Three Christmas Carols for solo voices, choir unisono and small orchestral ensemble

Recording not available.

Opis materiału
  • Composer:Witold Lutosławski
  • Original title: Trzy kolędy na głosy solowe, chór jednogłosowy i mały zespół orkiestrowy
  • content: 1. Not in Bethlehem
    2. Wartime Carol
    3. With Herod
  • year of completion: 1945
  • instrumentation: two solo voices (male and female), choir unisono, flute, clarinet, trumpet, 2 violins, viola, cello
  • commission: „Czytelnik” Publishing Cooperative
  • kind of text: literary
  • Text language: Polish

Lutosławski was commissioned to write the Three Carols by the Czytelnik pulishing house. The carols were to be part of a series called the Library of Amateur Musical Ensembles. The lyrics were written by Aleksander Maliszewski (1901-1978), a playwright and novelist, today forgotten, whose play The Road to Czarnolas was staged for the first time in 1952, with Lutosławski’s music.

Maliszewski’s three poems describe Jesus’ birth and life, transferred to Poland:

Not in Bethlehem, a town so shabby,
but in Poland little Jesus played with the stars.
The Virgin Mary spun linen threads in the evenings
and carols she sang with the spinner girls.

This kind of “Polonising” is a charming feature of the lyrics – which are in any case not very sophisticated, sometimes even vulgar (“Joseph got scared and a stick he grabbed. / ‘Hello, Lord Jesus, Polish soldiers have come’”).


To these lyrics Lutosławski composed music accessible in its sound and uncomplicated in its performer line-up, with an easy instrumentation for amateur musicians of male and female voices, flute, clarinet, trumpet, two violins, viola, cello and double bass. Despite their popular nature, the carols are pieces of high quality. The composer’s artistry is manifested primarily in an original choice of chords as well as sophisticated form, especially in the first carol, with fragments of the lyrics and music recurring irregularly and the relation between them not fixed – one musical section accompanies various text fragments, and a fragment of text appears in a changing musical setting.