Hats off, gentlepeople: Eugeniusz Walkiewicz
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 2,028
    Y'all know that I've been digging in the neglected byways of American Catholic church music. I've been like the kid given a room full of manure for Christmas, knowing there had to be a pony in there. Bad Catholic church music wasn't invented in 1964. I've previously gotten to know the work of Bruno Oscar Klein (a matter for a separate post.) When I first heard about Eugeniusz Walkiewicz and his impeccable training, I'd hoped that it would show in his music. And it does! It's hard to draw firm conclusions about a composer's ability on the basis of two pieces (up on IMSLP and linked at the link above), but I'm finding an awful lot to like in this music, and almost nothing to dislike. Like Klein and his teacher Rheinberger, Walkiewicz is writing in a Caecilian-influenced vein of late romanticism. But his music is less melody-driven with less-articulated phrases, and closer in that way to a Renaissance style. Look at the extended point of imitation at "nunc et in hora" in the Ave Maria, which finally touches on Ab (a tritone from the tonic) before the piece works its way back to D.

    So if it's all that good, why does nobody know about it? Mr. W. got caught in a cultural and linguistic ghetto. His works were published by a small Polish publisher in Chicago, and he served the same majority-Polish congregation in Plover WI for about 30 years. He didn't have "the big two" (McLaughlin & Reilly, and J. Fischer & Bro) hawking his wares.

    So why am I writing this? In part, to get other reactions, to see if my taste is all in my mouth. In hopes that other copies of this sacred music might emerge and be scanned (particularly the Missa in honorem S. Josephi for unison voices and organ). And in hope that somebody else might pick this up. It's a perfect dissertation topic for somebody near the Chicago area who reads Polish. That's not me, at age 61 it won't be me, but I want to benefit from the research. His works and papers are in the Polish Museum of America, in Chicago. There are a smattering of published scores in libraries, mostly in Poland. My preliminary findings suggest that as many of these works as possible should be available online.
  • MarkS
    Posts: 282
    Nice Schumann reference!
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,177
    I just read through the Mass: very, very nice.

    Actually, his biography is not at all uncommon for the old organists in many Polish parishes in this country, though, studying with Reger is definitely impressive!

    You can talk to any number of 'Old Timers' in Polish parishes today, and they will tell you all about Pan So-and-so, the Organist, whom no one ever dared to address by anything other than Pan ("Pan" being a title, which can be translated as Mr., but is usually of a more noble flavor). Every old-fashioned Polish organist I've ever heard of was university trained, some even had doctorates, even in tiny parishes in the middle of nowhere. And they had POWER, and were usually the second-in-command of a parish after the Pastor: you didn't mess with Pan Organista. Ah, those were the good old days!
  • I've put a mess of music up on IMSLP, mostly black and white pdfs of material from polona.pl.

    There's much more out there. When I was in town for the Colloquium, I visited the Polish Museum. This was a source of great joy and great frustration. The joy: finding that Walkiewicz was publishing into the 1940s, with his last works being published by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Stevens Point. The frustration: dealing with PMA. They wanted to be helpful, but being a small private archive, they basically have to monetize everything to the max. I got a few things from them (at the cost of $5/page and a nonpublish agreement). There is no finding aid to the papers. Their archivist, Iwona Bozek, suggest that I put together a proposal to their board for mass digitization of the holdings. I need to get together with our archivist here at Case and plot something...but such a proposal would start I think at 4 figures, and how does one raise such money? This could be win-win for everyone if I could find a way to make it happen. There's also a museum in Poland dedicated to Poles in America which has some things.

    I've been able to get my hands dirty in this music with my own group. We've done an O salutaris and Tantum for unison voices/organ, and have done the Kyrie from the Op. 38 Cantius Mass (we're working on the rest). We'll also do the Op. 21 St. Joseph Mass for unison. What I'm finding is that Walkiewicz managed to combine chromatic harmony with a Caecilian aesthetic. His music isn't dramatic. And many times he'll use secondary dominants to set up the kind of deceptive resolutions (V-IV for instance) that you'll see in Lassus. I haven't done any of the late music; the cursory examination I made leads me to believe that his youthful musical idealism got ground down in the mill of American church music incompetence.

