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Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński

There are no archival biographical data for Szarzyński; what we know is that he was a Polish Cistercian monk and composer. The extant copies of his works are dated from 1692 to 1713 which strenghthens the idea that his most creative period was the late 17th century. There is a certain probability that he may have had strong connections with the cappella of the Collegiate Church at Łowicz, as this was the place where most of his works were preserved. However, there is - so far - no other indicator than this fact that could make us certain about this possible connection. Besides, we do not know anything about his musical education either, although the quality of his works is so very high that one can assume that he received some very thorough education in the field.

Szarzyński's vocal music is of solely sacred nature. His solo motets (with violin and continuo) are all in the concertato style. Veni Sancte Spiritus ("Come, Holy Spirit") may serve as an example here, retaining many characteristics of an early Baroque concertato, most of all, by being multisectional. It is built on the basis of the interchangeability of small and contrasting segments, alternately in slow and fast tempi and with changes in meter from even to odd and back. In this work he introduced some motives from the Polish plancti sung at that time. All of his solo motets are distinguished by their high technical level and very expressive melodies. Another example of that same type of solo concertato. Yet different all the same, is the motet Iesu spes mea (Jesus, my hope). In this composition one can follow the transformation of the religious concertato into a piece that resembles the church cantata in ist form. There is a smaller number of sections, but each of those grows in length. The parts in even meter become recitatives, whereas those in odd meter approach an aria. The mentioned work quotes the Polish religious song Przez czyściowe upalenia (Through the purgatory fires) which is still popular to these days. In the first part of the piece this quotation by as well solo voice as also violin is without any changes while that same theme is clearly restylized in the penultimate part.

There are also choral compositions by same composer in which he makes extensive use of melodies from popular religious songs, again as either original quotations or in stylized forms.

And although as a composer he devoted his time mainly to religious works, we still know one chamber work written by him, the Sonata for two violins and basso continuo, which is in many ways a perfect composition: It combines several features of the earlier canzona with the technical solutions of a skill and attractiveness that show the true master. In the initial part of the Adagio he introduces a double counterpoint, in the following Allegro he uses a fugato in the form of the exposition of an early Baroque fugue. And his phrasing, by implementing typical "violinistic" elements, clearly indicates that he had exactly this instrument in mind for a performance of said sonata, and not just about "any" soprano instrument, as was usual within early Baroque practice.

Information supplied by Monika Fahrnberger
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