Roman Maciejewski

Life - Marriage (United Kingdom/Sweden)

Concerto for Two Pianos could be said to have been a work that made its mark on the composer’s life like no other (with the exception of Requiem). In 1938 it brought him an invitation to London from the Royal College of Music. There we was able to present himself during a concert organised at Wigmore Hall and probably meet the famous choreographer Kurt Jooss, who offered him collaboration and artistic residence at Dartington Hall (Totnes, Devonshire). Maciejewski left his beloved Paris and took this professional opportunity, although he still knew little about its actual effects (he was probably meant to compose music to two ballets, but documents tell us only that Maciejewski’s music was performed during dance intermezzi).

But this engagement (and so indirectly also the Concerto for Two Pianos) changed the private life of the composer, who fell in love with Elvi Gallen, a dancer from Jooss’ ensemble, and married her fairly quickly (on 19 December 1938). During the following summer holidays he went with his wife, a Swede, to Göteborg to meet his parents-in-law. He was in Sweden when the Second World War broke out and he never returned to England.

Although Maciejewski’s wife came from a wealthy family (her father was the director Henrik Gallen, and her uncle – Axel Adler, co-owner of the Transatlantic ocean line), the composer somehow had to find his way around as the head of the family and an émigré who did not speak Swedish, but had to find employment. So he earned his living, doing what he was able to do best and what was an international language – he composed and gave concerts, usually in a piano duo (from a performance of the Concerto for Two Pianos in Göteborg to writing transcriptions of works by old masters).

Sweden was also the place of a major breakthrough in the composer’s worldview, of key importance to his subsequent fate. This happened as a result of a life-threatening illness of the gastrointestinal tract and failed surgeries. A vision of impending death pushed Maciejewski towards diet consciousness (the composer became a strict vegetarian) and in the spiritual sphere – towards the philosophy of the Far East, including meditations and hatha yoga. He became less and less concerned about professional career and money, focusing instead on contemplation of everyday life and joy stemming from the very fact of existence. Contact with nature, physical fitness by toughening up the body – all this considerably increased his vitality.

In order to give thanks for his recovery and at the same time pay tribute to human suffering, which reached terrifying proportions during the Second World War (Maciejewski had left his family members in Poland and did not know whether they were all alive and how they functioned), he decided to compose a Requiem, which basically from them very beginning was the work of his life. In the end – as befits an opus vitae – it took him nearly fifteen years to write it. He dedicated it to all victims of human ignorance and all wars.

At the same time, however, Maciejewski was active in other fields as well – he wrote Allegro concertante(premiered on 11 January 1945 at the Göteborg Philharmonic); collaborated with the radio, where every month he would play Chopin’s works as well as his own compositions; and worked as an accompanist at Ellen Lundquist’s ballet school. There he met Ingmar Bergman (who was Lundquist’s fiancé), which soon turned into collaboration – the rising star of Scandinavian directing asked him to compose music to plays staged at Göteborg’s Municipal Theatre.

Although it might seem that Maciejewski achieved stability when it came to his health as well as professional and private life, he did not want to remain in Sweden. This was directly influenced by the fact that he and his wife divorced (the divorce was formalised on 17 July 1948). Just a few weeks later in Göteborg Maciejewski met Artur Rubinstein, who became involved in bringing the composer to the United States. In the end Maciejewski’s second emigration did not take place until 1951, probably because of visa procedures. the composer whiled away the time by spending a few months at Jan Tarnowski’s estate in Scotland, where we went in 1950. Thanks to his friend’s support he was able to devote himself to Requiem.

To finish the story of Maciejewski’s marriage and his (first) stay in Sweden, we need to touch upon the question of his citizenship. We know that he was granted Swedish citizenship, but it is not clear whether he renounced his Polish citizenship. He may also have had double or even triple citizenship (after all, he was born in Berlin).