Marcin Mielczewski and Music under the Patronage of the Polish Vasas

Translated by John Comber

by Barbara Przybyszewska-Jarmińska (Author)
©2015 Monographs 575 Pages


The first monograph of the life and œuvre of Marcin Mielczewski (d. 1651) presents the best known Polish composer of seventeenth-century Europe. During the 1990s, while exploring a newly accessible collection of music manuscripts from Silesia (the Sammlung Bohn) held in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek, the author found 37 compositions signed M.M., which she ascribed to Mielczewski. This discovery, representing more than half the composer’s known legacy, fuelled a considerable rise in interest in Mielczewski’s output among musicologists and musicians. In this book, the current state of knowledge about Marcin Mielczewski’s life and work is presented within the context of the musical patronage of King Ladislaus IV Vasa of Poland and his brother, Bishop Charles Ferdinand.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • List of illustrations
  • List of examples
  • List of tables
  • Table of contents
  • Foreword
  • I Research history
  • II An outline biography
  • III The state of our knowledge about the compositional output of Marcin Mielczewski and an evaluation of extant sources of his works
  • 1. Works familiar from seventeenth-century prints
  • 2. Works familiar from extant period manuscripts or their copies
  • 2.1. Manuscripts produced on the territory of the former Commonwealth
  • 2.1.1. Gdańsk
  • Church of St Bartholomew
  • Church of St Catherine
  • Church of St John
  • 2.1.2. Cracow
  • Wawel Cathedral
  • Cistercian monastery in Mogiła (?)
  • 2.1.3. Łowicz
  • Collegiate church
  • 2.1.4. Sandomierz (?)
  • 2.1.5. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  • 2.2. Manuscripts produced outside the Commonwealth
  • 2.2.1. Muscovy
  • 2.2.2. Silesia
  • Wrocław: Church of St Mary Magdalene
  • Wrocław: Church of St Elizabeth (?)
  • Other centres in Silesia and on the border between Silesia and the Commonwealth
  • 2.2.3. Gotha (?)
  • 2.2.4. Moravia
  • 2.2.5. Upper Hungary – present-day Slovakia (?)
  • 2.2.6. Schleswig-Holstein
  • 2.2.7. Baden-Baden
  • 3. Works known only by title
  • IV A profile of the output of Marcin Mielczewski against the background of the repertoire of the Polish Vasa chapels
  • 1. Polychoral and large-scale concertato compositions
  • 1.1. In the hypothetical repertoire of the king’s chapel
  • 1.2. In the output of Marcin Mielczewski
  • 2. Small-scale concertato compositions
  • 2.1. In the known output of royal composers
  • 2.2. In the output of other composers that was hypothetically in the repertoire of the chapels of the Polish Vasas during the third quarter of the seventeenth century
  • 2.3. In the output of Marcin Mielczewski
  • 3. Works in prima pratica for one choir: Masses, motets, songs and others
  • 3.1. Models in compositions by royal chapel-masters and Franciszek Lilius and in anonymous works
  • 3.2. In the output of Marcin Mielczewski
  • 4. Works for instrumental ensemble
  • 4.1. Works by royal musicians and works that were hypothetically familiar at the courts of the Polish Vasas during the third quarter of the seventeenth century
  • 4.2. In the output of Marcin Mielczewski
  • V Issues relating to the performance of works by Marcin Mielczewski
  • Conclusion
  • List of abbreviations
  • List of works by Marcin Mielczewski and attributed to him
  • 1. Vocal and vocal-instrumental compositions
  • 1. Ach, ciężka żałość [Oh, heavy sorrow]
  • 2. Adoramus te Christe
  • 3. Anima mea in aeterna
  • 4. Ante thorum huius Virginis
