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The song ‘Wojak’, to a text from Stefan Witwicki’s collection of Piosnki sielskie [Rustic songs], begins with the words ‘Ho! My steed, the morn is breaking! Forth we’ll ride away!’[i] It may have been written while Chopin was still in Warsaw, in the incendiary, restless pre-Rising atmosphere. We know for a certainty that the manuscript of ‘Wojak’, sent to his sister Ludwika in Warsaw, is dated ‘Vienna, 21 June 1831’. Letters sent from Vienna show that Chopin lived every bit of the uprising in which he was not fated to participate, following every move, greatly affected by every victory or defeat.

The song of a soldier setting off for battle brings a synthesis of a balladic song, proceeding in a balladic 6/8 rhythm, adorned with illustrative effects, and a military, insurrectionary song. It exhilarates us with the spontaneity and unity of its expression. Witwicki’s text describes an individual event, but Chopin’s music lent the song the character of a general muster. ‘Wojak’ at once began to be sung all over the country, spread by copies and bootleg editions.


[i] English words by Percy Pinkerton, reproduced in The National Edition of the Works of Fryderyk Chopin, ed. Jan Ekier, series B, x: Songs (Warsaw, 2008), Eng. suppl. p. 9.

Author: Mieczysław Tomaszewski
[Cykl audycji "Fryderyka Chopina Dzieła Wszystkie"]
Polish Radio, program II


 
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