Lutoslawski’s Twenty Polish Christmas Carols: Festive Colors and Cradle Songs

During the 1930s and 40s, war-ravaged Poland suffered first under the occupation of the Nazis and then the Soviets. In 1946, as the ominous clouds of totalitarianism and cultural censorship gathered, the Polish composer Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994) compiled a collection of nineteenth century Christmas carols from his homeland. Originally written for voice and piano, the Twenty Polish Christmas Carols were premiered by the soprano Aniela Szleminska and pianist Jan Hoffman in Kraków in January, 1947. The piece fell into obscurity for 40 years. Then, in the 1980s Lutosławski rescored the work for soprano, female choir, and chamber orchestra.

The Twenty Polish Christmas Carols are filled with bright, festive melodies and adventurous harmonic excursions into polytonality. At the same time, there is a lingering sense of lament. We are never far away from the gentle, comforting motion of a lullaby. The final carol drifts off into quiet, serene mystery.

  1. The angels came to the shepherds (Aniol Pasterzom Mowił)
  2. Hey, We look forward now on (Hej, weselmy się)
  3. When Christ has come to us (Gdy się Chrystus rodzi)
  4. Just after midnight (Północ już była)
  5. God is born (Bóg się rodzi)
  6. Our Lady (Gdy śliczna Panna)
  7. Hurrying to Bethlehem (Przybieżeli do Betlejem)
  8. Infant Holy, Infant Lowly (W żłobie leży)
  9. Jesus is there (Jezus malusieńki)
  10. We are shepherds (My też pastuszkowie)
  11. Lullaby, Jesus (Lulajże Jezuniu)
  12. On this day (Hej, w dzień narodzenia)
  13. Jesus lovely flower (Jezu, śliczny kwiecie)
  14. Hey la, Hey la, shepherds, there you (Hola hola, pasterze z pola)
  15. What to do with this child (A cóż z tą dzieciną)
  16. Hey, hey, lovely Lady Mary (Hej hej, lelija Panna Maryja)
  17. This is God’s birthday (Z narodzenia Pana)
  18. Shepherds, can tell you what you have seen (Pasterze mili)
  19. Infant so tiny (Dziecina mała)
  20. Holy Mother Mary (Najświętsza Panienka po świecie chodziła)

Recordings

  • Lutosławski: Twenty Polish Christmas Carols, Antoni Wit, Polish Radio Choir, Polish National Radio Symphony Naxos.com

Featured Image: Christmas market in Kraków, Poland

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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