• WL100/50: Volcano in Łowicz (1949)

On 21 March 1949, Lutosławski went with the Polish poet and satirist Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński (1905-53) to a well-known artists’ retreat at the Palace of Nieborów, west of Warsaw.  Its nearest town was Łowicz (pronounced ‘Wohveech’).  They were meeting to discuss one of the oddest projects that Lutosławski ever entertained: a comic opera centred on Łowicz.  Yet, as the preceding post – WL100/49: 22 July 1949 and a letter – indicates, this was not the only link between the two men, and this post concludes with a footnote about their other proven collaboration, July Garland.

The source of the Łowicz information was given to me by Gałczyński’s daughter, Kira, when I met her in Warsaw in 2000.  Earlier, she had spoken to my friend Michał Kubicki (who did much of the groundwork when following up the leads in Lutosławski’s letter), saying that her father and Lutosławski spent many hours talking at Nieborów, discussing several joint projects.

The only published account of their collaboration of which I am aware is to be found in a contribution to a book on Gałczyński, published in 1961.*  It comes from Jan Wegner (1909-96), who was  born in Łowicz.  After World War II, he was appointed to take care of the renovation of the Palace of Nieborów and he initiated many artistic meetings and events there.  In ‘Wspomnienia Nieborowskie’ [Nieborów Memories], he wrote:

21 March (Monday). Today, for the second time, Gałczyński came to Nieborów.  He was accompanied by the musician Witold Lutoslawski, for whom, after his first departure from Nieborów, he had prepared the libretto for a comic opera in one act entit[led] “The Fair in Łowicz”.  A note written by the composer in the Nieborów Visitors’ Book states: “Witold Lutoslawski was here on 21.03.1949 with Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński on account of “The Fair in Łowicz”.”

The poet said that among contemporary Polish musicians Lutoslawski has the greatest sense of the grotesque.

That day, Gałczyński read me excerpts from his libretto, while asking at the same time about the history of the famous fairs in Łowicz.  The libretto was full of fun ideas and grotesque-comic effects.  He introduced various additions, and he even changed the title of the comic opera to “The Volcano in Łowicz”.  The climax of this musical spectacle was supposed to be a volcanic eruption, belching with fire and smoke.  This volcano (a cardboard “fireproof crater”), the biggest sensation of the St John’s fair in Łowicz, was a source of income for a certain minstrel with whiskers who wandered through the fair and who fell in love with the Łowicz mayor, Eulalia.  In honour of Eulalia he commissioned a cantata about Mercury, “the god who links Łowicz with Olympus”.  Roch Serafiński wrote the cantata, “which grants happiness and lends money”.
[…]
The libretto was written for Lutoslawski.  The authors wanted to entrust the directing to Lidia Zamkow who came that day to Nieborów from Łódź with Natalia Gałczyńska and the writer Maciej Słomczyński.  As regards the set and costumes, they intended to approach … Jan Kamyczek and the Rojek Brothers from “Przekrój”.

…….

21 marca (poniedziałek).  W dniu dzisiejszym po raz drugi przyjechał Gałczyński do Nieborowa.  Towarzyszył mu muzyk Witold Lutosławski, dla którego przygotował po pierwszym wyjeździe z Nieborowa libretto do opery komicznej w jednym akcie pt. “Jarmark w Łowiczu”.  Stwierdza to notatka wpisana przez kompozytora do nieborowskiej Księgi Pamiątkowej: “Witold Lutosławski 21.3.1949 był tu z Konstantym Ildefonsem Gałczyńskim z powodu “Jarmarku w Łowiczu”.”

Poeta mówił, że spośród współczesnych muzyków polskich Lutosławski ma największe poczucie groteski.

Tego dnia Gałczyński odczytał mi fragmenty swojego libretta, wypytując jednocześnie o historię słynnych jarmarków łowickich.  Libretto obfitowało w zabawne pomysły i efekty groteskowo-komiczne.  Do tekstu wprowadzał różne uzupełnienia, a nawet sam tytuł opery komicznej zmienił na “Wulkan w Łowiczu”.  Punktem kulminacyjnym tego muzycznego widowiska miał być wybuch wulkanu, zionącego ogniem i dymem.  Ów wulkan (z tektury o “ogniotrwałym kraterze”), będący największą sensacją świętojańskiego jarmarku w Łowiczu, był źródłem utrzymania pewnego wędrującego po jarmarkach rybałta z wąsikami, który zakochał się w łowickiej burmistrzance Eulalii.  Na cześć Eulalii zamówił kantatę Merkury, “bożek, co Łowicz z Olimpem łączy”.  Kantatę napisał Roch Serafiński, “co radości użycza a forsę pożycza”.
[…]
Libretto było pisane dla Lutosławskiego.  Reżyserię chcieli autorzy powierzyć Lidii Zamkow, która tego dnia przyjechała z Łodzi do Nieborowa z Natalią Gałczyńską oraz pisarzem Maciejem Słomczyńskim.  W sprawie dekoracji i kostiumów zamierzano zwrócić się do… Jana Kamyczka i braci Rojek z “Przekroju”.

