First attempts at composition
Kazimierz Serocki’s oeuvre occupies a unique place in Polish contemporary music. An artist of extraordinary sonic imagination and great inventiveness – both when it came to melody (in the first post-war period he was superior in this respect to virtually all Polish composers at the time) and colour (which he revealed in later periods) – from the very beginning he displayed a passionate interest in fresh, modern, non-conventionalised forms of expression. In different periods he approached them differently [...], yet always in a manner excluding the cult of external, perverse novelty for its own sake: in the sound measures and structures he chose he looked for the reality of musical rightness, a living, evocative sense and order, as well as an opportunity to express his individual temperament. As a result, he became the most authentic and consistent innovator in Polish music since Szymanowski.
This quote from the introduction to Tadeusz A. Zieliński’s book is one of the most accurate attempts to define the unique nature of Serocki’s oeuvre. The composer’s uncompromising and independent ethical attitude, and his extraordinary sensitivity to the colour of sounds and the intricacy of the musical process are its most important components.
However, the beginning of Serocki’s creative journey was neither easy nor obvious. It seemed at one point that piano playing was his vocation – he made a successful debut as a pianist already before the war and still gave plenty of concerts in Poland and abroad in the first few years after WWII. With time he grew increasingly determined in his attempts to combine this type of artistic activity with composition. His creative ambition was kindled much earlier, already during the war, when he earned his living playing popular melodies in Warsaw cafésand making his own arrangements. It was at that time that Serocki wrote his first piano works: Etude, Prelude and two Mazurkas. However, it was not until the early 1950s that he definitely abandoned piano to devote himself exclusively to composition.
While still a student in Łódź he composed A la polonaise for piano, Two Songs to words by Wierzyński for voice and piano, a work with an unidentified line-up entitled In the fields and Concertino for piano and orchestra, which he submitted as his graduation piece. This three-part composition fully reveals the sources of Serocki’s youthful inspirations. On the one hand, there is undoubtedly neoclassicism, putting the adopted formal solutions in order, and a daring, modern harmonic language, on the other – truly Bartókian motor rhythm, a tendency to build a coherent sonic narrative, which is at the same time a manifestation of the exuberant personality of the composer at the beginning of a great career.
Serocki’s stay in Paris on a scholarship (1948) brought Symphonic Scherzo for grand orchestra, Triptych for chamber symphonic orchestra and a children’s suite for piano entitled Five Dwarfs. In each of these works we can find not only evidence of fascination with the most interesting phenomena in contemporary music, but also manifestations of Serocki’s own artistic experiments, especially with rhythm, colour and pitch organisation. For example, part one of the unfinished Triptych – Toccata – is based on a motoric quaver movement, while the final Fugue was to have been based on a theme in which, as Maciej Ziółkowski noted, “just one note is missing from a full twelve-note scale”.
In addition, surviving documents allow us to conclude that works added to the composer’s catalogue by April 1949 also included 10 Variations with Fugue on an Original Theme for piano as well as several film scores (to documentaries entitled The Mine, Szlembark, The Work of the UN and A Print Shop in Grzybowska Street). However, Serocki was formed as a composer by later works, written after he concluded an “artistic alliance” with Jan Krenz and Tadeusz Baird in “Group 49”.
- Tadeusz A. Zieliński, O twórczości Kazimierza Serockiego [On Kazimierz Serocki’s Oeuvre], Kraków 1985, p. 5.
- Maciej Ziółkowski, “Inedita Kazimierza Serockiego” [“Kazimierz Serocki’s inedita”], Forum Muzykologiczne 2011.