  • 5. Audite et admiramini
  • 6. Audite gentes et exsultate
  • 7. Ave florum flos Hyacinthe
  • 8. Ave Regina
  • 9. Beata Dei Genitrix Maria
  • 10. Beatus vir
  • 11. Benedictio et claritas
  • 12. Benedictus sit Deus
  • 13. Confitebor
  • 14. Confitemini Domino
  • 15. Credidi
  • 16. Credidi
  • 17. Currite populi
  • 18. Deus in nomine tuo
  • 19. Dixit Dominus
  • 20. Dixit Dominus
  • 21. Dixit Dominus
  • 22. Exaudi Domine
  • 23. Gaude Dei Genitrix
  • 24. Gaudete omnes et exsultate
  • 25. Halleluja. Jesus ist der Anfang und das Ende
  • 26. Incipite canticum in tympanis
  • 27. Ingredimini omnes
  • 28. Iste cognovit
  • 29. Iubilate Deo
  • 30. Iubilate Deo
  • 31. Jesu, du bist unser Leben
  • 32. Jesu, meine Freudt und Wonne
  • 33. Laetatus sum
  • 34. Lauda Ierusalem Dominum
  • 35. Laudate Dominum in sanctis eius
  • 36. Laudate pueri
  • 37. Laudate pueri
  • 38. Magnificat
  • 39. Magnificat
  • 40. Magnificat
  • 41. Magnificat
  • 42. Missa a cinque voci
  • 43. Missa a 8 voci VI toni
  • 44. Missa Cerviensiana
  • 45. Missa concertata II toni
  • 46. Missa de B.M.V. = Missa Rorate caeli
  • 47. Missa de Immaculata Conceptione B.M.V. = Missa Salve Sancta Parens I
  • 48. Missa de Immaculata Conceptione B.M.V. = Missa Salve Sancta Parens II
  • 49. Missa de S. Ioanne = Missa In medio Ecclesiae
  • 50. Missa de SS. Eucharistiae Sacramento = Missa Cibavit eos
  • 51. Missa pro Nativitate Domini Nostri
  • 52. Missa Requiem = Messa d. Morto
  • 53. Missa Sancta Anna
  • 54. Missa super Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist
  • 55. Missa super O gloriosa Domina
  • 56. Missa Triumphalis
  • 57. Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum
  • 58. O lumen Ecclesiae
  • 59. O seelig ist der Tag
  • 60. Pange lingua
  • 61. Plaudite manibus
  • 62a. Psallite Domino
  • 62b. Psallite Domino
  • 63. Quem terra, pontus, aethera
  • 64. Salve Virgo Puerpera
  • 65. Sub tuum praesidium
  • 66. Triumphalis dies
  • 67. Veni Domine
  • 68. Vesperae dominicales
  • 69. Victimae paschali laudes
  • 70. Virgo prudentissima
  • 71. Zemdlony Jezus [Swooning Jesus]
  • II Instrumental compositions and compositions preserved without a text
  • 1. Ach, meczek [Oh, meczek]
  • 2. Aria a 3
  • 3. Aria a 3
  • 4. Aria a 3
  • 5. Canon (duo canones)
  • 6. [Canzon] a 2
  • 7. Canzon a 2
  • 8. [Canzon] a 3
  • 9. Canzon a 3
  • 10. Canzon a 3
  • 11. Canzon a [3]
  • 12. Intrada
  • 13. Serce mi ubiegła [She captured my heart]
  • 14. Taniec [Dance]
  • 15. Taniec [Dance]
  • 16. Taniec [Dance]
  • 17. [no title]
  • 18. [no title]
  • III Lost works, known only by title
  • Bibliography
  • 1. Manuscript sources
  • 2. Sheet music editions
  • 2.1. Old prints – anthologies of works by various composers
  • 2.2. Old prints – editions of works by a single composer
  • 2.3. New critical source and facsimile editions: anthologies of works by various composers and collections of works by a single composer
  • 2.4. New editions – single works by particular composers
  • [Adam of Wągrowiec] P.A.W.
  • Anerio, Giovanni Francesco:
  • Bertali, Antonio:
  • Bertolusi, Vincenzo:
  • Cato, Diomedes:
  • Förster, Kaspar jun.
  • Grandi, Alessandro:
  • Gremboszewski, Marcin:
  • Lilius, Franciszek:
  • Marenzio, Luca:
  • Merula, Tarquinio:
  • Mielczewski, Marcin:
  • Pacelli, Asprilio:
  • P.A.W [=Adam of Wągrowiec]
  • Rigatti, Giovanni Antonio:
  • Rohaczewski, Andrzej:
  • Rosenmüller, Johann:
  • Rovetta, Giovanni:
  • Scacchi, Marco:
  • Scapitta, Vincenzo:
  • Stabile, Annibale:
  • Valentini, Giovanni:
  • 3. Books, articles, catalogues and editions of literary texts:
  • Index of people and titles


