Portrait of Stanisław Moniuszko by Marcin Władyka based on a photograph by Jan Mieczkowski, ca. 1865, from the collection of the National Library / Polona, in the public domain.

Stanisław Moniuszko

(5 May 1819 – 4 June 1872) composer, conductor and teacher, born in Ubiel (now in Belarus), died in Warsaw. Following a short spell of home education with his mother, Elżbieta, Moniuszko started to learn piano with August Freyer in Warsaw in 1827, to continue with Dominik Stefanowicz in Minsk from 1830. While staying in Vilnius in 1839, Moniuszko met his wife-to-be, Aleksandra Mueller. In 1837 Moniuszko left for Berlin, where he took private instruction in harmony, counterpoint, instrumentation and conducting with Carl Friedrich Rungenhagen, the director of the Singakademie Music Society. Meanwhile Moniuszko practised, conducted choirs, accompanied singers, studied the great operatic, oratorio and symphonic repertoires and investigated the pre-staging process as well as conducting technique, and took part in rehearsals carried out by Rungehagen and by Gaspar Spontini, who visited Berlin at the time.

Having spent three years in Berlin, Moniuszko returned to Poland in 1840 to marry Aleksandra Mueller and settle down in Vilnius, where he took the organist's position at St John's. Moniuszko contributed greatly to the local revival of music. Though short-lived, the choir which he had put together at St John's, supported by an ad hoc assembled orchestra, performed Mozart's Requiem as well as Haydn's Creation of the World, parts of Haydn's oratories and Mendelssohns's St Paul. There were also orchestral performances of works by Spontini, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. In the meantime Moniuszko travelled to St Petersburg to introduce its audiences to his own compositions. They were received with acclaim and had favourable reviews. The trips helped Moniuszko to make friends with Russia's leading composers and musicians, including Mikhail Glinka, Alexandr Dargomyzhskiy, Cesar Cui, and Alexandr Sierov.

In 1848 Vilnius saw the premiere staging of the first, two-act version of Moniuszko's opera Halka, conducted by the composer himself. Six years later, with the help of Achilles Bonoldi, Moniuszko established St Cecilia's Society, its amateur members giving two public concerts twice a year. Following the triumphant Warsaw premiere of the new, four-act version of Halka on 1st January 1858, Moniuszko embarked on a artistic trip to Germany and France to return and be appointed the first conducted of the Polish Opera at the Teatr Wielki (Grand Theatre) in Warsaw on 1st August 1858. The same year Moniuszko put on his one-act opera Flis, followed by the stagings of all of his subsequent operas over his fifteen-year term. Moniuszko's conducting projects focused almost exclusively on his own compositions, the key few exceptions being HaydÉe and Le Cheval de Bronze, the operas by Daniel François Esprit Auber. From time to time he would also conduct Warsaw church choirs, such as when he staged Felix Mendelssohns's oratorio Elijah in a protestant temple, and would appear as a conductor at the annual composer concerts.

In 1862 Moniuszko went to Paris again, hoping to have one of his operas staged there, but it never happened. The difficult political situation at the time and after the 1863 January Rising was not conducive to practising art, and Moniuszko's composing pace slowed down. However, the 1865 staging of his opera Straszny dwor was received enthusiastically, its success comaparable to that of Halka's. The year before the composer launched a series of lectures in harmony, counterpoint and composition, and led a choir group at the Institute of Music of the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw. Among Moniuszko's students were Zygmunt Noskowski and Henryk Jarecki.

Moniuszko died of a sudden heart attack and was buried at the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw, his burial ceremony becoming a national event and a demonstration of Polishness. Moniuszko's music has earned general recognition in the Polish nation and is commonly regarded as exemplary "Slavic".

 

Sourcewww.culture.pl, Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, March 2004.

Chamber works

  • Allegro moderato for viola, bells, harmonium and piano; music to theatre play

  • Bajka for a string quintet, before 1848, first instrumentation for orchestra

  • Conte d'hiver (Fairytale) ouverture fantastique for piano four hands Download

  • Contredanse in A major for piano four-hands Buy

  • Contredanse in C major for piano four-hands Buy

  • Contredanse in D major for piano four-hands Buy

  • Contredanse in F major [II] for piano four-hands Buy

  • Contredanse in F major [I] for piano four-hands Buy

  • Contredanse in G minor for piano four-hands Buy

  • Duettino for piano four-hands Buy

  • Kupiec wenecki [The Merchant of Venice] for chamber orchestra, ca. 1870, music to theatre play

  • Ostatnie bożyszcze [Last Idol] for string quintet, 1870, music to theatre play

  • Overture to "Flis” for piano four-hands, 1858 Download

  • Overture to "Kochanka hetmańska” for piano four-hands Download

  • Overture to "Paria” for piano four-hands, 1869 Download

  • Overture to "Sabaudki, czyli Błogosławieństwa matki” for piano four-hands Download

