Roman Maciejewski

Timeline - 1950–1959

1950

Maciejewski composes Nocturne for violin and piano.

October – Maciejewski takes advantage of Jan Tarnowski’s hospitality and comes to stay at his estate in West Linton near Edinburgh (Scotland) to continue working on the Requiem.

 

21 January — death of George Orwell.

25 June — North Korean troops enter South Korea. Beginning of the Korean War.

Francis Poulenc writes Stabat Mater.

1951

Thanks to the Rubinsteins’ help Maciejewski obtains an American visa. He returns to Sweden from Scotland for a few months to put his affairs in order before leaving for the USA.

He writes another chamber piece: Nocturne for flute, guitar and celesta.

11 May – Maciejewski sets out on a journey to America on a ship.

After a brief visit to New York, where he receives financial support for the next few years, he travels to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he stays with Felicja and Kazimierz Kranc. From there he goes to Beverly Hills, California, to stay with Artur Rubinstein.

 

13 July — Arnold Schönberg dies in Los Angeles.

11 September — premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s last neoclassical opera, The Rake’s Progress.

Karlheinz Stockhausen writes Kreuzspiel, one of the first examples of pointillistic music.

The Studio for Electronic Music is set up in Cologne on the initiative of Werner Meyer-Eppler.

1952

Thanks to a scholarship from the Huntington Hartford Foundation Maciejewski moves to an artist colony in a mountain canyon in Santa Monica, which he describes in a letter to his father:

“The place where I now live is intended for artists working on some major works. It’s beautifully situated, in the mountains by the Pacific, has all the creature comforts and the best possible conditions for creative work.”

 

22 July – adoption of the constitution of the Polish People’s Republic modelled on Soviet legislation.

29 August — the pianist David Tudor performs John Cage’s 4’33” at the Woodstock Festival.

Jackson Pollock creates one of the best known “hot abstraction works”, Blue Poles.

François Mauriac receives the Nobel Prize in literature.

1953

In March Maciejewski rents a flat on the shore of the Pacific (Ocean Front). He meets there the famous guitarist Andrés Segovia.

All the time he continues to work intensively on his Requiem. As his funds are slowly running out, the composer takes a job as an accompanist at a ballet school in Santa Monica.

 

5 January — Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot is presented at Théâtre de Babylone in Paris.

5 March — death of Sergei Prokofiev and Joseph Stalin.

16 June – an uprising breaks out in East Berlin and is bloodily suppressed by Soviet troops.

The Literary Institute in Paris publishes Czesław Miłosz’s  The Captive Mind (in the Kultura Library series, vol. 3).

1954

Maciejewski finally completes the first part of the Requiem. In a letter to his parents he writes:

“I’ve finished the first part of my Requiem, which means that nearly three quarters of the work are composed.”

 

14 July — Andrzej Panufnik lands at the Heathrow Airport in London. His is probably the most spectacular escape by an artist from communist Poland.

19 May — Charles Ives dies in New York.

3 November — Henri Matisse dies in Nice.

1955

Maciejewski gets a job as an organist and conductor at the Polish church of Our Lady of the Bright Mount in Los Angeles. In a letter to his parents he writes:

“I have very little work as an organist and a lot of time for myself – yet I’ve stopped working on the Requiem, because I’m composing a little Mass made of Polish carols for this Christmas.”

In October he meets the eminent conductor Roger Wagner, who many years later would decide to present his Requiem at the Music Center in Los Angeles.

 

21 February — the Warsaw Philharmonic becomes the National Philharmonic.

6 May – the Federal Republic of Germany is admitted to NATO.

14 May — the Warsaw Pact is signed in Warsaw. It is intended as a response to the militarisation of West Germany and the country’s admission to NATO.

25 June — consecration of the Notre-Dame du Haut chapel in Ronchemp. This work by Le Corbusier is one of the most interesting examples of modernism in religious art.

12 August — death of Thomas Mann.

1956

Maciejewski is increasingly disgusted by the atmosphere in the church where he works. He writes about this in a letter to his parents of 14 December:

“It seems that the main goal in life for those Christians is the pursuit of the dollar, of food, drink and cheap entertainment. I’m beginning to think about breaking away from this milieu, which I don’t like and which drives me away from the things that are important in my life.”

 

25 June — a strike breaks out in Poznań, turning into an open protest against the government.
Between 10 and 20 October Warsaw hosts the 1st International Festival of Contemporary Music, which would later be called Warsaw Autumn.

In the Cologne electronic music studio Karlheinz Stockhausen creates Gesang der Jünglinge  considered to be the first masterpiece of electronic music. In the same year the composer also writes his aleatory Klavierstück XI.

1957

Maciejewski lives a very ascetic life, devoting all his energy to the writing of the Requiem. In a letter to his parents of 4 October he writes:

“I’ve bought time and peace by renouncing the relative and doubtful material values – I haven’t bought any clothes, a shirt or pair of shoes, for six years – day and night, holiday or not, I wear the same sweaters which I wear for visits and concerts, and when running in the morning to start the day well.”

 

1 January – establishment of the European Economic Community.

Publication in Italy of Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago smuggled out of the USSR. One year later it would bring Pasternak the Nobel Prize.

Pierre Boulez completes Piano Sonata No. 3, an example of the use of aleatory technique in a large multi-part form.

1958

June – Maciejewski gives up his job at the church and moves in with a friend, Jack Blackman, and finally completes his Requiem. He dreams of a performance of the work in Poland and contacts his old acquaintances: Zygmunt Mycielski, Kazimierz Sikorski, Stanisław Wiechowicz and Tadeusz Ochlewski.

 

26 March – premiere of Witold Lutosławski’s Funeral Music in Katowice.

3 October — premiere of Andrzej Wajda’s film Ashes and Diamonds after Jerzy Andrzejewski’s novel.

5 October — the Fifth Republic is proclaimed in France. Charles de Gaulle becomes its president.

1959

On 9 August Maciejewski arrives in Poland with the complete score of his Requiem. He first stays with his brother Zygmunt in Warsaw and then with his parents in Leszno.

 

The first concrete piece is created in the Polish Radio’s Experimental Studio – Włodzimierz Kotoński’s Study on One Cymbal Stroke.

Publication of Günter Grass’ novel  The Tin Drum, the first part in the so-called Danzig (Gdańsk) Trilogy – an extraordinary picture of Gdańsk’s complicated problems in 1924–1949.