Regardless of epoch and prevailing fashions, vocal-instrumental works have always constituted the richest branch of music. The creative output of Polish composers of the last century has provided many interesting and original examples of a successful symbiosis of music and word, a reflection of the close proximity of literature and music. In the first half of the century Karol Szymanowski reigned supreme, both because of formal variety, subject matter, and technical solutions and because of his unusually rich output in this field. In the post-war period we find completely different, innovative both in respect of musical language and form and just as noteworthy examples of works originating from the literary inspirations or researches of such composers as Witold Lutosławski, Kazimierz Serocki or Eugeniusz Knapik. It is, however, the work of Tadeusz Baird, who can undoubtedly be called the most important heir to Karol Szymanowski, that merits the greatest attention in this field. Vocal lyric composition always occupied an exceptional place in his output. Well-known for his literary predilections, Baird liked to draw on poetry from all eras, whether early or the most recent, looking in it for topics close to man, such as love or death. In composing music to Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet, for a production directed by Lidia Zamkow in 1956, this contemporary lyric composer utilised the masterly love poetry of the greatest poet and playwright of all times, i.e. The Sonnets (translated by Maciej Słomczyński). He chose four of the 154 poems, and arranged them into a cycle of love songs, love, although changeable and transient like the seasons of the year making human life meaningful. Each of the songs has a different character: the first serene, the second humorous, the third nostalgic, the fourth full of sorrow and grief.
Four Love Sonnets is a stylisation which is perfect in every respect. In setting artistic and beautiful poetry to music, the composer attached great importance to a pure, clear musical image characterised by a distinct and noble melodic line, simple instrumentation, and discreetly ornamented classical harmonies. The changes of mood are emphasised by different major-minor modes, such refinements being enhanced by changes of metre, cadential figures, trills and ornaments, or witty dissonances (in the second song).
Tadeusz Baird was a master of stylisation, evident not only in Four Love Sonnets, the suite Colas Bregnon, these works breaking all records of popularity, but also in Three Songs to old Italian words and in the Songs of the Trouvčres. As a contemporary composer he used the most modern musical language (dodecaphony, serial music), whereas in his stylisations he was able to revive the spirit of the past epoch, expressing his nostalgia for past beauties, traces of which he tried to find in the surrounding world.
The version of Four Sonnets for baritone, strings and harpsichord was written in 1969, while that for baritone and piano, published by PWM Edition in 1999, has also become widely known, the piano score having been prepared by the composer.
Elżbieta Widłak (translated by Ewa Cholewka)
- Language of text: eng, pol
- Cover: softcover
score, solo part (instrument)