Tadeusz Baird. The Composer, His Work, and Its Reception

by Barbara Literska (Author)
©2020 Monographs 538 Pages
Open Access


This book is the first monographic study of Tadeusz Baird – one of the greatest Polish composers of the second half of the 20th century, a connoisseur of music tradition and a prophet of the future of music (postmodernity), a composer of worldwide renown, an erudite. Baird was deeply engaged in art, aware of the threats and problems of contemporary world, and endowed with a sense of a mission. His personality was shaped by traumatic experiences during World War II and during the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was very demanding of himself and others. As signaled in the title, the book is an extensive, monographic representation of the composer's work and concepts in their stylistic, cultural, and esthetic contexts.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. Methodological Issues
  • 1.1. The subject, aim and scope of research
  • 1.2. Types of research method
  • 1.3. The sources for research
  • 1.4. The state of research
  • 2. Composer
  • 2.1. Family and friends
  • 2.2. Life and creative work – calendar
  • 2.2.1. Childhood – before the war (1928–1939)
  • 2.2.2. Youth – the Second World War (1940–1945)
  • 2.2.3. Adulthood – after the Second World War
  • 2.3. Tadeusz Baird’s artistic worldview
  • 2.3.1. Attitude to the past and to the artistic ideas of his times
  • 2.3.2. The role of the composer in twentieth-century culture
  • 2.3.3. The social role of music
  • 2.3.4. Artistic attitude
  • 2.3.5. The process of composing
  • 2.3.6. Teaching composition
  • 2.3.7. The relationship between words and music
  • 2.4. Tadeusz Baird’s creative personality
  • 3. Work
  • 3.1. Changes in compositional style
  • 3.2. The neoclassical strand (1949–1955)
  • 3.2.1. In old style: Colas Breugnon
  • 3.2.2. In cheerful mood with folk accent: the Piano Concerto
  • 3.2.3. With panegyric elements: Ballada o żołnierskim kubku [Ballad of the soldier’s cup]
  • 3.2.4. Of ‘Romantic’ expression: the Sinfonietta
  • 3.3. The art of twelve notes (1956–1967): Four Essays
  • 3.4. Expressionist drama (1966): Jutro [Tomorrow]
  • 3.5. Sonoristic tendencies (1968–1978) – Sinfonia breve
  • 3.6. Towards postmodernism (1980–1981): Głosy z oddali [Voices from afar]
  • 3.7. Summary
  • 4. Reception
  • 4.1. Methodological strategy
  • 4.2. The first period of reception (1949–1981)
  • 4.2.1. The purely receptive form of reception
  • 4.2.2. The analytical-creative form of reception
  • 4.2.3. The creative form of reception
  • 4.2.4. The analytical form of reception
  • 4.2.5. The diffusive form of reception
  • 4.2.6. Summary of reception in the years 1949–1981
  • 4.3. The second period of reception – posthumous (1982–2010)
  • 4.3.1. The analytical-creative form of reception
  • 4.3.2. The creative form of reception
  • 4.3.3. The analytical form of reception
  • 4.3.4. Summary of reception in the years 1982–2010
  • Summary
  • The oeuvre of Tadeusz Baird – an attempted appraisal
  • Chronological Catalogue of Musical Output
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Appendix
  • List of Tables
  • Bibliography
  • Index of Names


Tadeusz Baird (1928–1981), a Polish composer active during the second half of the twentieth century, was an outstanding creative artist. Unfortunately, the composer and his music are familiar to few people today. Baird, a ‘tone poet’, was an erudite man committed to his art, a composer aware of the dangers and problems of the modern world, working with a sense of mission. His personality was formed by the traumatic experiences of the Second World War and the turn of the 1950s: he was extremely demanding of himself and of others. His sudden death brought an end to his thirty-two-year period of post-war activity, which bore fruit in a body of fifty-four autonomous compositions, music to sixty-three stage plays and forty films, and numerous contributions to the press and radio. The period of more than thirty years since Baird’s death (1981) allows us to ponder his achievements from a distance; on the other hand, this is perhaps the last moment when such a complex summary can still be made.


This book is an abridged version of the monograph Tadeusz Baird. Kompozytor, dzieło, recepcja published by Uniwersytet Zielonogórski in Zielona Góra (Poland) in 2012.


The photographs of Tadeusz Baird come from the private collection of Alina Sawicka-Baird (the composer’s wife).

Music examples are reprinted by kind permission by publishers:

1. PWM Edition, Cracow, Poland (for works: Colas Breugnon; Piano Concerto; Cztery eseje [Four essays]; Jutro [Tomorrow]; Głosy z oddali – Stimmen aus der Ferne - Voices from afar; Sinfonia breve; Sinfonietta).

2. C.F. Peters Ltd & Co. KG. (for Głosy z oddali – Stimmen aus der Ferne - Voices from afar)

3. Hal Leonard Europe Limited (for Sinfonia Brevis [Sinfonia breve].

Tadeusz Baird, Głosy z oddali – Stimmen aus der Ferne - Voices from afar

© Copyright 1982 by Henry Litolff's Verlag for the World excluding Poland, the former territories of the UdSSR, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, the former territories of Yugoslavia, P.R. China, Mongolia, North Korea and Vietnam. Reprint with kind permission by C.F. Peters Ltd & Co. KG.

