Ballad about a Soldier’s Cup, cantata for baritone, reciter, mixed choir and orchestra (1954)
Performers: Andrzej Szczepkowski – reciter, Jerzy Sergiusz Adamczewski – baritone, Chór i Orkiestra Filharmonii w Warszawie, Witold Rowicki – conductor, Warszawa 1955, Polish Radio
The cantata was written at the express wish of Minister Włodzimierz Sokorski. It was a form of Tadeusz Baird’s payment for the minster’s help in freeing his father from prison. The literary basis of the work is a poem by Stanisław Strumph-Wojtkiewicz, The Ballad of a Soldier’s Cup. It is a simple story of wartime experiences of Polish and Soviet soldiers, who had with them a soldier’s cup. The composition begins with a prologue:
A ordinary and simple ballad it will be
like simple is the man telling for free
About a water cup the ballad will be told
A cup more precious than one of silver or gold
All drank from it till nought was left in its store
And all wished there had been more...
The cantata’s music is entirely subordinated to the words – it is lyrical, tuneful, sometimes more lively and dance-like, with folk overtones. It is characterised by an alternation of instrumental (orchestral) fragments, vocal-instrumental (solo, choral) fragments and spoken parts. Its structure is periodical, based on a homophonic texture and tonal harmony (enriched somewhat by fourth chords). In 1955 Zofia Lissa said:
Baird’s cantata [...] showed that one could express grand things, epic themes in lyrical terms. And that such a view is far more convincing to the listeners than the powerful sounds of trumpets and gongs. We are a bit tired of great words, we prefer quiet words in grand matters, provided, of course, that there are great emotions hidden behind them.
The Ballad won the composer the Award of the Minister of Culture and Art at the 2nd Polish Music Festival (1955).
- Z. Lissa, “Tadeusz Baird’s The Ballad of a Soldier’s Cup”, Muzyka, 1955, no. 1/2, pp. 42-54.