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Małgorzata Wożna-Stankiewicz


The present study discusses the activities of the musicologist Józef Reiss (1879-1956) as lecturer in 1912-1927, mainly in Krakow, taking into account inter alia the problems he discussed and information about the performers of musical illustrations to his lectures.

In 1912 Reiss began delivering lectures as part of the Public University Lectures at the Jagiellonian University and the Adam Mickiewicz People’s University; he then worked for the Music Society and its Conservatoire, and somewhat later, during the First World War, for the Institute of Music and the College of Scientific Lectures; later, after Poland regained independence, he collaborated with the E. Bujański Concert Agency and Radio Krakow. He also gave talks and lectures organized by the Social Readery, Oratorian Society, Workers’ Youth Union “Znicz” [Torch], Association of Women Teachers, Professional Musicians’ Union, and by Witold Herget’s National Theater and Concert Agency He delivered scientific lectures or popular-science and non-specialist lectures and talks. They were usually illustrated with musical compositions or excerpts, most often performed by pianists.

Reiss presented his lectures as one-subject series (e.g. Ancient Greek music, The Romantic period in music, Subjectivism in music). He sometimes delivered single lectures, which usually discussed the artistic achievements of one composer (Chopin, Brahms, Tchaikovsky), or relationships between two composers (e.g. Stanisław Moniuszko and Carl Loewe, Ferenc Liszt and Juliusz Zarebski). The tendency to present historical-musical issues as larger wholes was also seen in the way of planning music mornings and evenings (e.g. series of mornings devoted to Wagner’s works).

Reiss usually presented historical-musical subjects from several perspectives: the period in the history of music; a selected nation; a trend or style in music; the kind of music; a music genre; the artistic achievements of one composer; or one musical work. Because of the musical preferences of his audiences Reiss gave slightly preferential treatment to the operatic and song compositions of the 19th century, along with piano achievements. A special position in the subjects discussed by Reiss was devoted to Ludwig van Beethoven. At the same time he also gave lectures on entirely different musical phenomena, e.g. a lecture on jazz illustrated by the playing of a jazz band.

In 1927 Reiss gave lectures and talks on the Polish Radio in Krakow before concerts (e.g. The Struggle for Jazz and Waltz, The Beethoven Ideology, The Outstanding Figures of Russian Music, On the 16th-Century Vocal Art, A Glance at French Music).

The success of many well-executed lecture-cum-concert projects in which Reiss took part as well as the interest aroused by his talks and lecturers is evidenced by the large number and social composition of his audiences. For example, on 13 March 1913, at a music evening with a lecture on Beethoven, Reiss, and the pieces providing musical illustration, was listened to with unabated attention by over 250 people; they were workers for whom the event was organized by the People’s University. More socially diversified audiences listened to Reiss at events organized by the People’s University during World War One: in January 1916 three lectures on impressionism in music attracted many listeners whom the lecture room could hardly seat; at the music mornings with Reiss, organized for example in the “Uciecha” cinema (seating 430), there were also large audiences. It so happened that at a music morning devoted to jazz the room could not accommodate all those interested and the program had to be repeated at a later date.

The data showing attendance at Reiss’s lectures and opinions about them permit a conclusion that the difficult art of talking about music with Reiss as the speaker attained a very high level satisfying the audiences.

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Weronika Lechowska

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Jānis Krastiņš

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Alisa Koroļova and Sandra Treija

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Arne Riekstins

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