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The Beginnings of Polish Musicology


Małgorzata Sieradz

The book presents the history of the only strictly scientific Polish musicological periodical Kwartalnik Muzyczny. It shows how the editorial board of the periodi-cal met with true approval and harsh criticism. The subject allows the author to present the beginnings of Polish musicology and its evolution through three epochs: the late partitioning period, the interwar period of Poland’s independ-ence, and the early years after the Second World War
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The Polish music periodical press will soon celebrate its bicentenary, and its history can be divided into two almost equal periods. Nearly one hundred years of the first period of development of this field of activity amongst Polish musicographers and enthusiasts of music historiography gave many examples of efforts to popularise knowledge about music to the extent allowed by their practical education in this direction, general erudition and passion with which critics/columnists/reviewers/popularisers practised the profession. Editorial works and the achievements of those who became pillars of this story – Kurpiński, count Cichocki, Kenig, Karasowski, Sikorski, Kleczyński, Rajchman, Chojnacki and others – their own literature on the one hand and efforts to obtain collaborators and co-authors (musicians, writers, historians, or simply music aficionados) for the magazines on the other, made it possible to shape a community of readers interested not only in chronicles of current musical events, but also in acquiring and expanding knowledge of the history of this art. The turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was a period in which pieces of ‘professional’ literature were featured in social and cultural journals, sometimes daily newspapers – after all, for decades all the major individuals from the area of domestic musicology had been engaged in both popularisation and musical criticism. Nonetheless, it was not journalism, but scientific contributions that gave testimony of their academic knowledge and the basis for including within the group of ‘experts,’ and the opening of the first departments of musicology at several European universities in the last decade of the nineteenth century led to a slow but systematic crystallisation of the community’s elite prepared to read strictly academic treatises, but they required specialised periodicals.

Initiation of the first edition of a music magazine with academic aspirations – Kwartalnik Muzyczny – coincided almost exactly with the opening of two Polish musicological departments. Was this by accident? Yes, and no. The magazine was not led by Adolf Chybiński, the head of the Lviv department, nor by Zdzisław Jachimecki, the head of the Cracow department. Both the idea and its realisation belonged to Henryk Opieński, musicologist, composer and conductor, who did not take care of completing the formalities related to the confirmation of his doctorate (he was therefore not a qualified musicologist) and most of his professional activity was associated in the future with artistic activity, but he was as strong as both ‘founding fathers,’ devoted to academia, and deeply convinced of ←517 | 518→the need to create columns worthy of the scientific work of the first generation of Polish music historians.

Could Opieński have successfully carried out his project if it had not been for his cooperation with Chybiński, as well as the professor’s dedication and incredible ability to describe the history of music in the short papers which were supposed to fill the pages of the new periodical? I believe that the above history of all three editions of Kwartalnik Muzyczny and the cursory review of other titles, that is various national, local and community periodicals, constitute a basis for claiming that for half a century, the professor was the key figure in this regard. Chybiński was an active author and editor, as well as the catalyst for many initiatives. While reading his correspondence, one gets the impression that the relations with editorial teams became a sort of his idèe fixe. This theme was constantly present in letters to both his loved ones and co-workers. Moreover, various aspects of editorial activity turned out to be his passion, and he was clearly in his element.

Meetings with Kwartalnik in the academic life of the professor were quite short episodes, always rich in strong emotions. When at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century he received a proposal to cooperate with the new periodical, for four years the then WTM organ became the main forum for the exchange of musicological thought at the academic level in the Polish language; this state, however, was interrupted by the outbreak of the Great War. The reason for the relatively short life of Kwartalnik in the interwar period was the fact that the planned formula of the magazine, built in the shape of German periodicals, well-known to the professor from his first years of study, was too ambitious for the small musicologist community. Finally, in the period of socialist realism, the extinguishing of the editorial after three years of operation was a result of pressure placed on the scientific community from the ‘official agents.’ We cannot forget that Kwartalnik was not the only title run by Chybiński: we should also add the following years of editorial work, this time in issuing Polski Rocznik Muzykologiczny which already gives a total of nearly twenty years of activity in the field, on which he obtained a monopoly – the few attempts made by other contemporary musicologists and journalists never comprised substantial competition for magazines run by the Lviv professor.

Using the best European models, Chybiński, first as an author, then the editor, set out the academic direction and imposed the strictly academic shape of Kwartalnik Muzyczny, commenting on current events. Although he was mostly surrounded by Lvivians and only a handful of trusted authors outside the circle of his department, he became a key figure for the whole environment. Therefore, it is unquestionable that he became the father of not only Polish musicology, ←518 | 519→but also Polish musicological literature, whose further development took place on the basis of transferring the editorial baton by successive heads of editorial teams to his academic heirs: after Chybiński, running new periodicals were – the annual Studia Muzykologiczne from1953, Rocznik Chopinowski (Annales Chopin) from 1956 and the same time the academic quarterly Muzyka – taken by Józef Michał Chomiński; years later Muzyka was taken over by his students, Elżbieta Dziębowska and (for a short time) Katarzyna Morawska, and in time a representative of the next generation of students, the creator of sonology, Maciej Gołąb. The next head of the quarterly, Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba, began her academic path under the tutelage of another student of Chybiński, Zofia Lissa. Currently, the editor-in-chief of Muzyka is Paweł Gancarczyk, who was preparing his PhD thesis years ago under Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba.

Throughout the existence of Kwartalnik, its editorial team received both sincere acclaim and harsh criticism. Paradoxically, it always happened for the same reason: the very high standard of the publication. It either allowed the niche musicologist community to lead a refined academic discourse (which was praised) or made it impossible to popularise musical knowledge among a wide group of music enthusiasts (which was criticised, while ‘paper’ science practised by the group close to Chybiński was ridiculed at the same time). However, at the end of his life, the editor himself could take pride in the fact that he never agreed to change the nature and image of his journal, which was on a par with the most important periodical publications in Europe, and many a time its level was even higher.120

The second paradox lies in the fact that, although the title itself can almost be identified with the figure of Chybiński, formally the professor was always separated from the editorial office by kilometres (or was the distance necessary for him to work?). Chybiński will always remain the founder of the Lviv musicological centre, and even in post-war Poznań, he maintained the academic atmosphere he had developed years earlier. Kwartalnik itself was in no form a ‘Lviv’ magazine. This was always (in terms of organisation of publishing works) a Warsaw-based title, in the third, post-war instalment – formally speaking – also a Cracow-based one, through the secretariat run by PWM and the budget determined there. The status of the magazine, firstly a body of WTM, then SMDM, based in Warsaw, with an address of the editorial office, secretariat and ←519 | 520→printing-office in the capital, probably does not give grounds to journalists and historians to consider it a Lviv magazine, though – due to the editor-in-chief and the group of authors frequently featured on its pages – musicologists with Galician roots – we do associate it mainly with this particular centre. However, this does not change the fact that the writing provided on the pages of Kwartalnik Muzyczny set the standards for successive generations of representatives of all Polish musicological centres up to the present day, and the journal itself has a worthy successor in the form of the quarterly Muzyka published by the PAN Instytut Sztuki.

120 He immodestly wrote: ‘Now I had a look through Revue belge de Musicologie, and the devil take me, for they can’t in any way compare to our Kwartalnik,’ Chybiński/Chomińsk 2016, 274.