Thanks to the musical patronage of the Polish kings of the Vasa dynasty, the period of the end of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century was an exceptional one in the history of music in the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. Musicologists, as well as historians of theatre, literature and art, have studied this phenomenon for over a hundred years. A crucial influence on the standard of musical life at the royal court was brought to bear by Italian musicians, who dominated the royal chapel from 1595, when Sigismund III brought the first group of musicians from Italy, until the times of the Swedish ‘Deluge’, when the ensemble became dispersed1 and the collection of sheet music containing the repertoire of the Vasas’ chapel, kept at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, was probably destroyed. That repertoire comprised works written both by Italian and local musicians active within the Commonwealth and by foreign composers, dedicated in part to Polish kings and magnates.

Of particular significance for the raising of the musical qualifications of members of the royal chapel was the fact that up to 1630 the chapel-masters were outstanding Italian musician-composers, in chronological order: Annibale Stabile, Luca Marenzio, Giulio Cesare Gabussi, Asprilio Pacelli and Giovanni Francesco Anerio. Sigismund III engaged most of them in Rome, where they held posts in the most renowned chapels in the world. During the last years of his life, following the premature death of Anerio, the king failed in an attempt to acquire the services of another musician and composer who was highly regarded in the Eternal City, Vincenzo Ugolini, a former master of the Cappella Giulia.2 Little more than a year ← 7 | 8 → later, King Sigismund died, and his son and successor, Ladislaus IV, appointed Marco Scacchi as his maestro di cappella. Scacchi was the first chapel-master who had not established a reputation in his homeland, but honed his musical skills in Poland, where he worked in the Polish king’s chapel from a young age, under the eye of Italian masters.

During the 1620s and subsequent years, the royal ensemble also included musicians of unknown origins born in the Commonwealth who achieved, doubtless not without the assistance of the Italian chapel-masters and other members of the chapel brought in from Italy, a high standard of musical professionalism. Some of them went on to make a name for themselves as composers. Prepared before the Second World War were monographic books on the works of Bartłomiej Pękiel, who after Marco Scacchi’s departure from the Commonwealth became the first non-Italian chapel-master to the Polish kings of the Vasa dynasty,3 and Adam Jarzębski,4 a highly-regarded violinist, construction manager of Ujazdów Castle and author of the rhymed work Gościniec abo Krotkie opisanie Warszawy [A parting gift, or A brief description of Warsaw]5. During the last decades of the twentieth century, the entire known output of those two composers was published in critical source editions,6 and it continues to be the subject of research conducted by new generations of musicologists, as well as performances and recordings.

Another of the most prominent and esteemed Vasa musicians was Marcin Mielczewski (d. 1651), a member of the royal ensemble and, during the last few years of his life, chapel-master to Charles Ferdinand Vasa, Bishop of Wrocław and Płock. In terms of quantity, the extant output of this composer – the best known Polish composer in seventeenth-century Europe – is second only to the work by Mikołaj Zieleński,7 organist and chapel-master to the Primate of Poland, Wojciech Baranowski, which was published in Venice in 1611, and with regard to its stylistic and generic diversity it is without analogy in the oeuvres of other Polish composers working during the seventeenth century with which we have thus far become acquainted.

The oeuvre of Marcin Mielczewski has been studied since the late nineteenth century. A large body of his works was published in the three volumes of his ← 8 | 9 → Opera omnia.8 However, doubtless on account of his very large and stylistically diverse output, transmitted in dispersed sources requiring detailed research, no one has previously undertaken to prepare a monograph of this composer’s life and work.

During the 1990s, interest in Marcin Mielczewski and his music grew considerably, undoubtedly triggered by my own discovery of thirty-seven previously unknown compositions (and their variants) by a composer identified by the monogram ‘M.M.’, which I ascribed to Mielczewski.9 The arguments in favour of such an attribution that I presented in a range of publications were backed and supplemented by the results of research into that repertoire conducted by other musicologists specialising in the history of music of the Baroque era.10

Since 1945, the rediscovered works, which up to the Second World War had been part of a collection of music manuscripts from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries originally belonging to the main Lutheran churches of Wrocław, centralised in the nineteenth century, housed in the Stadtbibliothek in Wrocław and catalogued by Emil Bohn,11 had been considered as lost, along with the entire collection. Since German Reunification, the collection from the former Wrocław Stadtbibliothek has been available to researchers at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz, as the ‘Sammlung Bohn’. The large body of works found there, catalogued under the collective shelf-mark Slg Bohn Ms. mus. 170, originating – as we have succeeded in establishing – from the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Wrocław, represents around half the currently-known output of Marcin Mielczewski.

The present state of knowledge relating to sources of Mielczewski’s works and of research into his compositions and the history of music written and performed under the patronage of the Vasa kings of Poland and members of their family, in particular the prince-bishop Charles Ferdinand, is conducive to attempting a profile of this musician within the context of musical life at the courts of the Polish Vasas.

