Already in the 1960s Tadeusz Baird was seen as an old-fashioned artist who adhered too much to lyricism and melody in music. In addition, the fact that experimentation and novelty were never the goals of his work put him outside mainstream artistic events. That is why the premiere of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (1977) was not an aesthetic surprise to him. We could say that Baird was intuitively waiting for a stylistic breakthrough in Polish music, a breakthrough that would push the dominant avant-garde qualities to the background and would enhance the status of the traditional categories of musical beauty. In all his activities Baird could be said to have been a spiritually postmodernist artist, who combined the achievements of avant-garde techniques with romantic emotionalism, intuition and feeling.
A clear turn towards such an attitude, associated with a simplification of aesthetics and compositional technique, could be seen in such works by Baird as Elegeia and Variations in Rondo Form, though a real breakthrough came in his Canzona for orchestra (1980) and Voices from Afar – three songs for baritone and orchestra to lyrics by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (1981). In these works the basic source of lyrical expression and strong emotionalism is a cantilena-like melody structured in accordance with the scales known from the past. Harmony is based on tonal associations, and uses euphonic third chords as well as sonic centres. Another important feature of these compositions is their slowed down musical time. When it comes to the form, we can observe a creative return to tradition – with a kind of programmatic approach, refined illustrative effects and a quotation from the Dies irae sequence.
These characteristics of Baird music were used by him in various “doses” and proportions throughout his career. The composer was inclined to look for solutions that would synthesise new compositional tools with traditional thinking about melody or musical expression. As he told Izabela Grzenkowicz:
[...] I survived a very hard period in which the very fact that I used this or that type of melody [...] was criticised. [...] I could, of course, now start to smile triumphantly, saying that I knew this, that melody always comes back, feeling like a precursor of sorts, but – as I’ve already said – I couldn’t do it differently.
- T. Baird, I. Grzenkowicz, Rozmowy, szkice, refleksje [Conversations, Sketches, Reflections], Kraków 1998