←13 | 14→

© Copyright 1984 by PWM Edition, Cracow, Poland for: Poland, the former territories of the UdSSR, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, the former territories of Yugoslavia, P.R. China, Mongolia, North Korea and Vietnam. Reprint with kind permission by PWM Edition, Cracow, Poland.

Tadeusz Baird, Sinfonia Brevis [breve]

© Copyright 1968 by Edition Wilhelm Hansen, Frankfurt. All Rights Administered by Chester Music. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.

© Copyright 1968 by PWM Edition, Cracow, Poland for: Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Democratic Republic of Germany, Rumania, the UdSSR, P.R. China, North Korea, North Vietnam, Cuba.

←14 |

1. Methodological Issues

←15 | 16→

1.1. The subject, aim and scope of research

This study deals with Tadeusz Baird, his music and its reception. It was justified by the need to fill in a gap in the history of Polish musical culture, since one of the primary tasks of Polish scholarship is the documentation, critical analysis and interpretation of the work of outstanding Polish figures, such as Tadeusz Baird. Up to now, his life’s work has not been treated to an extensive, penetrating monograph, although it is fully deserving of such a study. I hope that the present work will help to reconstruct the history of Polish musical output after 1949. In practical terms, it may perhaps stimulate renewed interest in Baird’s music and help restore it to concert halls.

The aim of this work was to show the standing of Tadeusz Baird’s output in the history of Polish music. The title signals my intention to produce a wide-ranging, multi-aspectual study of the composer’s music and views in stylistic, cultural and aesthetic contexts. The main issue at stake is the position that Tadeusz Baird and his music hold in the history of Polish music. This question will be considered from three perspectives:

1. Baird’s aesthetic approach to the artistic ideas of his epoch and of past times, to the role of the composer in twentieth-century culture, the creative process and the role of music in people’s lives. What type of creative personality did he represent? – Composer

2. The changes that Baird’s compositional style underwent – Work

3. Baird’s place in Polish culture during the period of his creative work and what he represents for people interested in music today – Reception

Those three perspectives inform the division of this work into three parts: Composer, Work and Reception. The thesis behind this work is that Tadeusz Baird is one of the most outstanding Polish composers of the second half of the twentieth century, familiar with the musical tradition and anticipating the music of the future (postmodernism), a composer of international stature, and an erudite man. A new aspect, previously unexplored, is the presentation of a psychologically insightful profile of the composer from the angle of extant correspondence, the catalogue of his oeuvre and the reception of his music. The present monograph does not cover the music he wrote for theatre and film, which represents a stylistically and generically separate strand.

1.2. Types of research method

One of the strands to the present study, namely, the oeuvre of Tadeusz Baird (fifty-four works), is considered in theoretical, historical and aesthetic contexts. ←16 | 17→This analysis, based on the method of integral interpretation,1 characterised by an aspiration to a full – external and internal – interpretation of the work, covers the following aspects:

the descriptive analysis of structure (taking account of the five main ontic aspects of the work2), with the purpose of identifying changes in compositional style within the historical development of music;

analysis of the ‘ideological’ content of Baird’s works, with the purpose of identifying ideological influences on his music (in accordance with the model proposed by Maciej Gołąb, three ideologies will be considered: totalitarianism, scientism and postmodernism3);

analysis of relations: the composer’s style and the style of the epoch; Baird’s works in historical, biographical, social and interdisciplinary contexts (links with literature);

analysis of sources relating to the reception of Baird’s music.

In order to achieve this full interpretation of the work, the most suitable working methods and procedures were applied in each of the chapters. In the chapter Composer, the research covered archive and library searches, analysis of documents (records of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance), conversations with Alina Sawicka-Baird (the composer’s widow), analysis of Baird’s extant utterances with regard to his aesthetic views and of extant opinions expressed by others on the same subject. The aim of the first chapter was to situate Baird and his work in biographical, socio-cultural and aesthetic contexts. The second chapter, Work, is key to the whole monograph. It directly concerns the whole of the composer’s extant output. The aim of this chapter is to indicate changes in his individual style and its resonance with recognised artistic trends. ←17 | 18→The methodological basis for consideration of Baird’s individual style consisted of the views of Leonard B. Meyer.4 The narrative in the third chapter, Reception, will follow a methodological model based on the classification put forward by Małgorzata Woźna-Stankiewicz.5 Detailed methodological explanations are given in the introduction to each chapter.