In producing this work, the author drew on the very rich subject literature, which to a large extent represents the results of her own research into historical sources and systematic-analytical work. The lengthy process of ‘discovering’ and getting to know Mielczewski and the sources of his works is shown in the chapter on ‘Research history’. The ‘Outline biography’ constitutes the fullest picture of the composer’s life produced to date, compiled on the basis of published information, ← 9 | 10 → supplemented with a small amount of new source information relating to the musician’s life and to the functioning of the chapel of his patron, Charles Ferdinand Vasa.

In connection with the above-mentioned attribution to Marcin Mielczewski of a large collection of works signed with the monogram ‘M.M.’ and also the fact that his compositional output, apart from two printed compositions, has been preserved in poorly researched manuscripts of various provenance scattered around Poland and the rest of Europe, which vary in terms of the time they were produced, their form and the degree to which they conform to non-extant original sources, the documentation of the sources of his works and their evaluation occupies proportionately the largest part of this book. It was deemed particularly crucial to assemble and strengthen the arguments behind the ascription to Mielczewski of the works signed merely ‘M.M.’ Research has made it possible to augment the composer’s known output with further works that can be firmly or speculatively attributed to him.

In the chapters devoted to analysis of Mielczewski’s compositions in various genres, considered against the background of the reconstructed repertoire of the Vasas’ music ensembles, this composer’s musical language is characterised. Techniques that should be regarded as conventional for the time, attesting the reception of work by particular musicians or of specific stylistic trends, are singled out, as are individual technical solutions employed by Mielczewski. Also addressed in this study are aspects of performance practice in relation to the music of Marcin Mielczewski.

* * *

This book represents a summary of the work initiated by my visit to the Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berln - Preußischer Kulturbesitz in February 1994, when I first saw works signed with the monogram ‘M.M.’ in the collection of music manuscripts from the former Stadtbibliothek in Wrocław, which had recently been made accessible. I am hugely grateful to Professor Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba for making that research possible and providing support at various stages in my work on the voluminous corpus of Marcin Mielczewski’s works. I also owe thanks to many individuals and institutions with which I have worked or which have given me assistance. In my opinion, the decision taken by the director of the Warsaw Chamber Opera, Stefan Sutkowski, to perform all the newly discovered and already familiar works by Mielczewski in a cycle of concerts entitled ‘Marcin Mielczewski Known and Unknown’ was incredibly important. Those concerts were given at the Royal ← 10 | 11 → Castle in Warsaw by singers and the instrumental ensemble Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense, under the direction of Lilianna Stawarz, working with whom was for me both a pleasant and an instructive experience. In connection with those concerts, Pro Musica Camerata issued the first editions of thirty-two works by Marcin Mielczewski held in the Berlin library, prepared by myself. Six CDs of Mielczewski’s Opera omnia were also recorded.12 I am sincerely grateful to all those who helped those three interconnected projects come to fruition.

I wish to express my gratitude to my colleagues from the Department of Music History (now the Department of Musicology) of the Institute of Arts of the Polish Academy of Sciences who during this time have expressed an interest in my research and accompanied me in my work, as well as the then Department Head and the then and current Director of the Institute of Arts for financial support that enabled me to carry out part of the essential research work in Poland and abroad. The rest of that work was made possible by a grant from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, which I received thanks to the kindness of the reviewers and members of the committee responsible for awarding funds for the realisation of research projects.

Whilst gathering sources and the subject literature, I was fortunate to come into contact with many well-qualified and helpful librarians and archivists in Poland and abroad. The long list of the institutions to whose staff I would like to offer sincere thanks reads as follows: the library of my Alma Mater, the Biblioteka Instytutu Sztuki PAN, the Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych, Archiwum Archidiecezjalne, Gabinet Zbiorów Muzycznych Biblioteki Uniwersyteckiej w Warszawie, Biblioteka Instytutu Muzykologii Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Biblioteka Warszawskiego Towarzystwa Muzycznego and Oddział Zbiorów Muzycznych, Oddział Mikrofilmów, Dział Wypożyczeń Międzynarodowych and Ośrodek RISM at the Biblioteka Narodowa in Warsaw, Archiwum i Biblioteka Krakowskiej Kapituły Katedralnej, Archiwum Kurii Metropolitalnej and Archiwum Prowincji Polskiej oo. Dominikanów w Krakowie, Oddział Zbiorów Muzycznych Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej, Biblioteka Instytutu Muzykologii Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Archiwum Klasztoru oo. Cystersów in Mogiła (Cracow) and Biblioteka Książąt Czartoryskich Muzeum Narodowego in Cracow, and also the Oddział Zbiorów Specjalnych Biblioteki Gdańskiej PAN, Archiwum Diecezjalne in Płock, Biblioteka Diecezjalna in Sandomierz, Archiwum Państwowe in Wrocław, Oddział Zbiorów Muzycznych Biblioteki Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego and Archiwum Archidiecezjalne i Biblioteka Kapitulna in Wrocław, and abroad especially the Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Diözesanbibliothek Münster, Bischöfliche ← 11 | 12 → Zentralbibliothek Regensburg, Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica in Bologna, Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and Sezione Musicale della Biblioteca at the Istituto Storico Germanico (Deutsches Historisches Institut) in Rome, and also the British Library in London, Christ Church Library and Bodleian Library in Oxford, Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, Zámecká Knihovna in Kroměříž and Lietuvos Nacionalinė Martyno Mažvydo Biblioteka in Vilnius.

