The past two centuries have been particularly unkind to Central Europe: a succession of wars, long occupations, partitions and imposed ideologies have left the countries in this perilous corridor radically changed. A cursory glance at maps of Poland, from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late eighteenth century, through the German, Russian and Austrian partitions, to its reemergence in the twentieth century and its current state, determined at the end of the Second World War, reveals the severity of the territorial shifts and points to the range of political and cultural systems imposed upon Poland by a succession of foreign governments.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Poland (and other central European countries) have occupied a marginal position in histories of Western Art Music. In equal parts subject to musicological partitions that have partly absorbed its music into that of neighbouring countries, conflated with the rest of the ‘East’ behind Stalin’s Iron Curtain, or simply ‘left behind’ owing to the difficulty of the Polish language and of accessing Polish literature, the music of Early Modern Poland has not received much attention from scholars in Western Europe and English-speaking academies internationally.
This paper will survey the historical problems that have led to this state of affairs, and introduce a book on Polish Music, currently in preparation by a team of scholars from Poland, England, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, the United States and America, which seeks to redress the imbalance.
Dr Andrew Cichy is a Lecturer at the School of Music.