1.3. The sources for research

Due to the broad spectrum of research issues addressed here, each of the chapters has its own sources. The first chapter was based on analysis of direct sources: documents from the Institute of National Remembrance, the composer’s correspondence and his statements made in the press and on radio. A considerable role was also played by indirect sources: numerous utterances made about Baird available in printed or phonographic form, as well as letters written to the author by Alina Sawicka-Baird. The analysis of Baird’s works was based on sources of two main types: printed music and phonographic documents. Manuscript material was used solely in relation to compositions published incomplete (a piano score instead of an orchestral score) or not at all. Included in this body of sources were Baird’s own comments on selected works not published with the music. The material for the third chapter was dominated by indirect sources: private and institutional correspondence sent to the composer, documents confirming the awarding of prizes and distinctions (from the BUW AKP), programmes and discussions of concerts at the Warsaw Philharmonic from 1951/1952 to 1981/1982 and from 1982/1983 to 2009/2010, press reviews from the years 1949–1981 and 1981–2010, the catalogues of PWM Edition and record companies, lists of archive recordings at Polish Radio, and iconography (works in other art forms inspired by Baird’s music). A detailed list of all the sources used is given in the Bibliography.6 Indirect sources for the whole book included all written texts relating to Tadeusz Baird.7 All the photographs included in this book come from the private collection of Alina Sawicka-Baird, who agreed to their publication. In most cases, the photographer is not known. I was also unsuccessful in attempting to contact the heirs of one person responsible for a photograph, Mrs Danuta B. Łomaczewska.

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1.4. The state of research

The current state of research into this subject is modest. The sole existing monograph in Poland or anywhere else is Tadeusz Andrzej Zieliński’s book from 1966. For obvious reasons, that does not cover the whole of Baird’s oeuvre (the composer died in 1981), and it is of a rather popularising character. Of scholarly works concerning Baird’s music, we have Ewa Nehrdich’s doctoral dissertation,8 as well as several master’s theses written at Polish institutions of higher musical education which discuss only selected issues. Baird’s music also inspired Jolanta Woźniak’s research, which deals not so much with the music itself as with the actual method of musical analysis.9 The most recently published scholarly work is Michał Zieliński’s Twórczość orkiestrowa Tadeusza Bairda w kontekście techniki instrumentacji [Tadeusz Baird’s orchestral output within the context of instrumentation technique] (Bydgoszcz 2005).

This research is complemented by numerous publications concerning selected aspects of Baird’s work, published in the Polish quarterly Muzyka and in other periodicals. Musicological thought is reflected mainly in two works by the Polish scholar Krystyna Tarnawska-Kaczorowska: Świat liryki wokalno-instrumentalnej Tadeusza Bairda [The world of Tadeusz Baird’s vocal-instrumental lyric output] and Tadeusz Baird. Glosy do biografii [Tadeusz Baird. Glosses for a biography]. Despite the broad scope of the issues signalled here, the fact that they are dispersed over time means that they tend to represent source material for studying the reception of Tadeusz Baird’s music in musicological thought of the second half of the twentieth century. This temporal dispersion and the selective treatment of the issues confirm the acute lack of a comprehensive study of this output, which is very important to Polish musical culture of the second half of the twentieth century. Consequently, the subject presented here forms a continuation of research undertaken to date, and its tasks are to verify previous assessments of Baird’s music and to forge a full and cohesive picture of this composer’s work.

I have endeavoured to meet these ambitious tasks in an insightful and meticulous way, while remaining aware that the effect of my work is merely a starting point for further studies, which may adopt a variety of research perspectives.10 As an admirer of Baird’s music, I hope that this book will encourage more people to listen to it.

←19 | 20→←20 | 21→

1 See Tomaszewski, Interpretacja, 55–65. Tomaszewski identifies four basic principles behind analysis of the musical work: (1) the principle of complementarity, designed to prevent the analysis from becoming one-sided; (2) the principle of ontological plenitude, informed by a full examination of the work from the phase of its conception through the phase of its realisation and perception to the phase of its reception; (3) the principle of contextuality, showing the work in its organic (biographical, historical and cultural) context; (4) the principle of hierarchisation, indicating the need to consider the value and meaning of a particular work.

2 (1) Melody, harmony and tonality, (2) rhythm and metre, (3) musical syntax and form, (4) texture and sound, (5) the musical form in a global, phenomenalist approach. See Gołąb, Spór, 110–111.

3 Ibid., 167–200, esp. 171.

4 Meyer, Style and Music.

5 See Woźna-Stankiewicz, Muzyka francuska, 7–15.

6 See Bibliography, Sources.

7 Cited literature, Primary subject literature.

8 Nehrdich, ‘Das Schaffen’.

9 Woźniak, ‘Matematyczna metoda’.

10 In my opinion, the first issue to be studied in a comprehensive way should be the reception of Tadeusz Baird’s music in Germany.