I am also grateful to musicologists, historians and representatives of other academic disciplines who have supported me with their knowledge, including Jan Bat’a, Marco Bizzarini, Almut Bues, Jolanta Byczkowska-Sztaba, Zofia Dobrzańska-Fabiańska, Paulina Halamska, Marta Hulková, Tomasz Jasiński, Tomasz Jeż, Henryk Lulewicz, Wojciech Marchwica, Aleksandra Patalas, Mirosław Perz, Marta Pielech, Danuta Popinigis, Remigiusz Pośpiech, Halina Sieradz, Anna Szweykowska and Zygmunt M. Szweykowski, Marina Toffetti, Elżbieta Wojnowska and especially my husband, Leszek Jarmiński.

Warsaw, 12 February 2013 Barbara Przybyszewska-Jarmińska

← 12 | 13 →

1A great many works have been published on this period in the history of music at the court of the Polish kings, most recently including Szweykowska-Szweykowski 1997; Przybyszewska-Jarmińska 2007/2.

2This is evidenced by a letter sent by Sigismund III on 18 January 1631 from Tykocin to Stanisław Mąkowski, who, on completing his mission to Spain, was probably staying in Italy or on his way there. The king wrote: ‘zdało się nam teraźniejszym listem zlecić do Wierności Twojej w tamtych krajach będącemu, abyś się nam o Magistra Capellae postarał, nie tylko wziętego w profesji swojej, ale i człowieka dobrego. Proponowany nam jest Vincenzo Ugolini, który teraz snać privatos w Rzymie mieszka. Z tym tractuj Wierność Twoja. A jeśliby ten być nie mógł, oznajmisz nam o subiektach inszych, żadnego nie zaciągając, do dalszej informacjej naszej…’ (‘It occurred to us with the present letter to entrust to you, our Faithful Servant, being in those countries, to seek for us a Magister Capellae, not only successful in his profession, but also a good man. We have been proposed Vincenzo Ugolini, who is apparently living privately in Rome. Treat with him, Faithful Servant. And if that one cannot be, then inform us on the subject of others, without recruiting any until further information from us…’) (RUS-Mn, MS F. 183/I no. 1792, fol. 74v). This letter was recently discovered by Professor Henryk Lulewicz, who kindly made it available to me.

3Feicht 1925/1980, pp. 290–453.

4Dunicz 1938.

5Jarzębski 1943/1974.

6Jarzębski/Rutkowska 1989; Pękiel/Dobrzańska-Fabiańska 1994/I-II.

7Zieleński/Malinowski 1966, 1974, 1978, 1989, 1991.

8Mielczewski/Szweykowski 1976, 1986, 2003.

9Przybyszewska-Jarmińska 1994/1; Przybyszewska-Jarmińska 1998/1.

10Particularly crucial from this point of view are Dobrzańska-Fabiańska 1999, Kazem-Bek 1999, Patalas 1999/2, Szweykowski 1999/3, Wilk 1999 and Jasiński 2002.

11Bohn 1890/1970.

12PMC 017, 020, 021, 022, 024, 027.


