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J. Kowalski

T. Dobrzański

CONCERT OF EPIC SONGS (29 July 2004, 7 PM, Alchemia)

3. Jacek Kowalski & Tomasz Dobrzański  (Poland)


"The Song of Roland" translated by Jacek Kowalski


At the beginning of great French and European poetry there is a knight epic poetry: a masculine, hard, often cruel song about courageous deeds, known in France as "chanson de geste" ("geste" meant "heroic achievements", from Latin "gesta"). The history of French literature really begins with the "The Song of Roland", which we know from the version created somewhere at the end of the eleventh century, and written in the middle of the next century. It begins with a song, because the poetry created in the national language were not read, but performed in front of the audience. The audience was huge: the whole society, from poor pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostela to the greats of this world. The lyrics were composed by clerks - literary people of the Church, as well as jugglers (French: "jongoleurs") - specialists in all kinds of entertainment. The wide selection of their offer was troubled by the Church, recognizing as trustworthy only those who "cantant gesta principum et vitam sanctorum", which means: "were celebrating the deeds of rulers and the lives of saints." The works in question numbered from several to several thousand verses. It is therefore assumed that the concert ("epic screening") consisted only in singing a suitably long fragment, up to several hundred verses. The specific structure of the song and the peculiar poetic language, rich in repetitive formulas, helped the singer to remember it. Probably each subsequent performance was significantly different from the previous one, and the singer filled the familiar action scheme with common formulas, half reproducing and half creating a new text.


"Song of the Battle of Grunwald"


"The song about the Prussian defeat that happened under King Jagiełło Władysław, written in 1410" - is the oldest and one of the most beautiful Polish historical songs, and at the same time the only one preserved from many songs about the Battle of Grunwald. Jacek Kowalski and Tomasz Dobrzański from the band Klub św. Ludwika perform it with the accompaniment of medieval instruments: kruty and roty. We don't know when exactly it was created. The roots certainly date back to the 15th century (although the dating of 1410 in the title is literary fiction), in its present form it was written in the 16th century, and in its half it was considered ancient and originated from the time of historical battle. Although it was sung by wandering minstrels and in its form resembles popular "news stories" songs or even later beggars' ballads, its author must have been a scholar poet who knew the chronicle of Jan Długosz. "The song about the Prussian defeat ..." is the most beautiful Polish historical song, absolutely worth remembering and disseminating. This is, after all, the only Polish equivalent of the "The Song of Roland", admittedly it can't stand the comparison, because it is late, small and modest, but it's still very important.


Jacek Kowalski - singer, poet, medievalist, translator of Old French poetry, author and performer of his own songs, winner of the Student Song Festival in Krakow. An art historian by profession, he works at the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznan. With the Klub św. Ludwika he sings his own translations of Old French songs, and the cycles of his own songs, which are the fruit of fascination with Old Polish and medieval culture, are performed by the band Monogramista JK.


Tomasz Dobrzański is a flutist, he plays in bands performing classical and baroque music. He is the founder and director of the band Ars Cantus and the Wroclaw band Una voce, with which he performs music of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. He deals with concert, popularization and educational activities in the field of old music, as well as the reconstruction and building of medieval musical instruments.

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