• When was Różycki born? [update]

• Following a speedy communication today (29 January 2016) from William Hughes (whose English-language translations of Szymanowski documents continue apace), I am now able to provide answers to the questions posed below.  Thank you, William!


I was going to write that it was hardly a matter of life or death, but recently I was puzzled by two different birth dates for the Polish composer Ludomir Różycki.  The date of his death is agreed by all sources – 1 January 1953 – but how to decide between the two birth dates 18 September 1883 and 6 November 1884?  Last summer I was preparing a CD booklet note for Hyperion, whose The Romantic Piano Concerto 67: Różycki is being released today.  Like most other English-language publishers, Hyperion follows the Grove dictionaries, which in Różycki’s case plump for the 1884 date.  Informed consensus in Poland, however, now goes for 1883, and as a result Hyperion has agreed to change its hitherto unswerving alliance to Grove, with the bracketed wording ‘(1883–1953; some sources give his birth date as 1884)’.

The earliest dictionary source at my disposal is the second edition of Almanach Kompozytorów Polskich (PWM, 1966), which gives 1884.  The Almanach was co-edited by Bogusław Schaeffer, who also wrote the entry on Różycki in New Grove (1980), so perhaps that is how the damage was done.  The third edition of the Almanach (1982) goes however  for 1883, while New Grove (2001), with a different author, sticks with 1984.  Most printed sources have perpetuated PWM’s initial 1884 dating (see * below), while online sources use the revised 1883 date (**).

I have no idea where the date 6 November 1884 came from, but I hope that someone in the know can solve the conundrum (I can’t remember if Marcin Kamiński’s 1987 monograph Opowieść o życiu i twórczości clarifies the issue).  What I can do is to provide a little further evidence to support the earlier year (supplementing that of his gravestone in Warsaw, which has always given the date as 1883) as well as to reveal another, passing, confusion.

Last summer, a colleague in the archives at the Polish Music Information Centre in Warsaw sent me a letter – dated 16 September 1953 – from Różycki’s widow to the Polish Composers’ Union.  Eight days earlier, she had evidently given her late husband’s birth date as 3 November 1883.  (Maybe that was the date of his christening.)  But in the meantime she had discovered a copy of his birth certificate, which stated that he was born on 18 September 1883. No further correspondence has since surfaced, but I think that it’s fairly safe to advise any future editor that Różycki’s birthdate fell in 1883, not 1884.

RozyckiLudomir_ur copy

“In connection with my letter of 8 September, touching on the celebration of the 70th birthday of my late husband Ludomir Różycki, I hereby hasten with regret to report that the date of birth given there – 3 November 1883 – is not entirely certain, because in the meantime, while going through my husband’s personal documents, I found a copy of his birth certificate, with indeed the same year – 1883 – but the day [given as] not 3 November but 18 September.

There is here the possibility of errors in the certificate, so I have asked the registry of the parish church of St Aleksander in Warsaw to send me an exact copy of the birth certificate, pursuant to which I will send the date [when it is] decisively determined.”


UPDATE (29 January 2016)

When William Hughes responded this morning to the above post, he provided the source that clarifies any doubts.  As I half suspected, Marcin Kamiński explained the discrepancies in the narrative – 18 September 1883 against 6 November 1884 – but I would never have guessed that these would be the reasons .  On p.15 of his book, Kamiński wrote the following:

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 14.00.49

In brief, the family recalled that, threatened with military service in the Tsar’s army while he was a student [Warsaw was in the Russian zone of occupation], Różycki pretended to be a year younger.  1883 became 1884. He chose the date of 6 November because that was when one of the family’s favourite musical heroes was born in 1860: the pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski.  As the years went by, no one was concerned about correcting the date.  However, when Różycki was required to provide identity information during the Nazi occupation in World War II, he had to give the correct date.  The original register, then at St Aleksander’s church in Warsaw [as indicated in Stefania Różycka’s letter above], was subsequently deposited in the Library of the Jagellonian University in Kraków.

Różycki cannot have been the only young man of call-up age to find a way of avoiding conscription, but I would hazard a bet that no-one else rallied the great Paderewski to his cause.  I wonder if Paderewski would have chuckled, had he known, when much later he surely met Różycki and knew his music.


* 1884: Almanach Kompozytorów Polskich (PWM, 1966; 2nd ed.) • Słownik Muzyków Polskich (PWM, 1967) • Muzyka Polska Informator (PWM, 1967) • Grove dictionaries (1880-) • Encyklopedia Muzyki (PWN, 2001, in contrast to PWN’s main online encyclopedia) • Kompozytorzy Polscy 1918-2000 (Gdańsk-Warsaw, 2005)
** 1883: Almanach Kompozytorów Polskich (PWM, 1982; 3rd ed.) • culture.pl (Eng/Pol) • Encyklopedia (PWN) • Encyklopedia Muzyczna (PWM, 2004) • Polish Music Information Centre • Polish Online Biographical Dictionary • Wikipedia (Eng/Pol)


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