2. Composer

←21 | 22→

2.1. Family and friends

Tadeusz Aleksander Baird was the only son of Edward and Maria Baird.11 His father, Edward Jan, was born on 23 September 1894 in Aleksandrów Kujawski to Józef and Wanda (née Zawadzka). Orphaned as a child, he began working for his keep at an early age, while continuing his education. In 1905, he was expelled from the tsarist school for revolutionary activities. At the age of nineteen, he took his final school exams in Piotrków Trybunalski, before taking a course in industry and agriculture at the Museum of Industry and Agriculture in Warsaw. He failed to complete that course due to the outbreak of the First World War. He was drafted into the Russian Army and transported to Siberia. On his release from the army, he worked as a district inspector then provincial inspector of animal husbandry and nutrition, while also lecturing at the agricultural school in Tyumen (western Siberia). On 25 June 1919, he married Maria Popova at the local Roman Catholic Church. On returning to Poland, in 1924, Edward Baird began work as an inspector of animal husbandry at the Central Federation of Farmers’ Associations. In 1927, he became head of the husbandry department. At the same time, he resumed his pre-war training at Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW). In 1928, he obtained his diploma in agricultural engineering, and on 15 October began work in the state administration as Head of the Animal Production Department at the Ministry of Agriculture (subsequently the Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Reform). To this day, he is regarded as one of the founders of Polish animal husbandry between the wars. During the Second World War and the Nazi occupation, Edward Baird divided his time ←22 | 23→between professional work (at the Warsaw Chamber of Agriculture and the ‘School of Fisheries’), scholarly work (preparing a PhD thesis) and underground resistance work. He was active in the Union of Armed Struggle (from the spring of 1940), the Home Army (until the autumn of 1943, he was in the Agriculture Department of the so-called Replacement Administration) and the Government Delegation for Poland as deputy head of the Agriculture Department (he remained in that post until mid-1945). After the defeat of the Warsaw Uprising, Maria and Tadeusz were transported to Germany, and Edward found himself in Cracow, where he worked for the Breeders Union and, after liberation, the Polish Zootechnics Society. It was there, in 1944, that he entered into a liaison with Józefa Ciechanowska (a specialist technician in animal husbandry). At the request of the Ministry of Agriculture, on 1 April 1945, he returned to work at the Ministry. In 1946, following a lengthy, but unsuccessful, search for his wife and son, he returned with Józefa to his home on Lipska Street in Warsaw. Shortly afterwards, to his surprise, his wife and son also returned. After twenty-eight years of marriage, Edward separated from Tadeusz’s mother and indirectly also from his nineteen-year-old son.12 This had an adverse effect on Tadeusz’s relations with his father and also affected the composer’s personal life. In the autumn of 1947, Edward Baird left his administrative post and was appointed assistant professor at the SGGW (on the future General Department of Animal Husbandry of the Agriculture Faculty, subsequently the Zootechnics Faculty), whilst at the same time acting as a professional adviser at the Meat Exchange and working with a number of institutions in connection with his speciality. On 24 June 1948, he obtained his doctorate based on a thesis dealing with economically-driven changes in pig farming from the beginning of the nineteenth to the mid twentieth century. On 5 January 1950, he was suddenly arrested by the security services in connection with the affair relating to Maria Foryst-Pleszczyńska, who was accused of spying (collaborating with foreign intelligence). It was she who identified Edward Baird as one of the sources of information for the intelligence report she prepared for the London Government on the state of the rural economy in Poland. After repeated interviews and examination of the evidence, he was charged on 17 May 1950, and sentenced on 30 November 1950. The Regional Military Court in Warsaw declared that Edward Baird had acted to the detriment of the Polish State, passing secret information (obtained in an official capacity) to a foreign intelligence agent, Maria Foryst-Pleszczyńska. He was ←23 | 24→sentenced to fifteen years in prison and the loss of his public rights and honorary civic rights for a period of five years. Given the seriousness of the accusations, one must admit that Edward Baird was treated leniently: he spent three and a half years in prison. He was released on 10 June 1953, pardoned by the Council of State. Four years later (26 June 1957), the Judicial Assembly of the Supreme Military Court in Warsaw decided to repeal the sentence and dismiss the case. This favourable verdict was reached thanks mainly to Tadeusz Baird, with the professional support of the lawyer Jerzy Urbański (military defence counsel). According to Alina Sawicka-Baird,13 citing the opinion of her husband, his father was sentenced to death. And although no documents confirming this could be found at the Institute of National Remembrance, given the gravity of the accusation, the composer’s opinion seems highly plausible. After all, we know that many cases and decisions at that time remained undocumented (they were kept out of the public eye). And Tadeusz, who was directly involved in the case, unstinting in his efforts to secure his father’s release, conducted personal conversations and correspondence with the decision-makers,14 and above all with the then prime minister of the Republic of Poland (later the People’s Republic of Poland), Bolesław Bierut,15 whose tenure was marked by the persecution of Home Army soldiers. So the composer’s opinion, related by Alina Sawicka-Baird, is crucial in this matter and possesses irrefutable source value.

While in prison, Edward Baird pursued scholarly work: he translated books from Russian into Polish and wrote articles on animal husbandry. Those works were published under a pseudonym or signed with the name Józefa Ciechanowska, who devoted herself to making sure the publishing process ran smoothly and also made efforts to have Edward freed from prison. This difficult period brought the two of them closer, both professionally and in terms of their outlook on life. After his release, Edward did not return to his first wife. In 1959/1960, Dr Edward Baird submitted his Habilitationsschrift, on the basis of which he was awarded the degree of senior lecturer of the SGGW. Despite his poor health, he was very active as a researcher and lecturer.