  • Pieśń włóczęgi [Song of the vagabond] for piano four-hands, before 1866 Buy

  • Polonaise concertante in A major for piano four-hands, before 1866 Buy

  • Polonaise in D major for piano four-hands, 1863 Buy

  • Polonez "Obywatelski" ["Obywatelski" polonaise] for piano four-hands, 1868

  • Polonez "Pan Chorąży” ["Pan Chorąży" polonaise] for cello and piano Download

  • Potpourri de motifs de l'opera "Paria" for piano four hands Download

  • Prządka [Spinner] for piano four-hands Buy

  • Salve Maria in D major for string quintet

  • Sonety krymskie [Crimean sonnets] for piano four hands Download

  • String quartet No.1 in D minor, 1839 Download

  • String quartet No.2 in F major, before 1840 Download

  • Tańce góralskie [Highland Dances] from opera "Halka” for piano four-hands Buy

  • Waltz in A flat major for piano four-hands, ca. 1850 Buy

  • Wedding mazur for piano four-hands Buy

  • Widma [Phantoms] for piano four-hands, 1865 or before Download

Piano works

  • "Daniel" Polka, before 1852 Buy

  • "Gabriela" Polka in A flat major, before 1855 Buy

  • "Jawnuta" Polka in B minor, 1852

  • 2 polkas from the ballet ”Na kwaterze”, before 1871 Download

  • 3 Waltzes, before 1852 Buy

  • 6 polonaises Buy

  • Anioł Pański w wiejskim kościółku, before 1865 Buy

    Details:

    two versions

  • Aria z kurantami from opera “Straszny dwór” Buy

  • Ballet Mazur from ballet "Monte Cristo” Download

  • Chant sans paroles in A minor Buy

  • Co mówią obłoki o księżycu w pogodną noc wiosenną Buy

  • Congé de Vilna

  • Cradle song "Dni radości” in D major, 1872 Buy

  • Do odjeżdżającej

  • Dzwonek wieczorny Download

  • Elegy, before 1866 Buy

  • Fraszki, 1843 Buy

  • From song "Dziewczę bez posagu” Buy

  • Gallop in D major

  • Gallop in F major

  • Impromptu in F major

  • Introduction, 5 waltzes and finale Buy

  • Jawnuta […] Excerpts, after 1850

  • La cloche du soir Download

    Details:

    Details: another title Dzwonek wieczorny

  • Leokadia. Polka in F major

  • Litwinka-Polka Buy

  • March from music to theatre play "Hamlet” Buy

  • Mazur from the opera "Halka”, 1858 Buy

  • Mazur from the opera "Straszny dwór”, 1865 Buy

  • Mazur in B major Buy

  • Mazur in D flat major Buy

  • Mazur in D major [II], before 1840 Buy

  • Mazur in D major [I], ca. 1845 Buy

  • Mazur in G major [III] Buy

  • Mazur in G major [II], before 1840 Buy

  • Mazur in G major [I], ca. 1845 Buy

  • Mazur in G minor, ca. 1836

  • Mazurka in A minor Buy

  • Mazurka in G major Buy

  • Music miniature in D major [II] Buy

  • Music miniature in D major [I] Buy

  • Nocturne in A flat major Buy

  • Oczekiwanie Buy

    Details:

    based on the song "Toska"

  • Pamiątka z albumu panny Marii Peszke, ca. 1879 Buy

  • Pensées lyriques, Op. 43, ca. 1893 Download

    Details:
    1. Mélodie méridionale, 2. Morceaux grotesque, 3. Nocturne, 4. Mazourka impromptu, 5. Danse cosaque
  • Pieśń cyganów Buy

    Details:

    based on the song "Cyganie"

  • Piosnka bez słów. Do odjeżdżającej Buy

    Details:

    another title "Chant sans paroles"

  • Piosnka jesienna, after 1860 Buy

    Details:

    based on the song "Niepogoda"

  • Pokój spracowanej duszy!, song for the funeral of I. Dobrzyński, 1867

  • Polka Leokadia Borrow

  • Polka in C major, before 1851 Buy

  • Polka on themes from the opera "Flis”, 1858 Buy

  • Polonaise concertante in A major, before 1866 Buy

  • Polonaise in D flat major, before 1858 Buy

  • Polonaise in D minor, before 1852 Buy

  • Polonaise in E flat major Buy

  • Polonaise on themes from the opera "Halka”, 1848 – 1850 Buy

  • Pożegnanie Buy

  • Prelude from the operetta "Beata”

  • Prelude in B major

  • Preludium z operetki „Beata” Download

  • Quasi mazur Buy

  • Spring Polka in F major, 1860 Buy

  • Taniec cyganki from the operetta "Jawnuta”, after 1850 Buy

  • Villanelle in B flat major, before 1851 Buy

  • Villanelle in D flat major Buy

  • Waltz in A flat major Buy

  • Waltz in D major

  • Waltz in E flat major, before 1840 Buy

  • Waltz in F major, before 1840 Buy

  • Wedding March in C major, ca. 1870 Buy

  • Westchnienie Litwina Buy

  • “Pohulanka” Waltz in A flat major Buy