Notes:
• Lidia Zamkow (1918-82) was a Polish actress and director.  Maciej Słomczyński (1922-98), an adopted Pole, was her first husband.  Natalia Gałczyńska (1908-76) was Gałczyński’s wife and an author in her own right. ‘Jan Kamyczek’ and ‘the Rojek Brothers’ [Bracia Rojek] were two of the pseudonyms used by the (female) painter and satirical journalist, Janina Ipohorska (1914-81), who – like Gałczyński – frequently contributed to the Polish weekly satirical magazine Przekrój (Wegner seems to have misunderstood her identity a little).  The fictional Roch Serafiński was previously a character in Gałczyński’s poetic ‘little oratorio’ Kolczyki Izoldy (Isolde’s Earrings, 1946).
• There’s something curious about Wegner’s chronology.  When did Gałczyński change the title from ‘The Fair in Łowicz’ to ‘The Volcano in Łowicz’?  During the day’s discussions, or before?  Lutosławski’s entry in the Visitors’ Book must surely have been made when he arrived, rather than when he left, as he wrote down the former title.  (It is possible, given the poor transport links at the time and the facilities offered at Nieborów, that they were there for longer than just a day visit.)  Whatever the sequence, it is clear from Wegner’s account that the planning of the project was well-advanced, as the names of the other main contributors were already being discussed.
• That this project came to nothing is disappointing as it sounds quite different from the smothering blanket of socialist-realist culture that was rapidly being spread over all the Polish arts in Spring 1949.  Perhaps that is why it fell by the wayside.  But its fantastical character must have appealed to Lutosławski in some measure, even though he had an aversion to opera in which normal speech was set to music.  Perhaps the most interesting feature in Wegner’s recollections is Gałczyński’s opinion that Lutosławski had the greatest sense of the grotesque of all Polish musicians.  On what did he base this judgment?  Could it be the third movement, Allegretto misterioso, from the First Symphony, premiered less than a year earlier and castigated by the authorities only six months after the meeting at Nieborów?

* Anna Kamieńska & Jan Śpiewak (eds), Wspomnienia o K. I. Gałczyńskim [Reminiscences of K. I Gałczyński] (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1961), pp.453-4.

Footnote on Lipcowy wieniec

All that we know for certain about Lipcowy wieniec (July Garland) comes from Lutosławski’s letter of 8 April 1950 (see previous post).  Despite Kira Gałczyńska’s recollection that her father and Lutosławski discussed several joint projects at Nieborów, no evidence has surfaced in her father’s papers for 1949.  In 2000, Michał Kubicki made enquiries of Maria Mirecka (the 20th-century poetry editor at the publishing house Czytelnik) and of Ziemowit Fedecki (editor of the Twórczość monthly, who knew Gałczyński personally and edited several volumes of his poetry), but neither knew anything about the Gałczyński-Lutosławski connections.

One is left wondering if one of their joint projects was the short celebration of the July Manifesto (see post WL100/48) that became July Garland.  Did they, perhaps, groan together in Nieborów as they cobbled together a work in which they had no interest and even less faith?  There is no reason to doubt Lutosławski’s word about Gałczyński’s involvement in this triptych, but all we are left with of his contribution are the titles of the movements: ‘Walka’ (Struggle), ‘Odbudowa’ (Reconstruction) and ‘Pieśń obrońców pokoju’ (Song of the Defenders of Peace).  The music of July Garland is the subject of the next post – WL100/51.

As to any performance of July Garland, the evidence is very thin.  Michał Kubicki found no trace of it in the newspapers issued around 22 July 1949.  The opening of Trasa W-Z (E-W Route) dominated the headlines, but there was no indication of any new Lutosławski-Gałczyński work (one can be certain, had the premiere taken place, that it would have received considerable attention).  The previous day, there had been some musical items:

• The post-war reconstruction of Warsaw’s National Philharmonic Hall began.
• The Chopin Institute announced that for 22 July the cost of bus tickets to Chopin’s birthplace at Żelazowa Wola outside Warsaw would be reduced.
• Kantata na 22 lipca (Cantata for 22 July) by Jerzy Gert and Tadeusz Dobrzański, to a text by Krzysztof Gruszczyński, was premiered on the evening of 21 July, at the Legia Sports Club tennis courts.  The concert was organised by Dom Wojska Polskiego (House of the Polish Army), to which Lutosławski referred in his letter. The Polish daily Trybuna Ludu published the full text, of which these are the opening lines:

Fraternal canons resounded in July,
They brought us sun and song,
Eternal glory to the Soviet Army
Honour to our brotherhood in arms!

Zagrały w lipcu bratnie działa,
Słońce przyniosły nam i pieśń,
Radzieckiej Armii wieczna chwała
Braterstwu broni naszej cześć!

Surprisingly, the Gert-Dobrzański compilation did have some life in it, as it was repeated in Warsaw on 12 April 1951. The poetry is pretty dreadful and typical of socialist-realist panegyrics.  Without doubt, Gałczyński’s lyrics would have had more character, even if their sentiments were similar.  Sadly, we are unlikely ever to know.

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