, for baritone solo, choir
and orchestra. Text by J. Korzeniowski. 1858-59. First perf.: Warsaw, December 16, 1860.
- Widma (The Ghosts). Cantata for solo voices, mixed choir and orchestra. Text from Dziady
(The Forefathers) by Adam Mickiewicz. Wilno before 1859, First perf.: Warsaw, 1865.
- Sonety krymskie (Crimean Sonnets). Cantata (8 sonnets) for solo voices, mixed choir and orchestra.
Words by Adam Mickiewicz. Warsaw 1867. First perf.: Warsaw, February 16, 1868.
- Pani Twardowska. Ballad for solo voices, choi and orchestra. Words by Adam Mickiewicz.
Warsaw 1869. Frist perf.: Warsaw, December, 1869.
- Kurmine - unfinished cantata.
- Bajka (Fairytale) Fantastic Overture. Wilno 1848(?).
First perf.: Wilno, May 1, 1848.
- Kain. Overture. First perf.: Petersburg, March 1856.
- War Overture. First perf.: Wilno, March 19, 1857.
- Polonez koncertowy (Concert Polonaise) in A-major
for large orchestra.
- Polonez obywatelski (Civic Polonaise) in F-major.
Warsaw, after 1863.
Music for Theatre:
- Monte Christo. Ballet in 5 acts.
Libretto after the novel by Aleksander Dumas. Warsaw 1866.
First perf.: Warsaw, August 27, 1866.
- Na kwaterunku (On the Billet).Ballet in 1 act.
Warsaw 1868. First perf.: Warsaw, September 6, 1868.
- Figle szatana (Satan's Tricks). Ballet in 6 pictures. Libretto by unknown author. Warsaw 1870.
First perf.: Warsaw, December 1, 1870.
- Merry Wives of Windsor, opera of Otto Nicolai. Ballet music for
the opera composed by Moniuszko.
- Kasper Hauser melodrama by Anicet, Bourgeois and and d'Ennery. 1843.
First perf.: Minsk, November 18, 1843.
- Sabaudka (Savoyardess or the Mother's Blessing) melodrama in 5 acts
by d'Ennery and Lemoine. First perf.: Wilno, May 6, 1845.
- Hamlet - Shakespeare's tragedy.
Perf.: Warsaw, March 24, 1871.
- Zbojcy (Die Rauber) - Schiller's tragedy.
Perf.: Warsaw 1870 and 1871.
- Hans Mathis - drama 1872 (Finished by Adam Munchheimer).
- Karpaccy gorale - drama J. Korzeniowski.
- 1st String Quartet. Berlin, ca. 1837-40.
- 2nd String Quartet. Berlin, ca. 1837-40.
- Fraszki (Trifles). Published: Wilno 1843.
- Nocturne in A flat major Published: Wilno 1846.
- Mazurkain D major. Published: Wilno, before 1846.
- Sx Polonaises. Published: Wilno 1846.
- Polka in C major. Published: Warsaw, 1851.
- Polka 'Daniel.' Published: Warsaw 1852.
- Polka 'Gabirela.' Published : Warsaw 1855.
- 'Spring' Polka. Published: Warsaw 1860.
- Vilanelle in B flat major. Published: Warsaw 1851.
- Three Waltzes. Published : Warsaw 1852.
- 'Wedding' Mazurka. Published: Warsaw 1872.
- Kolysanka (Cradle Song) in D major.
Published: Warsaw, March 19, 1872.
- Piano transcriptions of opera fragments and of works by other composers, among others
Six Polonaises of Michal Oginski.
Published: Warsaw, before 1858
- Original compositions and transcriptions for piano duet.
- Organ Compositions on the themes of church songs, among others
Vespers and Song of Ostra Brama.
Published: Warsaw 1862.
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