Roman Maciejewski Life - A composer of a lost generation

Roman Maciejewski (1910–1998) was a composer who spread his musical wings in the inter-war period, winning acclaim from such outstanding figures as Karol Szymanowski, only to gradually disappear from music lovers’ radars because of the political situation in the world and his own philosophy of life. Today his works are increasingly appreciated by performers, musicologists and music lovers.

The fate of Roman Maciejewski’s oeuvre is similar to that of the oeuvre of many talented Polish artists making their debuts in the inter-war period, artists who by choosing emigration had to reconcile themselves with the fact that their works would be rarely if ever published or performed in their homeland. There were and still are many reasons behind such a situation. In Maciejewski’s case this means a whole conglomerate of circumstances: physical absence, lack of determination in promoting his own oeuvre (which was associated with his original philosophy of life mentioned above), use of a musical language developed at the beginning of his career (difficulty with promoting compositions different from those of the post-war avant-garde) as well as the overall political situation. Thus Maciejewski became part of a broader phenomenon – an “element” of a puzzle comprising a whole generation of intellectuals and artists, often outstanding and yet forgotten. In his article published in 1977 in Ruch Muzyczny Tadeusz Kaczyński called it a “lost generation”. As he argued at the time:

Is the rather common aversion of the post-war generation of musicians to the music of the pre-war generation not some complex which should now become a thing of the past? Are musicologists right in claiming that this oeuvre was wholly imitative? Were critics’ attacks on it just? Are there no gems in the alleged pulp of neoclassicism, which we have so carelessly discarded? […] Some musicians from that generations are already dead, some – even worse – have been buried. It is our sacred duty to restore them to the musical life. A duty not just towards a generation that is disappearing, but also towards the upcoming generation and indirectly – towards future generations.

[T. Kaczyński, “Zgubione pokolenie. W 50. rocznicę powstania Stowarzyszenia Młodych Muzyków Polaków w Paryżu”, Ruch Muzyczny, 1977 no. 5, pp. 3-4.]

Fortunately, from around 1989 the oeuvre of émigré composers gradually began to be included in the general history of Polish music, which stimulated interest in Maciejewski as well. Yet in his case a crucial role was also played by his family. In this context a breakthrough came when the composer gave manuscripts of his works to his brother Wojciech. From more or less 1995 until his death in 2018 Wojciech fought tirelessly for any activity that would promote Roman’s oeuvre. This made it possible, for example, to publish many of Maciejewski’s compositions in print, establish the Roman Maciejewski Leszno Music Society, intensify concert activity or bring about the publication of scholarly studies as well as books.