Research history

← 13 | 14 → ← 14 | 15 →


Extant musical sources1 and inventories of lost music manuscripts produced in various centres of the Commonwealth, as well as in neighbouring and – exceptionally – distant European countries,2 show that for more than half a century after his death (in September 1651) Marcin Mielczewski remained well known as a composer in Central and Central-Eastern Europe, and his works were still kept, copied, collected and, at least in part, performed. Some of them were also used as models by the Kiev-born composer and music theorist Nikolay Diletsky, in his treatise Gramatyka muzyczna [A music grammar], written around a quarter of a century after Mielczewski’s death. As the numerous extant copies show, Gramatyka muzyczna, a kind of handbook for composers of part music, which was not introduced into the Eastern Orthodox Church until the second half of the seventeenth century, including so-called partesny concertos, was widely received in the lands of Russia and present-day Ukraine throughout the whole of the eighteenth century, and even into the early nineteenth century.3

In lands lying to the west of the Commonwealth, the enduring memory of Mielczewski during the second half of the seventeenth century is attested by the fact that his name found its way into one of the first ever dictionaries of musicians, namely the dictionary included in the theoretical work Musicus Danicus by the Danish author Matthias Henriksen Schacht (1660–1700), completed on 1 January 1687 but not published until the twentieth century.4 That dictionary also carried information about a number of other musicians from Poland or linked to the Commonwealth, which – according to Otto Mortensen – Schacht gathered while he was visiting Gdańsk and Koenigsberg in 1682.5 It cannot be precluded, however, that he knew of Marcin Mielczewski earlier, since his compositions could have been familiar in Denmark around the same time (hypothetically through Kaspar Förster junior, who worked at the Danish royal court in the years 1652–1655 and 1660–1667 as maestro di cappella and had earlier been one of Mielczewski’s fellow musicians in the royal ensemble of the Polish Vasas6), and they were certainly familiar in neighbouring Schleswig-Holstein, as we know from extant score copies of Mielczewski’s church concertos Benedictio et claritas and Veni ← 15 | 16 → Domine, at one time belonging to Georg Österreich, who in the 1690s was chapel-master at the court in Gottorp, the seat of the Schleswig-Holstein princes.7

Schacht devotes the following words to Mielczewski:

Martinus Milchewsky Polonus, Musicus inclytus, Melodias varias exposuit pluribus et paucioribus vocibus; sed puto illas praelo non esse subjectas. Reliquit ipse quoque Missam, quam Triumphalem nominat, 16. voc. et 3 choris.8

Many music dictionaries published during the eighteenth century are bereft of entries devoted to Mielczewski. There is no such entry in Johann Gottfried Walther’s lexicon of 1732,9 in Johann Mattheson’s work of 1740 (although the name Mielczewski is mentioned)10 or in Ernst Ludwig Gerber’s Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Tonkünstler, first published in 1790–1792,11 even though this last work does have a little information on Bartłomiej Pękiel.12 In a new revised edition of Gerber’s lexicon published during the nineteenth century, the entry on Pękiel is absent, but there does appear (in volume III, published in 1813) a brief note about Marcin Mielczewski (with his name given in a form more distorted than in Schacht’s dictionary):

Mielezenski (Martin) ein Komponist des 17. Jahrhunderts, von dessen Arbeit der Stadtrichter Herzog zu Merseburg Verschiedenes besass. Walthers Wst.13

Not long after this (in 1822), Polish-language readers were reminded of the name ‘Mielczewski’ by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, who included in his Zbiór pamiętników ← 16 | 17 → o dawnej Polszcze [Collection of memoirs of Old Poland] a description of Warsaw as it was in 1643,14 which was his abridged, prosified version of Gościniec abo Krotkie opisanie Warszawy [A parting gift, or A brief description of Warsaw] by Adam Jarzębski15 (whose name is spelt ‘Jarzemski’ in the Niemcewicz). Here is Niemcewicz’s justification for the revised version: ‘That description is composed of verse so slapdash and tedious that in blunting the reader’s curiosity it deprives him of half the pleasure he would have gained had the thing been written more simply and naturally’.16 In Niemcewicz’s prosified version, when he writes about the Collegiate Church of St John, we find a presentation of the royal musicians who performed there:

‘Marek is capella magister, under him Skuki [sic], Pekiel, for organ and composing, Mielczewski also composes nicely for singing and playing’.17

This constitutes a misleading – though in relation to Marco Scacchi, not Marcin Mielczewski – travesty of Adam Jarzębski’s words:

Marek Capellae magistrem Marek chapel master
Skaki [= Marco Scacchi], a wicemagistrem Scacchi, and vice master
Pekiel [= Bartłomiej Pękiel], zacny organista; Pękiel, a distinguished organist;
I Mielczewskiego też rzeczy And also things by Mielczewski
Do grania, śpiewania grzeczy.18 Nice for playing and singing.


