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Marcin Mielczewski (+ 1651)

A member of the royal orchestra of King Wladislaw IV between 1638 and 1644, from 1645 he became master of the orchestra of Prince Charles Ferdinand, Bishop of Plock. Mielczewski remained in this post until his death. The list of his extant works comprises about fifty items although the greater part of his total opus is believed to have been lost. Mielczewski was a comprehensive composer who wrote religious music in the old a capella style as well as in the concert style - both with equal success. He also composed instrumental canzonas. His art as a musician won him fame even abroad. His music was performed in France, Germany, Russia and Slovakia. Among his most distinguished compositions are concerti entitled Deus in Nomine Tuo, Triumphalis Dies, Vespere dominicales, and an a capella Missa Salve Sancta Parens, Missa Cibavit Eos and the motet Gaude Dei Genitrix.
Text supplied by Stephen Lloyd

Although Mielczewski should be called one of the quite prominent musical figures of Poland in the first half of the 17th century, we neither know his date or place of birth, nor facts about his youth or education. What we do know, however, is the point that his Polish contemporaries even recognized him as a compose of the front rank. Nevertheless, only two of his works were printed in the 17th century: An instrumental double canon, published in Venice in 1643 in the book Cribrum musicum through Marco Scacchi, and the concerto Deus in nomine Tuo which had been engraved in Berlin in 1659 for a publication of J. Havemann where it appears among works of Monteverdi, Allessandro Grandi and others. [Said publication has become rare in its complete form: Only three copies seem to have survived, one of those in the Prussian State Library in Berlin, another one in the Library of the Royal University in Uppsala and the third one in the Library of the Church of Notre Dame d'Elbing. Based upon the first of these copies PWM engraved a modern edition of the concerto in question in 1961.] However, his works do exist in manuscripts, and those can even support the fact that his oeuvre was performed abroad as well, as we know of copies in archives in the Czech republic and Germany. Little is known of Mielczewski's life: He is supposed to have been a member of the chapel at Lowicz (near Warsaw) first; his first secured mention dates from 1638 as a musician of the royal chapel in Warsaw. Most probably he had been working there already for a number of years, very likely mainly as a composer. From 1645 until his death in September 1651 he was director of music with Karol Ferdynand Waza, Bishop of Plock (brother of the king) whose court mostly stayed in Warsaw and at his nearby residences.

Mielczewski's output was numerous and varied. All his accompanied vocal works are dominated by the concertato principle, no matter if of homophonic or polyphonic nature. He composed a wide variety of sacred concertatos, and the style of his smaller pieces of this genre, in which the words are given strong expression, suggests that he may also have composed secular pieces (e. g. madrigals) which have, however, not survived. Apart from that he wrote masses for large numbers of performers in which he continued the polychoral Venetian tradition. Amongst his clearly structured instrumental canzonas there are also variation canzonas of which one is particularly interesting as well as characteristic at the same time: in every other section there is either an exact or a slightly modified quotation of a Polish folktune, some of these in dance rhythms. Said piece is the first occasion ever to have a mazurka appear in art music.
Text supplied by Monika Fahrnberger

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