VIOLIN CONCERTO: HOPE & BEAUTY

I was reading, “Ludomir Różycki buried his composition in a Warsaw garden as he fled the Nazis.” It sounded like a sad and hopeless time in a composer’s life during a sad and hopeless time in history. It was indeed sad but — thankfully — not hopeless.

There was more to read…. “Polish composer’s lost wartime concerto brought to life” added the missing hope. This true story by Kate Connolly in Szczecin, Poland, published on January 1, 2020, shared hope and an outcome very different than might have been.

A Warsaw home had been destroyed during World War 2, and builders later uncovered a suitcase in the garden and passed it on to authorities. Inside were multiple pages of an original musical composition. The Polish National Library became keepers of the contents then forgot about it… for decades.

The manuscripts had been buried by composer Ludomir Różycki before he escaped Warsaw and its devastation caused by war. Could he have held hope that one day his works would be reclaimed? Was it even possible to maintain hope during such a life-threatening and near-hopeless situation?

Hope refused to be hidden in the garden nor remain entombed in the suitcase nor forgotten forever in  library archives. Surprisingly the future would find the composer’s great-granddaughter, Ewa Wyszogrodzka, with eyes filling with tears and a heart overflowing with hope during a concert 75 years later.

A musician’s nearly lost composition was finally played by a Polish virtuoso violinist in concert at Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin. Rozycki’s original composition finally came to life as hope and beauty were musically proclaimed. Rozycki’s musical score, never presented while he was alive, was now shared with the world. To me this is an example of hope. We were finally blessed with his beautiful music, and hope blessed us as it played.

“Listening to the music, it’s like getting to know my great-grandfather for the first time,” Ewa said after the concert. “To think these pieces might have been lost forever.”

Poland’s leading classical violinist, Janusz Wawrowski, labored approximately a decade on Różycki’s Violin Concerto, which has been called “an exuberant, optimistic work comparable to that of George Gershwin or… Erich Wolfgang Korngold.”

Wawrowski thought it a “happy accident” that the original orchestral score and basic piano arrangements were discovered in two separate archives, and he correctly realized they belonged to Różycki’s Violin Concerto. I do not believe it was an accident at all. I am glad it allowed him to musically combine his findings, and that was neither simple nor quick.

Różycki’s musical experiences indicated a successful musical career in his future had he lived. He had studied piano and composition at the Warsaw Conservatory then continued his musical education in Weimar Berlin under the German opera composer Engelbert Humperdinck, associating with Richard Strauss, Giacomo Puccini, and other exceptional musical talents. His ballet Pan Twardowski was an international success performed almost 1000 times in Warsaw and throughout central and eastern Europe.

Unfortunately family stories about the composer were not shared. Ewa’s great-grandmother remarried after his death in 1953 and did not pass on details. Ewa shared, “But I do remember my grandmother telling me how he had been interrogated by the Gestapo.”

Rozycki had been forced to flee for his life after refusing to sign the Nazi Volkliste to register certain inhabitants of the Third Reich’s occupied territories. “There were no USB sticks in those days, so he was forced to put his scores in a suitcase and bury it in the garden,” Ewa explained. “The family thought they’d have the opportunity to find it after the war, but they never came back and assumed it had been lost or destroyed.”

At the recent concert conducted by Norbert Tworczynski, Wawrowski and the orchestra also performed Różycki’s Pieta. This work was completed in 1942, but his original manuscript was destroyed in the Warsaw Uprising.

“He had kept a memory of it in his head, so after the war, settled near Katowice, he was able to construct it with the help of musician friends,” said Ewa. She believes hundreds of missing works ready to be reclaimed still remain in Polish archives.

Różycki had desired to complete from memory the Violin Concerto, but the war had separated him from violinist friends who might have helped. “I’ve sometimes thought I was a substitute for the violinist friend, having that conversation with him but decades apart,” Violinist Wawrowski said.

“I spent years experimenting to get the sound I think Różycki would have wanted,” Wawrowski said. “I changed it to make it more violinistic, more technically complicated — as he was more of a pianist. To me it’s full of the energy and life of Warsaw before the war, and I think he was trying to conjure and convey this positive energy as he wrote it in 1944 in a very dark time as the artillery of the Nazis rained down on the city.”

Performing the Violin Concerto with Szczecin’s Symphony Orchestra to rave reviews, it was apparent that Wawrowski with his Stradivarius had mastered Rozycki’s musical score. Critics’ praise included comparisons of him to Stravinsky and Brahms, both of whom Różycki was frequently compared.

A Poznan University musicologist, Piotr Urbański, declared Rozcyki’s music, “rich, clear and brilliant, connecting us with a part of Polish history which was very tough, but he used his music to encourage optimism like a kind of therapy.” Urbanski further praised Rozcyki, “He was one of the most important composers of the first half of the 20th century, but he’s unknown to most Poles today. Let’s hope that will now change.”

A lot resulted from an accidental finding of long lost music composed by one running for his life. Certainly the odds were against the beauty of Rozycki’s Violin Concerto ever being found, finished, and felt by audiences  75 years after its composition.

I believe hope played a major role in bringing to pass the unlikely performance. Also hope helps in overcoming despair so common in circumstances like Rozycki tried to escape. May we remember this true story next time we are tempted to give up or simply give in. May we hold tight to hope and  look to God for strength. May we always believe that hope and beauty will  triumph in the end.

 

“to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”  (Isaiah 61: 2,3)

BEAUTY FOR ASHES:

“He gives beauty for ashes,
Strength for fear, Gladness for mourning, Peace for despair.

When sorrow seems to surround you,
When suffering hangs heavy o’er your head,
Know that tomorrow brings
Wholeness and healing.
God knows your need.
Just believe what He said.

He gives beauty for ashes,
Strength for fear, Gladness for mourning, Peace for despair.

When what you’ve done keeps you from moving on,
When fear wants to make itself at home in your heart,
Know that forgiveness brings
Wholeness and healing.
God knows your need.
Just believe what He said.

He gives beauty for ashes, 
Strength for fear, Gladness for mourning, Peace for despair.

I once was lost, but God has found me.
Though I was bound I’ve been set free.
I’ve been made righteous in His sight,
A display of His splendor all can see.

He gives beauty for ashes,
Strength for fear, Gladness for mourning, Peace for despair.”

(Ed Cash & Bethany Dillon)

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”  (Victor Hugo)

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Music can change the world because it can change people.”  (Bono)

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”  (Leonard Bernstein)

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