Farewell: A-minor polonaise #13

You might wonder why Oginski and his polonaise are so much spoken of lately, since the 250th anniversary of his birth was marked last year
You might wonder why Oginski and his polonaise are so much spoken of lately, since the 250th anniversary of his birth was marked last year. Surely, the time has come to mark new dates and names. However, Oginski — as a son of Belarus — is a significant figure and his polonaise #13 is so widely known, that the topic seems to have no time limit.

The polonaise is thought to have been composed in 1794, when Oginski — as a member of Tadeusz Kosciuszko’ rebellion — was obliged to leave his homeland and go abroad. He initially went to Austria and then to Italy before spending time in Constantinople, Paris, Brussels, Hamburg and Berlin. After Alexander I excused Oginski, he returned home to Zalesie, where he lived quietly from 1804-1806. It was there that he is thought to have composed his polonaise.

Foreign political events of 1806 obliged Oginski to leave his homeland once more and, in 1810, he became a senator of the Russian Empire. Later, he was appointed as Emperor I’s confidante, and was asked to bring the Grand Duchy of Lithuania under the Russian Empire.

The project was naturally rejected and, in 1815, Oginski returned to Zalesie, known as his Northern Palmyra. He remained there until his death in 1822, with his polonaise only printed, in Italy, after he had left this world. Sadly, the manuscript of his sheet music (with the date of composition) has not survived. However, we believe it was written in his final days, which has symbolic poignancy.

Michal Kleofas Oginski is buried in the Florentine church of Santa Croce, bedside such legends of Galileo, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Niccolò Machiavelli and Gioacchino Rossini.

By Oleg Karpovich 

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