The information given by Niemcewicz undoubtedly constituted a source of knowledge about Mielczewski for the author of the first dictionary of Polish musicians, Wojciech Sowiński. In the relevant entry, he referred to Adam Jarzemski [sic] and quoted, without citing Niemcewicz’s publication, a passage from his text, wrongly inferring from the fact that Mielczewski performed at St John’s that he was employed there:

Mielczewski […], compositeur et chanteur, attaché à l’église de Saint-Jean, à Warsovie, sous le règne de Wladislas IV. Il était très-habile en composition pour voix et instruments, selon le témoignage de Jarzemski, son contemporain, qui le loue beaucoup, en disant que Mielczewski: Grzecznie także komponuje do śpiewania i grania (Voyez l’article d’Adam Jarzemski)19. ← 17 | 18 →

Although Wojciech Sowiński was François-Joseph Fétis’s consultant on matters relating to Polish musicians when he was preparing his Biographie universelle des musiciens et bibliographie générale de la musique,20 it was clearly deemed unnecessary or unfeasible (due to the dearth of information) to include an entry on Mielczewski in either the first or the second edition of that great dictionary. He also has no entry in any other foreign musical dictionary published during the nineteenth century,21 apart from Gerber’s Neues Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Tonkünstler.

Considerable progress in research, particularly with regard to familiarity with the composer’s extant output, can only be seen with Robert Eitner’s twentieth-century Biographisch-Bibliographisches Quellen-Lexikon der Musiker und Musikgelehrten, in the sixth volume of which, first published in 1902, we find the following information about Mielczewski:

Mielczewski (Mylczewsky, Milchewsky), Martin, diente 1643 in der polnischen Hofkapelle und ist in Scacchi’s Cribrum S. 219 mit einem Kanon vertreten.

Auch im Samlwk. von 1659 befindet sich der Gesang ‘Deus in nomine’ für Bass und 3 Instrum. mit Organo (Eitner 1 S. 722 und Haberl’s Jahrb. 1890, 79). Unter dem Namen Milchewsky (Martin) in B. Joachimsthal eine Missa 6 voc. super O gloriosa Domina im Ms. P. in Tabulatur mit 1651 gez. – In B.B. Ms. 14570 Samlbd. Part. am Ende: 1. Benedictio et claritas. Motetto concert. à 12; 2 V. 4 Tromboni, 6 voci et Cont. 2. Veni domine et noli tardare 3 voc. et Cont.22

The sources and literature given in this entry show that Eitner consulted Marco Scacchi’s Cribrum musicum, from which he learned that in 1643 (the year that treatise was published) Mielczewski was a musician with the Polish court chapel and author of a canon published in Cribrum musicum, and on the basis of inscriptions in rediscovered sources of other works by the composer – one printed source and three manuscripts preserved in Berlin libraries – he was able to give the musician’s first name, not previously known to scholars, and three variants of his surname.23

It is worth mentioning that Eitner had previously issued (in 187724) some of the information relating to the publication of the concerto Deus in nomine tuo in ← 18 | 19 → Havemann’s 1659 anthology,25 and consequently the initial of the composer’s first name, as well as information about the tablature source of Missa super O gloriosa Domina from the collection of the Joachimsthalschen Gymnasium in Berlin (in 188426).

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Polish music historians also had a larger pool of information on Mielczewski at their disposal than was presented in Sowiński’s dictionary. Józef Surzyński’s article ‘Krótki pogląd na historyę muzyki kościelnej w Polsce’ [A brief overview of the history of church music in Poland], published in 1888, shows that its author knew about the works of our composer (identified by his surname only) held in the royal library in Berlin, although it would appear that he had not seen them personally.27 In Muzyka figuralna w kościołach polskich od XV do XVIII wieku [Figural music in Polish churches from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century],28 published the following year, which essentially repeated, with certain alterations, the preface to the first fascicle in his series Monumenta Musices Sacrae in Polonia, Surzyński reproduced the quotation from Niemcewicz’s Opis Warszawy familiar from Sowiński’s dictionary and made use of information given in Eitner’s bibliography from 1877, together with its errors. In that work, Surzyński became the first author in the Polish-language literature to give the initial of Mielczewski’s first name (‘M.’) and also the title of one of his works – the concerto Deus in nomine tuo known from Havemann’s printed anthology29 (there is no mention there of Mielczewski’s compositions preserved in manuscript that Eitner listed in his 1884 catalogue and his 1902 lexicon). It is worth adding that Surzyński also knew of the Rorantist provost Marcin of Mielec, to whom he devoted a separate note in the list of musicians included with his article.30

