Canzona for orchestra (1980)

Canzona /fragment/

Performers: Orkiestra Fiharmonii Narodowej, Jan Krenz – conductor, "Warsaw Autumn" 20 IX 1985, Polish Composers' Union


PWM Edition Edition Peters

This piece for symphonic orchestra was commissioned by Tonhalle Gesellschaft Zürich and was dedicated to this society. Its world premiere took place in 1982, after the composer’s death, and its Polish premiere – in the same year during Tadeusz Baird Festival in Zielona Góra.

Canzona is a beautiful, lyrical, emotional song of the orchestra. Its major feature is a melody described by numerous expressions (dolce, assai cantabile, esspressivo, religioso, calmato, molto tranquillo), in a slow tempo (Poco adagio, Largo) articulated legato, non legato. The harmony is organised around central notes and is based often on third chords, sometimes on deeply hidden dominant-tonic relations. The texture of the entire piece is light and transparent. The form of the work refers to the structure of the rondo: the “refrain” is calm and melodious, while the “couplets” are decisive and energetic. The composer scales down the orchestra, a process consisting in using traditional, sonically uniform groups of instruments (the woodwind, the brass, the percussion, the strings). 

After the first Warsaw performance of the piece, Tadeusz Kaczyński said that it was difficult for the performers, but very beautiful, and that its essence lay in the dynamic and lyrical nature of its progression: 

Are these discharges of kinetic and potential energy an expression of just as strong inner feelings of the author, or only a testimony to his mastery in the use of the musical form – we do not know and will never know that.


  • T. Kaczyński, “Z sal koncertowych: Warszawskie spotkania z muzyką Bairda” [“From concert halls: Warsaw meetings with Baird’s music”], Ruch Muzyczny 1982, no. 11, p. 8.