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Marcin Mielczewski and Music under the Patronage of the Polish Vasas

Translated by John Comber


Barbara Przybyszewska-Jarminska

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.
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I Research history



Research history

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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

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