published Ruch Muzyczny Issue 3, February 7, 1999

I met Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz thirty one years ago. I had just passed the exams to the State Higher Music School in Warsaw, and I unexpectedly found myself under pressure to switch from my composition studies to theory studies. I was protesting fiercely though futilely. Then, Professor lent me a helping hand. I became a student in his group and under his guidance, without any major further disturbances, I completed my studies. That time was the period of triumphant successes of the radical currents in music, and a bad time for those artists who did not yield to this “terror of the avant-garde”. As an artist and as a teacher, professor Paciorkiewicz did not share the enthusiasm for the ever newer trends. He cherished the values that we had inherited from the music of the past, including the works of the great creators of the 20th century. He instructed his students to study the works of Bartok, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Beethoven and Bach (the Goldberg Variations!). He forbade nothing, though. The pressure of the times was strong, and one or another would sometimes try to explore the fashionable regions (who wouldn’t like to be at least a bit modern in those pre post-modern times).

Professor accepted those ventures placidly, without demonstrating discontent or anger. He trusted us, his students, and he believed that we would find our own ways, our own worlds of musical values. He did not try to do the searching for us. Today I think that Professor’s cheerfulness, his hearty smile, his understanding for other people’s weaknesses, his inner peace and his satisfaction with the life that did not spare him worries, troubles and failures, that all of these were came from his strong belief in permanent values that were given to us by our great predecessors. This belief was firm, irrespective of the transitory trends and fads, and it manifested itself in the unchanging nature of Professor’s artistic ideals.

When I was beginning my studies, Professor was the Dean of the Composition, Conducting and Music Theory Department. In those times, the bureaucracy, now ever-present, did not reign supreme. Dean Paciorkiewicz had no secretary and no deputy or dean assistant. When proper time came, he would ask students to his office to give them their credits. He would produce a set of various seals from his suitcase and carry out this procedure formally. And since he was a truly absent-minded man, the pages of our student’s books would sometimes get stamped with entries that were not necessarily meant for them. When I was browsing through my student’s book after years, I found such a densely stamped place in it. It was not Professor’s habit to check thoroughly whether all the required credits were there in our student’s books. He would just browse through the pages and assure himself that “surely they must be there.” Anyway, no-one would have dared to cheat him, and all credits were where they should have been. When I got to know these habits that Professor had, I saw why he was called “Dean – father”, as I heard in my conversations with older students.

In 1969, Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz was appointed rector of the State Higher Music School in Warsaw (PWSM). But as time went by, he felt ever worse in that office, being bothered with increasing intensity by an arrogant young man – the secretary of the /communist/ party organisation, who deemed himself to be above the School’s highest office. Professor didn’t keep his position to the end of his term. He resigned from the office. I remember a visit I paid to Mr and Mrs Paciorkiewicz in Warsaw’s Bielany shortly after that. Professor was relaxed and in good mood. I could see that he had relieved himself of a huge burden. We joked about that comrade, though he probably didn’t deserve even that.

When I completed my studies, we didn’t meet very often. I worked at the PWSM, but I was in a different department. Luckily, we began to see each other more frequently in the late 80s. In those times, we would meet in concerts, congresses of the ZKP (Polish Composers Association), or anniversary celebrations, and, less frequently, at the school, then renamed as the Music Academy. This was so because Professor had already retired. I remember that he accepted his retirement as another great gift from his life. “Now I will be able to do more composing work”, he would say.

In May 1991, a concert dedicated to the creative work of Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz took place at the Cellar of Wanda Warska and Andrzej Kurylewicz, the place where the Warsaw composers community would meet at that time. The concert was a part of the “Portrait of a Composer” cycle. At that time, music had already changed notably: the “terror of the avant-garde” was slowly becoming a matter of the past. Professor’s music sounded very fresh then, and this refers both to his newer and his older music. His newer and older works differed, but they were connected by the joint thread of workshop soundness, clarity of expression and the love of tradition. After the concert, when I was congratulating Professor on his success, he asked me unexpectedly, without even a hint of reproach, but with his characteristic roguish smile: “You don’t have to be ashamed of your Professor’s music, do you?” I realised that until that memorable moment, I had never told Professor that I valued his music and that I saw him as an artist who was implementing the ideas he had devoted his life to with great perseverance; in short, that I had never expressed my appreciation and admiration for him. That night was a perfect occasion to make up for this. Since then, our acquaintance, which hitherto had been dominated by the master-student relation, became something else. It transformed into the friendship of two composers for whom the differences between the ways in which each of them was carrying out their artistic ideals only refined their relationship rather than dividing of antagonising them. All this was possible thanks to the short playful sentence uttered as though by the way by Professor.

After that, we met many times. I remember best the time when Professor was receiving the ZKP Award, the concert to celebrate his 80th birthday, and Professor’s visit to the first composer concert of my students. The last occasion was a highly symbolic one and I was particularly grateful to Professor that he had accepted my invitation.

The last time we met was in October 1998 in a concert at ZAIKS. I drove Professor to his place in Bielany where he had lived for a long time. We talked about the troubles at the Composers Association. Professor warned me that I should not get too much emotionally involved with these problems. “This is sometimes detrimental to young people, please take care…”

I would like to thank you, Professor, for your heartfelt care. I will remember your advice. But first and foremost, I will remember the message of the life of Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz, the message that the things that last are traditional values, friendship, truth, goodness, and faithfulness to your artistic ideals.

Zbigniew Bagiński
/published Ruch Muzyczny Issue 3, February 7, 1999/