←24 | 25→

Edward Baird was musically gifted – a good violinist of above-amateur standard. He was also a keen photographer. He died on 26 September 1971 in Warsaw, at the age of seventy-seven, due to the very poor state of his health – a painful ‘souvenir’ of his time in prison. He was buried in the Baird family grave at the Stare Powązki cemetery in Warsaw (avenue 307). Tadeusz Baird was very proud of his father, recalling in a radio programme in 1981:

My father was not a true professional musician, but as a high-ranking state official (even before the war) and a professor of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences – a man who was very distinguished in those fields (I have in mind countryside management in both the practical and theoretical sense) – he was essentially a musician by inclination and by inner imperative.16

The composer’s mother, Maria Popov, born on 22 August 1894 in Ekaterinburg, western Siberia, was a Russian, daughter of Alexander and Elizaveta (née Shchepanov). Maria’s father was a bank manager (owner?) in Ekaterinburg and was shot with his sons by the Bolsheviks. Maria completed secondary school (a boarding school for ‘girls from good homes’), where her education included piano. Although an amateur, she could accompany her future husband in easier pieces from the classic violin literature. In more difficult repertoire (Classical sonatas, works by Reger and Szymanowski), she would later be replaced by Tadeusz, for whom a career as a pianist was ‘foreseen’. Maria’s calling in life – in accordance with her background, upbringing and education – was to keep house, even in the most difficult post-war times in Poland, always with the help of a maid. On returning from the camp in Germany in 1946, she lived with Tadeusz in a flat on Lipska Street. On 6 February 1974, following a lengthy illness, she died in Warsaw, aged eighty-two, and was buried in the Orthodox Cemetery on Wolska Street (the funeral was celebrated in the Orthodox rite). Tadeusz was distraught at his mother’s death, and the day after her funeral he left for the coast, where he stayed alone for several days:

I felt very lonely, […] I walked for hours by the sea and through the woods, trying to overcome my grief and reconcile myself to the emptiness. For the first time in my life, at least inside […] I felt the closeness of death. While our parents are alive, we have the impression that there is a wall between us and death; they are our shield, behind which we feel (although it is merely an illusion) far away and safe. When they’re not there […] no one and nothing separates us from death; we have to learn to live again in its imperceptible presence.17

←25 | 26→

The cruel turmoil of war brought irreversible changes in the Baird family. Tadeusz spent the first sixteen years of his life in a full, loving family. Then his life altered its course, and effectively – after the difficult experiences of German captivity and his father’s departure – he devoted almost his entire adult life to his mother, spending only his last seven years without her. This complicated family situation inevitably made its mark on his personality. On one hand, he was abandoned by his father on the cusp of adulthood; on the other, almost immediately, he had to become a carer to his mother, with whom he lived for the rest of her life, and to his father, whom he probably saved from the death sentence, influencing the decision to reduce his punishment and securing his pardon. The composer was not alone with those problems: from the fifties, he was always accompanied by Alina, his best friend and wife, whom he met at the headquarters of the Polish Composers’ Union (PCU) on Krakowskie Przedmieście in Warsaw. From 1 July 1959, until her retirement, Alina Sawicka ran the office of the PCU Board. Their union was only sealed with marriage on 21 October 1976, after twenty years of living together, yet apart. For many years, each of them bore the burden of caring for an ailing mother, and only after the death of the two mothers could they marry and live together for… five years.

Tadeusz’s relationship with Alina is documented in numerous extant postcards.18 From those short missives sent by the composer to his fiancée and later wife, sometimes written in haste, there emerges a valuable aspect of his personality. He constantly longed for Alina,19 the family home and Warsaw, and he was overcome by an almost constant sense of being tired with life. The earliest cards, very warm, full of ardent feelings, were sent from Paris in 1956 and from Italy in 1957 (Venice and Rome).20 When in Copenhagen (1964), he confessed: ‘I’m counting the days till my return. I’m very tired already. I’d like to stay at home, drink some wine, drive around in the Opel and perhaps even work a little. But there’s a whole week to go!’21 In 1969, he wrote: ‘Warmest greetings and kisses from Celle (as lovely as ever). I want to come home. Hamburg et al. have worn me out like seldom before. I’m old already and can’t put up with ←26 | 27→this!’22 A year later, returning from a trip to Brazil and Japan, he conveyed his impressions: ‘Phew! – in Europe at last. It’s possible (and worthwhile!) to travel there, but one can only live in this part of the globe known as earth’.23 From a trip to Romania (1974), he reported: ‘it’s really nice here, although I needn’t have come’.24 From Bulgaria, the following year, he wrote: ‘Shame you couldn’t come’.25 While in Istanbul (1975), describing his ‘beautiful, but also terrible and strange’ experiences from the journey through Bulgaria, he summed up: ‘Generally speaking, it’s time to come back to Warsaw’.26 Ending his stay in Germany (1976), he stated: ‘So back home I come…’27 From this correspondence, we learn, for example, about their different attitude towards Cracow: Tadeusz was not fond of it,28 and he did not understand Alina’s love of the city (‘But it’s not a friendly city’29), although he did occasionally express more favourable opinions: ‘Greetings from your beloved Cracow (which has recently received me “grandly” as well)’.30 The composer seems to have sent postcards to his wife from all his travels at home and abroad, sharing his feelings and thoughts with the person closest to him and often giving accounts of everyday life, as well as artistic events. Today, this correspondence – lovingly preserved by Alina Sawicka-Baird – represents a colourful chronicle of their life.

