Jan Paderewski’s “Polonia” Receives a Proper Performance

Is it possible to tell the history of a country in music? Jan Paderewski thought so. He loved his native Poland — so much so he eventually became its prime minister. But before that, he composed his massive Symphony in B minor, “Polonia.”

The work commemorates the 40th Anniversary of the January Uprising. In 1863 Poles rebelled against Russian troops occupying the country. It was unsuccessful, but it marked the emergence of Poland’s national identity.

The country was still under occupation in 1903 when Paderewski wrote this symphony. It’s a work of deep emotion, and Paderewski conveys it most effectively.

Paderewski created his own soundscape for this symphony. In addition to a massive orchestra, the score also calls for organ, three contrabass sarrusophones, and a tonitruon.

The contrabass sarrusophone is a single-reed brass instrument. It’s similar to a bassoon, though with a much lower range and more powerful sound. The tonitruon was a percussion instrument designed by Paderewski to generate wind sounds and thunder.

The inclusion of these instruments gives the work the full power and dramatic impact Paderewski intended. The Lviv National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra directed by Bohdan Boguszewski serves up a superb performance.

I suspect more than a few of the musicians in this ensemble share the composer’s deep love for his country. And that love can be heard, I think, in their performance.

Even if you’re not familiar with the events depicted in this symphony, you can get caught up in the emotional journey. And what a journey it is.

Highly recommended.

Jan Paderewski: Symphony in B minor “Polonia”
Lviv National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra; Bohdan Boguszewski, conductor



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