    Things I'm keen to look at yet: his first published mass from Pustet (1907) -- the reviews basically said "fine music, but you have to be good to do it". And there's a late set of Offertories for SA and organ...I've seen the voice parts but not the organ. They look to be maybe 1 step above Rossini in difficulty, basically very practical stuff.

    If anyone has anything not on IMSLP, please bring it to my attention!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Jeffrey,

    Thank you so much for this work. This is simply wonderful music.
  • Jeffrey, thank you for your work in identifying a range of solid composers outside the mainstream. We need more of this!
  • I haven't identified a lot of A-list American Catholic composers (Bruno Oscar Klein and Walkiewicz are about it) but there are a lot of B-list composers worth doing: folks like Dumler, Yon, Schehl, Bartschmid, Rene Becker). Mostly I've just been gathering raw data, and haven't done the kind of in-depth examination to sort the B list from the C list (the D list we won't talk about). I've wanted to put up a curated list on my site, with the best and the hilariously worst. (Our parish has a Christmastide "follies" show, and my Schola's contribution will be "Mother, at your feet is kneeling". Usually flamboyant sentimentality is not the problem with Ordinary settings.)
    Thanked by 1Earl_Grey
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    B-list [...] Rene Becker

    I am aware of this composer since 2004.
    His organ works are worth investigating.
    There are crowd-pleasers which can be heard on YouTube.

    See more details at
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,337
    [Kenrige? Kendride? Kenrick?]
    Kenrick. Peter Richard Kenrick was Bishop and then after four years Archbishop of St Louis for a total of 52 years!
    Thanked by 2eft94530 Earl_Grey
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 890
    Yes. Becker was the one who arranged a harmonized version of the famous Christmas Novena (popular in Vincentian circles) for TTBB choir at Kenrick Seminary. Unfortunately the only version I have found is an SATB version based on the Becker original. I have re-arranged it for men's voices, but I would love to find a copy of the original. In fact, it would be nice to host a recital (organ and/or choir) of Becker's music at the seminary.

    In regards to the current post on Walkiewicz, being of Polish heritage, I would love to learn more of this music.

    I've been interested in finding out more about another Polish Catholic organist, composer and priest: Franciszek Walczyński He is featured prominently in Rossini's Liturgical Organist and there are a few pieces in IMSP, but not much in terms of Bio info.
  • Becker made his career in the Ad. of Detroit, so as an exiled Michigander, there's some extra interest. His papers are held by the University of Michigan (my alma mater) so there's that interest too. I remember these things NOT being in a catalog, but a finding aid, but they're catalogued now. And there were unpublished alternative scorings of a lot of published works. I haven't spent a lot of time with his music yet; at first glance it looked well-crafted but not particularly inventive. There are a few things linked at my site.

    I have both Walczynskis listed on my site, but haven't actually made pages for them. I remember seeing some things digitized at polona.pl, so you might look there for more music. They're pretty elusive biographically (no Baker, neither MGG, no hits in Music Sack) The VIAF listing for the Vatican Library's Authorized Access Point includes "Sac", so he was apparently a priest.
    Thanked by 1Earl_Grey
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 890
    I'd be interested in looking at his (Becker's) Masses, either for unison or TTBB choir, especially the one for St. Joseph since that is the name of the seminary chapel.
  • Jeffrey,

    The Latin Mass Schola in Mankato, Minn. @ Ss. Peter and Paul Church, will be including the Walkiewicz Mass in Honor of St. John Cantius in their music program for Christ the King, on Sunday, October 28 @ 4.15 p.m.

    Thanks for the scholarship!
  • Super, Nihil! If possible, could you send me a recording?
  • I shall see what I can do!
  • http://hz.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/d/db/IMSLP530485-PMLP858096-WalkiewiczOp20.pdf
    ^^ What was the setting where Polish-language Mass settings were used in 1911?
  • The Poles used the "German Mass" model, but in Polish. That is, during a Low Mass, they would sing music at various points that was not a setting of the liturgical text. The title of the piece you reference is "Songs at Holy Mass", and that's exactly what they were. Thus the song "at the Gloria" is a prayer for everlasting peace (I don't read Polish, and Google's version is a hot mess.)