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Marcin Mielczewski

Marcin Mielczewski

†1651

Mielczewski Marcin, monogram M.M. Polish composer and kapellmeister. Died between 8 and 30 September 1651 in Warsaw. The composer’s name appears in many versions in source documents, including: Mielcowski, Mielezewski, Milczewski, Mylczewski. His date and place of birth are not known, the date of the creation and opening of his will allow us to determine his approximate date of death (lost during World War II, a summary made by H. Feicht is extant); from his will we know that he came from a catholic family. According to H. Ninius ("Examen breve...", Braniewo 1647) Mielczewski was a pupil of F. Lilius.

The first certain date concerning the composer comes from the records of the St. John’s Church in Warsaw of 18th December 1632 (the baptism of his son, Stanisław), which shows that at least in 1632, Mielczewski was a royal musician. His function in the Vasa (Royal family) cappella is not known; he was probably an instrumentalist. A. Jarzębski lists him as among the greatest of Władysław IV’s musicians, and emphasizes his composing skills.

In 1644 or 1645 Mielczewski became kapellmeister to Karol Fer­dy­nand Wa­za (Charles Ferdinand Vasa), brother of King Władysław IV, Bishop of Wrocław and Płock (he is first mentioned as maestro di cappella for Karol Ferdynand on January 10, 1645 in the book of baptisms in St John’s Church in Warsaw). The Bishop-Prince had one of the best capellas in the Republic, consisting of Italian virtuosi and Polish musicians, and the position of being his kapellmeister was the most prestigious musical position occupied by a Pole. Mielczewski served this function until the end of life, without breaking contact with the royal court. Karol Ferdynand tried to always have his capella available, so it can be assumed that the composer usually changed residence with his employer. He therefore resided mainly in Wyszków, Brok, Ujazdów and Warsaw, and made longer trips, including to Gdań­sk (1646) and Nysa and Opole, where he probably spent about half of the year 1650. Marcin Mielczewski was married twice; with his first wife Urszula Ma­nu­­szówna he had a son Stanisław and three daughters: Elżbieta (baptized 21 June 1633), Dorota (baptized on January 3, 1638) and Agnieszka (baptized 10 January 1645); with the second - Jadwiga Kołaczkówna one son, Franciszek Sylwester (baptized on December 31, 1649). Until 1648 he owned the farm in Ujazdów which he sold after the death of his first wife.

For some time he owned a house in Warsaw on Mostowa Street, brought as dowry by his second wife, and at the end of his life, he acquired half of the tenement called Ludwikowska on the Old Town Square. By the grace of Karol Ferdynand, he “held the right for life” of the Niemirów farm near Wyszków. He willed all of his compositional output to his „Naj­jaśniejszy Pan i Do­bro­dzie­j Królewicz Je­go Miłości” (“Most Enlightened Lord and Good-willed Prince of His Love.”) Neither the collection of musicalia, nor the list of works mentioned in Mielczewski’s last will have survived to this day. Most likely because of his early death, the composer did not manage to obtain citizenship of Old Warsaw. This was received by his widow Jadwiga in 1653. In the document concerning this matter and the now lost receipt of a loan repayment (1649), additionally in the act of Bishop Jan Lip­ski’s Foundation concerning the performance of Mielczewski’s mass in the cathedral in Łowicz, the term "nobilis" is placed next to the name of the composer, which does not mean that Mielczewski was a noble, but is evidence of the recognition he enjoyed.

Marcin Mielczewski was the best known Polish composer in Europe in the seventeenth century. His works were known in various German centres, in Denmark, Gdańsk, Silesia, Moravia and Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia and probably in Paris. In his lifetime, only the canon published by M. Scacchi in Xenia Apollinea, a musical addendum to Cribrum musicum (Venice 1643) appeared in print. Several years after the composer's death in a collection of “the most famous Italian and other authors” by J. Havemann (Erster Theil Geistlicher Con­certen, Jena 1659) his solo church concerto Deus in nomine tuo appeared. M. Dylecki invoked examples of Mielczewski’s work in his treaty Grama­tyka mu­zyczna (Vilnius, c. 1675). M. Schacht mentioned his compositions in his treaty Musicus Danicus (1687). Mielczewski’s compositions were much sought after by German princes and Patriarch Nikon of Moscow. Apart from the two already mentioned, all other pieces by Marcin Mielczewski remained in manuscript copies (usually not dated, but mostly from the second half of the seventeenth century), and are now to be found in libraries and archives abroad - in Berlin (including a collection of the former Municipal Library in Wrocław), Paris, Kroměříž, Levoča and Vilnius, as well as Polish archives: in Gdańsk, Warsaw, Kraków (some pieces that are in those collections from before World War II are currently considered missing; they are known only from twentieth-century copies or photographs). For many of them, especially in copies made in the seventeenth century outside of Poland, the composer’s name was given in various distorted forms.

For copies that arose in Mielczewski’s lifetime or shortly after his death, in circles where he was well known, copyists often provided only the creator’s initials. Extant sources allow us to assume that the monogram M.M. in mid-seventeenth century Gdańsk, Kraków and Wrocław obviously means Marcin Mielczewski.