Roman Maciejewski

Life - Retirement (Sweden)

Why Europe? Obviously Maciejewski wanted to be closer to Poland, but perhaps he also got scared by a vision of an American “career”? He was certainly dreaming of a life in a warm country (with a climate similar to that of California), close to nature, with few professional obligations. In order to come closer to making this dream come true, he decided to go to the Canary Islands, where in 1977 he put up a tent on the desert-like island of La Graciosa and led a hermit’s life. The lack of people did not bother him, because he was able to swim, meditate, run and sunbathe. Despite such a seemingly idyllic life, after a few months he decided to visit Sweden to obtain the country’s pension benefits. What was planned as a short visit turned out to be a permanent stay – Maciejewski did not return to a life of an islander (although he would often visit the Canary Islands in winter), because when he was in Göteborg he bought a piano on the spur of the moment and, as he joked, was forced to rent a flat for the instrument, moving into it himself.

He lived a quiet life in Sweden, occasionally being a composer and every day enjoying life in the spirit of the philosophy of mindfulness, so popular today. This is how his brother Wojciech remembered him from those years:

Although his temperament is lively, explosive, he can spend hours on end meditating. He is imbued with a joy of existence, admiration for the most important, primeval thing – the very fact of being, living – and, at the same time, a strong sense of a bond with nature, with the universe, with God. Only then do the secondary matters come, various manifestations of life, including the entire sphere of culture and artistic creation. However, there are moments when he is seized by spontaneous creative passion. Then streams of sounds come out of him. He puts to paper what he hears deep inside his soul, paying no attention to the current trends, aesthetic movements or fashions. An inner need demands fulfilment. When a new piece emerges, he rejoices in its form, in its beauty – and that’s it. Professional foresight, caring for the subsequent fate of his pieces, not to mention their commercial use – they are all alien to him.

[W. Maciejewski, “Roman Maciejewski – mój brat”, in Prezentacje. Roman Maciejewski – Odcienie i barwy emocji, in Monochord. De musica acta, studia et commentorii, vol. V, Poznań 1994, p. 49.]

It is also worth noting that from around 1982 the composer was in a relationship with Elsi Thorsten, although he did not live with his – as he called her – fiancée under one roof (for a few years they were even neighbours).

However, when it comes to composition, there came no turning points – Maciejewski mainly re-wrote old compositions (although he also composed new Mazurkas). Yet the world of art slowly began to call for him. In 1982 Requiem was heard in Göteborg, and was presented several times in Maciejewski’s lifetime also in Poland. In 1992 the work brought the composer the Polish Composers’ Union Prize (which after the controversy surrounding the performance at the 1960 Warsaw Autumn was certainly a form of rehabilitation for him). Maciejewski himself, as an unconventional man, began to attract interest as well, for in his case what seems just as interesting as his composing legacy is his biography and original philosophy of life. The growing interest is evidenced by Stefan Szlachtycz’s two films: Requiem(nominated for the Visual Music Award at MIDEM in Cannes, in the filmed classical concert category) and Outsider(biographical documentary), featuring outstanding archive material and extremely valuable statements by the composer.

Maciejewski died on 30 April 1998 in Göteborg. His ashes were laid to rest in his home city of Leszno, at the parish cemetery in ulica Kąkolewska.