One of the people close to Tadeusz Baird was Bolesław Woytowicz. That was an exceptional friendship, since it grew out of a master-pupil relationship. It lasted throughout their forty-year acquaintance, until Woytowicz’s death (11 July 1980), and it was by no means grounded in matters relating to composition technique, but concerned things of a more general nature, including outside music. Their appreciation was mutual, and Woytowicz particularly esteemed Baird’s talent, as he expressed in one of his letters: ‘Please accept my sincere and warm wishes for the further great development of your beautiful talent, which I send ←27 | 28→with a firm shake of the hand’.31 One person whom Baird mentioned with respect and huge gratitude was the famous conductor Grzegorz Fitelberg. The start of their exceptional acquaintance dates from the end of 1949, when Fitelberg became familiar with Baird’s Concerto for piano and orchestra, performing it in his first post-war tour abroad (of Germany). That gave rise to an enduring friendship between the composer and the conductor, borne out in their correspondence. In letters from Fitelberg, which are often replies to wishes sent by Baird, we read: ‘Dear Sir, I feel nothing but warmth towards you and esteem for your huge talent’;32 ‘How is your work going? What are you working on?’;33 ‘It’s a pity that you haven’t sent me your latest scores. Quite a lot seems to have built up. And I’m very interested indeed’;34 ‘Dear Tadeusz, I’ve seen the score of Colas Breugnon. Well done! What progress, what maturity, what subtlety – a splendid score. I’ll do it in the 1952–53 season. […] I’m so glad to note the emanation of your beautiful talent’.35 Fitelberg was like a patron for Baird, in both the literal sense (propagating his works in numerous performances) and the metaphoric sense (his occasionally critical remarks positively motivated Baird to pursue his creative work). Unfortunately, that ‘patronage’ did not last long – it was cut short by the great conductor’s death, on 10 June 1953. It would seem, however, that the young Baird’s encounter with the outstanding musician bore a huge influence on the shaping of his creative approach. And, as Baird emphasised, he received such kindness and solicitude from few people in his life.36

Friends of Baird’s own age included Jan Krenz and Kazimierz Serocki. Their friendship lasted continuously until the death of Serocki, and then Baird. Here is Jan Krenz speaking about his relationship with Baird:

This friendship was born one day in Łagów – the venue for the historical congress of the Polish Composers’ Union. […] The leading Polish composers travelled to Łagów, along with their younger counterparts, including Kazimierz Serocki, Tadeusz Baird and myself. […] That friendship was calm and stable, without the stormy moments that occurred in relations with my other acquaintances. This does not reflect badly on that friendship, but rather says something about its character. The basis of this friendship was ←28 | 29→a constant need to exchange ideas about music and life. We spent many hours together, many moments of true spiritual closeness.37

We find many heartfelt words in the extant letters from Jan Krenz, who, after Grzegorz Fitelberg and almost simultaneously to Witold Rowicki, assumed ‘responsibility’ for performing the works of Tadeusz Baird. There are significant words in a hurriedly written note: ‘Dear Tadek, I wish you might write more symphonies in every possible major and minor key’.38 This was probably after a performance of Baird’s First Symphony, dedicated to Jan Krenz.39 The conductor bears that responsibility to this day. We find evidence of the friendship with Serocki and his wife in two cards sent from Geneva: ‘To dear Tadek, with sincere congratulations, Sonia and Kazik’;40 ‘To dear Tadek, with the cry “Long live Colas!”’.41 As Alina Baird relates, besides official dedications, the friends (Baird and Serocki) had the habit of presenting each other with scores of their new works with handwritten dedications.42 As Tadeusz Kaczyński recalled, there were three significant dates in that friendship between Serocki and Baird: 1949 (the founding of the ’49 Group), 1955 (work on the inaugural ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival) and 1981, the year both composers died.43 Another friend was Florian Dąbrowski. Their friendship grew thanks to several ten-day trips abroad (including to Georgia and to Bratislava), when the two composers were ‘condemned’ to each other’s company practically for days on end. Dąbrowski related: ‘Tadeusz Baird showed me friendship and trust for many years. We were sincere with one another, told one another what made us glad, sad or worried, and even often what made us upset’.44

In the opinion of Tadeusz Baird, a ‘model’ example of the personality of a composer was Grażyna Bacewicz. And although her music did not creatively inspire him, he was fascinated and inspired by her as a person – her talent, artistic integrity, respect and tolerance for the opinions of others, knowledge and professional competence. Most valuable in Baird’s eyes was her reliability, sincerity and ←29 | 30→straightforwardness in both her art and in life. Perhaps Baird saw considerable similarities between his career and that of Bacewicz – the fact that that sincerity of artistic utterance and honesty with regard to their own aesthetic convictions often hindered their career.

