Elegia for a Polish Youth

Duration: 7 minutes

Written: 2005

Premiered: November 10, 2005

University of Ottawa Orchestra

Conductor: David Currie

Soprano: Maria Knapik

Instrumentation:

  • Soprano Solo
  • String Orchestra

Background:

Early in 2005, I received the news that I would be invested into the Order Polonia Restituta.
I chose to receive this Order in Canada, and the date was fixed for November of that year in conjunction with the observance of the Remembrance Day. As a token of my gratitude for this honour, I resolved to write a new composition. A concert was planned by the Polish Embassy to commemorate the victims of violence and oppression. A moving poem by a prominent Polish poet who died in his youth during the Warsaw uprising, Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski, was slipped into my notebook. Its depth and tragic tone moved me immensely. The poem seemed to have been written as a premonition of the author’s own tragic and violent end during the heroic uprising.

I was further informed that the concert was to include Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.
I resolved to write my new work as a companion piece to Gorecki’s symphony. (I knew Gorecki as a young instructor at the Music Academy in Katowice, and this occasion gave me an opportunity to re-establish that emotional connection). I wrote the piece rather quickly and had it ready for the premiere under the baton of Maestro David Currie, at this special concert.
A year later, in Carnegie Hall, it received its U.S. premiere, while I conducted the world premiere of the chamber version of the work in Canada at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival.

Elegia is scored for solo Soprano and String Orchestra and it is approximately seven minutes in duration. It is in one movement and it reflects the tragic tone of the poem.
It is dedicated to Maria Knapik, who premiered the composition in both Ottawa and Carnegie Hall in New York. Upon the request of the soloist, yet another version for soprano and piano with violin obbligato was later created.

Elegia o chlopcu polskim

Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski

Oddzielili cie, syneczku, od snow, co jak motyl drza,
haftowali ci, syneczku, smutne oczy ruda krwia,
...
I wyszedles, jasny synku, z czarna bronia w noc,
i poczules, jak sie jezy w dzwieku minut - zlo.
Zanim padles, jeszcze ziemie przezegnales reka.
Czy to byla kula, synku, czy to serce peklo?

Elegia for a Polish Youth

You got separated, my dear son, from dreams that flutter like a butterfly,
You got embroidered, my dear son with a rusty colour of blood on your eyes,
...
And you went out, my virtuous son, at night with a gloomy weapon,
And you felt the evil hiding in the sound of the passing time.
Before you fell down, you anointed the soil with your hand.
Was it the bullet that killed you, my dear son, or did you heart erupt within you?

Translation by P.P. Koprowski; October 28, 2005