Roman Maciejewski

Life - In the artistic capital of Europe (Paris)

Thanks to the Becks’ support, in autumn 1934 Maciejewski received a state scholarship and began private lessons with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, the artistic centre of Europe at the time. Although such an education was a great honour and dream for many composers, years later Maciejewski recalled:

Nadia Boulanger was a person of exceptional charm. Like a witch almost – whether they wanted or not, people gave in to her charm. From my own experience I can say that did not learn that much from the lessons with her. I heard similar opinions from others as well. That’s why after a year or so I stopped going to her, although she taught me for free.

[Janusz Cegiełła in conversation with Roman Maciejewski, Warsaw, 19 June 1979, Wojciech Maciejewski’s archive.]

 Interestingly, this decision did not put an end to his creative endeavours. On the contrary, the French capital turned out to be a driver of self-development and establishment of important contacts. This means establishing contacts with representatives of high culture (like Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel or Czesław Miłosz), and building personal relations, for example with Artur Rubinstein. In addition, Maciejewski became a member of the Association of Young Polish Musicians in Paris; in 1935 he served as the organisation’s secretary, and from 6 April to 24 October he was its deputy president.

While in Paris Maciejewski also composed one of his most important works: Concerto for Two Pianos. The work was performed in the French capital several times: first on 21 March 1936 in Comtesse Jean Pastré’s salon, and then on 25 March 1936 Concerto pour deux piano solo was presented officially at Salle Chopin (Salle Pleyel) by the composer and his friend Kazimierz Kranc. The following year, on 23 February 1937, the Polish premiere of the piece took place at Warsaw’s Roma cinema and was very well received as was evidenced by Jerzy Waldorff, who wrote:

After over two years of living abroad Roman Maciejewski came recently to Warsaw. He left Poland already as a so-called “hope”. […] He came to Warsaw and presented his Concerto for Two Pianos Solo (performed at Roma). The reception of the work can hardly be called a success – it was much more. People were divided into several groups: some were enthusiastic, other debated fiercely, the third group simply said they did not understand anything but felt great things in the Concerto. […] Maciejewski’s Concerto is in his oeuvre a conscious turn away from fashionable folk stylisations. […] if young music abandons its pursuit of originality and applause of crowds, and will be imbued with seriousness and sense of responsibility like Maciejewski’s music, then soon we will see a return of an era of Bachs, Handels and Mozarts.

[J. Waldorff, “Problemy współczesnej twórczości muzycznej. (Na marginesie koncertu R. Maciejewskiego)”, Prosto z mostu, 2 May 1937, p. 5.]

Shortly after returning to France Maciejewski had to unexpectedly go back to Poland once again. This time it was not, unfortunately, in connection with a performance of his work, but in order to bring to Poland, together with Karol Szymanowski’s sister, the body of her late brother. The fact that Maciejewski was asked to help with the formalities connected with the death of Karol Szymanowski testified to the kind of relationship that has been established between him and the family of Szymanowski, whom Maciejewski remembered in the following manner:

I could not express in brief words how many inspiring ideas, how many impulses I found in these long conversations I was lucky to have had with Karol Szymanowski. I heard from him opinions on not just musical matters and problems; they often also touched upon philosophy, the aesthetics of art. What emerged from them was not just the whole hidden ideological sense of Karol Szymanowski’s oeuvre, but also the destiny of all music.

[R. Maciejewski, “Co zawdzięcza Szymanowskiemu muzyka polska” [Survey], Muzyka 1937 no. 4/5, pp. 138–139.]

 After returning to Paris, on 23 June 1937 Maciejewski took part in a concert organised at Salle de Comédie Théatre des Champs Elysées under the patronage of the International Exposition (SIMC Festival), where his Concerto for Two Pianos was performed once again.