The circle of the composer’s friends was formed to a large extent by performers of his music. The oboist Lothar Faber maintained a lasting correspondence with him. In his letters, he wrote about musical matters (including performances of the Cztery dialogi [Four dialogues] and the Oboe Concerto), yet he always asked about family affairs: the health of Tadeusz, his wife Alina and his mother. That emotional bond is expressed by a New Year’s greetings card: ‘Mein Lieber Tadeusz, […] wie sehr denke ich an dich du wunderbar Freund, so vieles verstehst du ohne Worte!!’45

Halina Poświatowska was a remarkable figure – a virtual friend, we might say today, since the two never met. At a time of personal, existential watershed (a ‘forty-something crisis’), the composer sought literature corresponding to his state of mind and came across the verse of this young poetess, with whom he carried on a correspondence for some time.46 He mentioned his exceptional relationship with Poświatowska in a radio programme: ‘in a way, I feel linked to this day by perhaps more genuine ties than with many people I know and perhaps even frequently meet’.47 The curious story of that friendship was documented by the Pięć pieśni [Five songs] for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra to words by the poetess (Halina Poświatowska in memoriam).48

There were many more people with whom Baird enjoyed warm relations, including the following (in alphabetical order): Jerzy Artysz, Aleksander Bardini, Alina Górska, Alojzy Andrzej Łuczak, Kurt Masur, Witold Rowicki, Ludwik René, Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa, Helga and Klaus Storck and Zdzisław Śliwiński.49

←30 | 31→

In February 1981, six months before his sudden death, Baird, as if sensing its approach, said ‘there is nothing worse than pangs of conscience with regard to the dead. Nothing can be fixed anymore’.50

←31 | 32→

2.2. Life and creative work – calendar

2.2.1. Childhood – before the war (1928–1939)


Tadeusz Aleksander Baird enters the world on 26 July in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, the only son of the Pole Edward Jan Baird and the Russian Maria Baird, née Popov.

His birthplace was determined largely by financial considerations: the young couple, who had fled western Siberia, were having trouble finding accommodation in Warsaw. They lived in Grodzisk from 3 September 1927 to 30 September 1931.


On 1 October, moves with his parents to a flat at 11/4 Lipska Street in the Saska Kępa district of Warsaw, which would remain his only home till his death.


–   As a six-year-old, begins piano lessons with Maria Rzepko.51

In Baird’s home, books, poetry and especially music played very important roles:

From childhood, [my home] was filled with something of the spirit of the kind of homes about which you can really only read nowadays in literature from decades ago, or perhaps from the nineteenth century. I’m thinking about a home in which the people, although not professionally involved in the arts, have a personal, existential need for daily contact with art (performing to a pretty decent standard).52

←32 | 33→


–   First attempts at composing.

The young Baird, bored with piano lessons, tried his hand at composing. At first, he was embarrassed about writing notes and so composed when he was alone at home.53 According to his account, these were

Minor works for piano, or for violin and piano, representing more or less (rather less than more) successful imitations of what I heard every day at home and what I played myself. That lasted for quite a while: one year, two or three, before I realised that music was something that would be of lasting interest to me in life, which would continue to be necessary to me in life.54


–   3 October – at the age of eleven, he composes and writes out his first piano work.

This work was composed under the sway of his emotional reaction, full of powerless anger, despair and dread, to the image of German troops entering Warsaw.

2.2.2. Youth – the Second World War (1940–1945)


–   Begins piano lessons with Tadeusz Wituski, continuing them almost throughout the occupation (until 1944), and occasional lessons in composition with Bolesław Woytowicz.

Tadeusz took his first music ‘lessons’ at table 49 in the Dom Sztuki [Art House] – an art café on Nowy Świat Street run by Bolesław Woytowicz, with whom Edward Baird (Tadeusz’s father) was on friendly terms. Tadeusz became familiar with the Romantic and contemporary musical literature performed live in underground chamber concerts and recitals (e.g. Chopin recitals by Jan Ekier and Tadeusz Wituski). Those concerts were also held in private homes, including at the Bairds’. Besides music by the great Romantics, there were also compositions by Karol Szymanowski, Woytowicz and Jan Adam Maklakiewicz. Tadeusz became familiar with symphonic works (including the first performance of Andrzej Panufnik’s Tragic Overture under the composer’s baton) by listening to concerts organised by the Central Welfare Council on Okólnik Street (often as part of Sunday symphonic matinees). The tuition from Woytowicz never had the character of ‘true composition lessons’. As the composer recalled:

←33 | 34→

It is a curious case: although I never had the honour of being a pupil of the Professor, when I now look back all those years ago, I know with the utmost certainty that I owe incomparably more to him as a musician and a man than to some of my official teachers. It was he who taught me the right approach to my art, showed me the size of the task I was preparing myself for and brought home to me the weight of the decision at which I was slowly arriving: to become a composer or not.55

As a soloist and a member of chamber ensembles, he performs in clandestine chamber concerts.

He composes, including Romantic piano miniatures, polonaises in F sharp minor and A flat major, and a grand sonata in the style of Schumann and Brahms.56

Over successive years under the occupation, he writes works for piano, for violin and piano, and songs. Unfortunately, all those compositions were lost in the war. Tadeusz had already decided on his professional path: he would become a musician (perhaps a pianist, perhaps a composer).57


Begins a course in music theory with Kazimierz Sikorski, lasting several months.

He studied harmony, form and counterpoint as an unenrolled student at the Municipal Conservatory on Okólnik Street. He took that tuition in 1943–1944.58


Spring – successfully finishes grammar school.

