Rising like a phoenix from the ashes: Różycki’s Violin Concerto

Ludomir Różycki: who still knows this composer? I fear that even in Poland he is no longer more than just a name, although I cannot swear to it. And if he is mentioned anywhere in the music history books, it is because of his ballet Pan Twardowski. And yet he composed so much more!

Together with (among others) Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, Karol Szymanowski and Grzegorz Fitelberg, Różycki was part of the group ‘Młoda Polska’ (Young Poland). The movement, which lasted for roughly thirty years (1890 – 1920) and featured decadence, neo-romanticism, symbolism, impressionism and art nouveau, was not exclusively a Polish phenomenon. Just think of the Italian Novecento. Parabellum. Zeitgeist.

Różycki started working on his violin concerto in the summer of 1944, the summer of the Warsaw Uprising. When the situation became too dangerous, Różycki fled Warsaw with his family members. He hid his unfinished manuscript in a suitcase and buried it in his garden. Różycki’s house did not survive the uprising and the composer started working in Katowice after the war. He never thought about his violin concerto again. It was gone. Lost. It was only years, really years later that construction workers found the score in the ruins of his house. Polish National Library included it in its archive and … and nothing else happened.

But the miracles are not over yet. In 2018, violinist Janusz Wawrowski discovered the score and was just about stunned. He knew immediately that he had struck gold, that he had found a real musical wonder. Not that it was perfect. When you are pulled out from under the ashes, you are likely to be a bit battered. The score was missing 87 opening bars, but in collaboration with pianist and composer Ryszard Bryla, Wawrowski managed to reconstruct the concerto.

The concerto was recorded by Warner Classics (0190295191702) and when I put the CD on, it was my turn to be stunned, indeed I was knocked for six. So extraordinarily beautiful, so full of unadulterated emotion. It is unimaginable that this treasure has lain hidden underground (and after that in the library) for so many years.

Różycki’s concerto is coupled with Tchaikovsky’s. Not very surprising, since both concertos have so much in common. The performance by Janusz Wawrowski and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Grzegorz Nowak, is just like the concertos themselves: divinely beautiful.