Moniuszko, Stanislaw


Moniuszko, Stanislaw

Flis Overture

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Stanisław Moniuszko

Overture to the Opera Flis

(b. Ubiel nr. Minsk, 5 May 1819 – d. Warsaw, 4 June 1872)

Instrumentation: 1 fl(pic), 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 4 hn, 2 tpt, 3 tbn, tuba, strs, timp, perc

Duration: ca. 11 min.

“Ye gigantic sepulcher of bygone centuries! Ye lasting monuments for centuries to come, raised to unattainable heights, your peaks thrusting into the clouds! You preserve the imperishable name of the Polish people. Unreachable by human force, you preserve this symbol and pass it on to the centuries that follow as proof that the first man to stand on these, your towering peaks, was a Pole

[…]” Stanisław Staszic: O Ziemiorództwie Karpatów i innych gór i równin Polski (Warsaw, 1815).

The Polish writer and priest Stanisław Staszic (1755–1826), an influential figure in the Polish Enlightenment, found these stirring words for the “preservers of Polish identity” in 1815. If Staszic expressed himself verbally in the language of politics, Poland’s national composer, Stanisław Moniuszko, composed operas on the same themes. His opera Flis centers on the rafts that traditionally served as a major form of commercial transportation in pre-industrial Poland. Like almost all his operas, it not only tells a convoluted love story (in this case with a happy outcome), it also treats of the relations between townsfolk and villagers – relations eternally fraught with tension in Poland, as in other countries with primarily agrarian economies.

Yet it must be borne in mind that during the age in which Moniuszko wrote his operas on the Polish nation, and in which most of his plots are set, there was no sovereign Polish state at all. Before he was born, Poland had already suffered its third partition, this time between Prussia, Austria, and Russia, confronting its people with a grave existential crisis. The resultant formation of national identities was a process that dominated Europe from the early nineteenth century on and led to great restructurings of power on the Continent. But the process of finding a national identity was considerably more complex in Poland, which over the centuries had been subjected to many forms of foreign domination, both geographical and cultural. Even before the partition of the country in the late eighteenth century it had existed solely in a multi-ethnic personal union with Lithuania, which hindered the emergence of fully-formed national ideas. Only with the dissolution of the Polish-Lithuanian state in 1795, roughly at the same time as the burgeoning of nationalist ideas capable of moving the masses, did the sense of a genuine Polish nation begin to take hold. The result, in music, was the formation of nationalist schools. This process, as it took place in Poland, resembled the then current situation in the Kingdom of Bohemia, which formed part of the Habsburg monarchy in the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918. There the discovery of a national identity was supported by, among others, composers such as Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) and Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), who attained great popularity by incorporating rhythms and tunes from Czech folk music into their scores. In Poland this movement found a vehicle in the often folk-based compositions of Moniuszko.

Moniuszko was born on 5 May 1819 into the lesser aristocracy in Ubiel near the Byelorussian city of Minsk, then part of the Russian Empire. It is worth mentioning that he is regarded as a national composer not only in present-day Poland, but to a certain extent in Belarus and Lithuania as well, most probably because prior to 1795 large parts of present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine were ruled by a “Polish-Lithuanian Union.” His early compositions, including his first operetta Nocleg w Apeninach (“A Night in the Appenines”) and both of his only string quartets, arose during his studies at the Berlin Singakademie between 1837 and 1840. His first appointment took him to Vilnius as an organist in 1840, but by 1842 he was already making efforts to obtain a post in the imperial court in St. Petersburg to improve his financial situation. At that time Vilnius and St. Petersburg were merely two cities in the Russian Empire.

In 1843, with the publication of the first of his twelve songbooks, Spiewniki domowe (“Domestic Songs”), Moniuszko’s reputation grew to such an extent that he was introduced to Warsaw’s artistic community. Here he made the acquaintance of the young poet Wlodzimierz Wolski, who ultimately wrote the libretto to his first opera, Halka (“Helen”). Although the opera was completed in mid-1847 and mounted with indifferent success in Vilnius, it had to wait eleven years, and undergo further revision, before its Warsaw première could take place in 1858. The event fundamentally changed Moniuszko’s life. It was not until he arrived in Warsaw, then under Prussian administration, that he first set foot outside the Russian Empire. There his role as the future national composer of the Polish-Lithuanian state, and especially Poland, began to take shape, for he came into direct contact with the Polish national movement, especially in poetry and music. This gave him an opportunity to have other works from his pen performed in a major Polish city.

The triumph of Halka in Warsaw led to Moniuszko’s appointment as artistic director of the National Opera, initiating a productive period that witnessed the creation of his operas Flis, Hrabina, Verbum Nobile, and Paria. To his contemporaries, he became the leading Polish composer of the era. His success, especially that of his operas, resulted primarily from meeting the movement’s demand for an independent Polish national music. When he died on 4 June 1872, several thousand mourners attended his funeral….


Read full preface / Komlettes Vorwort > HERE

Score Data


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210 x 297 mm



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