He attended school on Saska Street, near Waszyngtona Avenue, in the Saska Kępa district of Warsaw.59

He spends the period of the Warsaw Uprising in Warsaw.

We all sat in the cellar, afraid of blank bullets, afraid above all of the Germans and the Ukrainians – the Ukrainian SS men who carried out house-to-house inspections, harassing and terrorising people. There was only one thing left for us to do (residents ←34 | 35→of Saska Kępa, Praga and Grochów) – listen to what was happening on the left bank of the Vistula.60

During the Warsaw Uprising, he is deported from Warsaw to a camp in Zakroczym, and then transported to Germany:

In mid–late August 1944, news went around that the Germans were preparing to evacuate all the men from the right-bank of Warsaw. Men, so everyone over sixteen. I had my sixteenth birthday four days before the outbreak of the uprising, so I had come of age – I was an adult. The round-up was set for Rondo Waszyngtona and Francuska Street in Saska Kępa, and I thought then that it might be the last moment, the last chance to spend a few minutes with music. There were no window panes, and stray bullets had broken some of the furniture in the flat. I sat down, not afraid at that moment of anything – not even that the sounds of the piano might bring the Germans around or some of those Volksdeutsch who were keeping order – I played Szymanowski’s Etude in B flat minor. It happened to be a work that I had just mastered. […] The next day, there was a camp on the site of the Zakroczym fortress, later – in what is now Piła – a transit camp for foreign labourers. Then a journey lasting several days in cattle wagons across the whole of Germany. The travelling was done mostly at night, in a huge convoy with many thousands of Poles in dozens of wagons. You could see ruined railway stations and passed burned-out German towns, destroyed trains, you would see the wrecks of burned-out cars. At night, there was a glow over the German towns – the result of Allied bombings. Finally, our transport came to rest somewhere in the Ruhr, near Recklinghausen, in a camp situated deep in the forest, not far from the town of Solingen. There we waited for many days before they transported us – future slaves – to various German towns and villages, to work in the mines and factories or in the fields. One day, a group of Poles comprising around 100 or 150 women, men, girls and boys were loaded ←35 | 36→onto cattle wagons, and we were finally unloaded in the village of Rheine (30–40 km from Münster) in Northern Westphalia and were taken in the night to some barracks outside the town. In those barracks, we sat somehow through the night until dawn, and early next day I was involved in something which a European living in the twentieth century could only previously have known from books, from old descriptions of slave markets somewhere in the United States or the Antilles. One could hardly foresee that someone born in the first half of the twentieth century would himself (as goods) take part in such a slave market. We were woken early, and it turned out that from the whole area […] dozens, perhaps even more, of German farmers, or ‘bauers’, had come to choose among us the labourers that would suit them best. They looked at our teeth and examined our muscles. They looked to see if we were sufficiently strong and well built, if there were any traces of emaciation. We were treated exactly like they treat horses or cows at market that they want to buy and harness to work on a farm. I was bought from a representative of the German Arbeitsamt (I had the pleasure of seeing them pay money for me: a few banknotes, so at least a few dozen German marks) and I and some other young man I didn’t know were taken by some red-faced German guy with leucoma in one eye, aged around 55 or 60, who ordered us to jump onto a britzka, driving us as if we were cattle he’d just bought.61

In Germany, he works as a farm labourer in Emsdetten (North Rhine-Westphalia).

We travelled for about three hours to what turned out to be a very large farm near the village of Emsdetten, half-way between Rheine and Münster. The man who had bought us was the owner of a big farm of more than one hundred hectares. Worse than that, it later transpired that he was the local Parteiführer, the leader of a rural, peasant cell of the Nazi party. And that man became […] my owner and the man who determined whether I would live or die. […] For many weeks, I worked […] as a farm labourer and was assigned to work with the horses. One of the nags – and they were great big heavy Friesian horses, resembling the Percherons familiar in Poland – turned out to be a murderess. A few days before I arrived at the farm, it had kicked out at a soviet prisoner-of-war working on the farm and killed him with its hoof. He was a rustic, used to working on a farm, and yet that malicious nag […] took him by surprised and killed him – smashed his skull. So you can imagine how scared I was working with those horses for many long weeks. I’m still scared and wary of horses to this day. That lasted several weeks, and it was essentially the first stage in my German adventures – adventures that certainly did not stop there. For me, this stage was important in that I learned what I – what a person, his life, his work – was worth in the system that Nazism created in Europe. I was worth the equivalent of a few German banknotes.62


ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2020 (January)
Polish music of the 20th century Polish composers of the 20th century Tadeusz Baird’s biography Tadeusz Baird’s music Musical reception Reception of Baird’s music
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 538 pp., 43 fig. b/w, 67 tables.

Biographical notes

Barbara Literska (Author)

Barbara Literska is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Professor of Musical Education at the University of Zielona Góra. She specializes in the 19th- and 20th-century music history and theory, reception of Chopin's music and the works of the eminent Polish composer Tadeusz Baird.


Title: Tadeusz Baird. The Composer, His Work, and Its Reception
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540 pages