Yet during the nineteenth century, forgotten works by composers active in Poland during past centuries were discovered not just in libraries abroad. On the pages of the Biblioteka Warszawska of 27 September 1849, the music critic and writer, journalist and entrepreneur Józef Sikorski issued an appeal to the clergy to make musical sources available to researchers, and he then undertook his own search for sources in the Benedictine monastery in Pułtusk, the Pauline monastery ← 19 | 20 → on Jasna Góra and the collegiate church in Łowicz.31 It was very probably Sikorski, during his research in Łowicz, probably at the beginning of the second half of the nineteenth century, who discovered there the manuscript sources of six Mielczewski Masses for 4 and 5 vocal parts with organ accompaniment.32 Their existence was announced, as his own discovery,33 by Aleksander Poliński, in his Dzieje muzyki polskiej [History of Polish music], published in 1907.34 Poliński also gave a brief outline of the stylistic features of the works, with one musical example, and mentioned that another work by the same composer had been preserved, namely the ‘motet’ published in Havemann’s anthology (Poliński erroneously gives the incipit as ‘Domine in nomine tuo’ rather than ‘Deus in nomine tuo’). Evidently, Poliński was not familiar with Eitner’s lexicon when preparing his work, given that he limited his list of extant Mielczewski compositions to those works, omitting the Mass and two church concertos held in Berlin. He must have been familiar, meanwhile, with previously untapped factual sources (unfortunately not cited), since he gave new details for the composer’s biography: the information that Mielczewski was married to Jadwiga Kołaczkówna, that he became director of the chapel of Prince Charles Ferdinand, Bishop of Płock, and that he took that post after the death of Ladislaus IV.35 Those sources, as well as the content of inscriptions on the manuscript sources of the ‘Łowicz’ Masses, must have allowed Poliński, although not familiar with Eitner’s lexicon, to be the first author writing in Polish to give the musician’s first name in full.

Poliński revealed the source of his information for Marcin Mielczewski’s biography in his entry devoted to the musician in the Wielka Encyklopedia Powszechna Ilustrowana [Illustrated universal encyclopaedia], published in ← 20 | 21 → 1912.36 That source was a document from the ‘Acta consularia civitatis Antiquae Varsaviae’, no. 29, held in the Archiwum Główne in Warsaw (unfortunately now lost), which constituted the first evidence known to researchers of Mielczewski’s links to Charles Ferdinand’s chapel, confirming those links at the time the document was produced (probably in 1649). It also brought further details from the musician’s private life, including the information that Jadwiga Kołaczkówna’s dowry included a house on Mostowa Street in Warsaw and that after Ladislaus IV’s death Mielczewski borrowed money (the huge sum of 6000 florins) from the physician Lewiński and returned it a year later. The list of the composer’s works included in that entry, besides the works mentioned in Dzieje muzyki polskiej, included compositions about which Robert Eitner gave information in his lexicon.37 It is lacking, meanwhile, any mention of the rich music collection including works by Marcin Mielczewski from the Gdańsk churches of St Catherine and St John, which during the nineteenth century were transferred to the local Stadtbibliothek. The Gdańsk works were set in order and included in a catalogue of that collection’s music manuscripts compiled by Otto Günther, published in 1911.38 They were mentioned by Poliński elsewhere in the year that catalogue was issued,39 and in the article ‘Nieznany skarb muzyczny’ [An unknown musical treasure], published in 1912, he included a detailed list of all the works preserved in that collection, which he had examined in person, by composers regarded as Polish (including Marcin Mielczewski, whose known oeuvre was thereby augmented by four concert Masses or their fragments, vocal-instrumental church concertos, including a Magnificat, and also two instrumental works, partly incomplete, aria and canzona), and also by Italian composers associated with the royal chapel of the Polish Vasas and by Gdańsk composers.40 He wrote there:

I have known of the existence of these valuable sources, particularly the works by Mielczewski, Pękiel and Różycki, for over a decade. Alas! When writing my history of Polish music I could not make use of them, as they had not yet been set in order and made available. They have now been catalogued by the librarian Dr Otto Günther and made available to the public.41


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
discovery legacy monograph
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 575 pp., 1 coloured fig., 36 b/w fig., 5 tables, 79 graphs

Biographical notes

Barbara Przybyszewska-Jarmińska (Author)

Barbara Przybyszewska-Jarmińska is Professor and Head of the Department of Musicology at the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. Her main area of research is the music of the late Renaissance and Baroque, especially in the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania.


Title: Marcin Mielczewski and Music under the Patronage of the Polish Vasas
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578 pages