Mass songs

Recording not available.

Opis materiału
  • Composer:Andrzej Panufnik
  • Original title: Pieśni masowe
  • year of completion: 1954

Mass songs

Pieśń Zjednoczonych Partii (Pieśń Zjednoczonej Partii) [Song of the United Parties (Song of a United Party)], words by Leopold Lewin, 1948
Warszawski wiatr [Warsaw wind], words by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński, 1949
Pieśń zwycięstwa [Song of victory], words by Stanisław Wygodzki, 1950
Pokój nad światem [Peace over the world], words by Stanisław Ryszard Dobrowolski, 1951
Ślubowanie młodych [Youth pledge], words by Władysław Broniewski, 1952 (used in the film Ślubujemy, dir. Jerzy Bossak)
Nowy czas [New time], words by Jerzy Ficowski, 1954

In the late 1940s, the spectre of socialist realism gathered over Polish music, which was to serve the largest possible audience, represented by a new socialist society of workers and peasants. The most important genres of socialist realism included the so-called mass songs. They had a simple, stanzaic structure and uncomplicated melodic-harmonic arrangement in the traditional major-minor system, as well as subject matter concerning either daily matters associated with the building of a new reality or praising the new communist order. In those days writing mass songs became obligatory for every composer, which is why such pieces can be found among the works of nearly all artists working at the time. Some, like Alfred Gradstein, Edward Olearczyk and Władysław Szpilman, even specialized in the genre;others, like Grażyna Bacewicz, Witold Lutosławski and Panufnik, wrote just a few of such songs, regarding them as absolutely incidental in their work.


Panufnik’s first mass song is the Song of the United Parties, referring to the establishment in December 1948 of the Polish United Workers’ Party. Panufnik’s song became the anthem of the new party, as it were, which was a result of Panufnik’s winning first prize in the competition for which the song had been submitted. Significantly, composers taking part in that competition – for a song celebrating the emergence of the Polish United Workers’ Party – did not enter the competition themselves, but were designated by the Ministry of Culture and Art. There were 15 composers in totaland three songs won prizes: Panufnik’s Pieśń Zjednoczonych Partii to words by Leopold Lewin, Alfred Gradstein’s Pieśń jedności to words by Stanisław Wygodzki, and Stanisław Wiechowicz’s Pieśń jedności also to words by Stanisław Wygodzki.


Panufnik’s Pieśń Zjednoczonych Partii is a simple, even banal melody with accompaniment which can be described as a lively march. Years later, the composer explained that when participating in the competition, he tried to write as bad a song as he could, and so was surprised by his award. It is hard to say whether he indeed devoted as little attention as possible to the song (surviving documents suggest that he submitted two more songs for the competition, but they have not survived). Undoubtedly, the style of the piece is markedly different from the composer’s formally and sonically sophisticated works from that period, and even from the fresh, charming Songs of the Underground Struggle written during the war.


The same can be said of Panufnik’s other mass songs. Evidently, apart from Warsaw wind to words by K.I. Gałczyński – associated with Warsaw and free from propagandist content, it remained in manuscript only – the other pieces were a kind of concession on Panufnik’s part to the official ideology. He did not treat them seriously and did not care in the least about their artistic merits. In this respect he differed from Witold Lutosławski, for example, who even in his few mass songs made sure that the works were original harmonically or texturally, treating them as a kind of composition exercises.

In this context of the dictates of socialist realism, Symphony of Peace is an exception, because Panufnik treated it unusually seriously in comparison to his mass songs and was pleased with it, using ideas from it in his later pieces. The work is discussed in a separate note.