Franciszek Lessels Cantata to St. Cecilia was written not only to honor the saint, but also - as we may infer on the basis of his curriculum vitae - under the influence of the love the composer felt for Cecilia Beydale, the foster child of Maria, Duchess of Württemberg (née Czartoryska). We do not know the exact date when the cantata was written; all we know is that it was performed for the first time in Warsaw on 21 November 1812 at the Church of the Augustinian Fathers. Its manuscript (part books), entitled Kantata do świętej Cecylii, has been preserved along with a few other works by this composer at the Library of the Pauline Fathers at Jasna Góra in Częstochowa. In a press notice on the Warsaw performance in 1812, the cantata was called a vocal oratorio, which name we find later in the music literature. [...]
It is worth mentioning that Lessel's Cantata is not the only work in this composers oeuvre written to honor St. Cecilia. The earliest list of his works mentions six masses, among them a Mass for St. Cecilia Day; however, no work with the name of cantata or oratorio figures in this list. [...] The year 1812 falls during a period in Lessels oeuvre when, three years after returning from Vienna (where he studied with Haydn), the composer created many works. The growing revival of musical life in Warsaw contributed to his compositional invention. The Warsaw press of the time suggested that as a student of the great Haydn, he not only took over the compositional ground of his teacher, but also, to the liking of posterity, completely became his imitator. Nevertheless, today, despite the indubitable stylistic links of Lessels music with Haydn, we consider him to be a representative of early Romanticism. The text to Lessels Cantata was written by Bonawentura Kudlicz (on the title folio of the preserved work, listed erroneously as J. Kudlicz). This was an actor well-known in Warsaw, a singer (bass), as well as author of opera libretti - among others, the text to Elsners melodrama Abrahams Sacrifice. Kudliczs versified text, in artistic terms not of high caliber, is irregular - divided into seven stanzas of differing number of verses [...]. The first three stanzas represent a song in praise of music, extolling its benevolent influence: it brings comfort to humanity, and at the same time awakens zeal, raising the soul towards heaven. The words of the four subsequent stanzas are addressed to St. Cecilia, who died a martyrs death for her faith and is now singing in heaven with the angels, glorifying the power of the Lord.
Alina Nowak-Romanowicz (commentary on score, PWM Edition, Kraków 1987)
- ISMN 979-0-2740-1464-3
- Language of text: pol
- Cover: softcover