Chapter 3

Regional character and folk influences

However telling and important is the appearance of foreign composers attributions in the chamber music repertoire of BDS, a certain amount of anonymous manuscripts show the peculiar influence of folk music. These manuscripts fall into two categories- dance suites and chamber repertoire mixing galant style with folk dances and motifs.


Within the chamber repertoire, we find a significant amount of short dance suites. They consist usually of 9-12 miniature dances mostly 10-30 bar long, in some cases not even reaching 10 bars, occasionally linked by a fanfare-like, few-bar interlude. Usually, each dance is called Preludium and numbered, in other cases the scriptor just uses numbers to distinguish them. Interestingly, manuscripts of this type bear a lot of detailed performance suggestions, i.e. rapid dynamic changes (e.g., no.14, page 2 or no.16, page 6), directions regarding omitting or repeating certain dances (no.11, page 4), all of which could indicate extensive use and frequent performance of the suites. All of them are very simple melodically and harmonically and most probably just served a function of musical accompaniment of dance. Their most interesting feature, however, is the influence of folk music. It is sometimes hard to attribute a particular dance to pieces within suites, more often we can point to folk dance rhythms or folk scales used within them.

MS no.30

Ms no.30 is full of said folk features. It consists of 6 very short dances, signed with just a number. In Violino Primo part, in movement 5to (page 2, bar 6) we encounter fragments in the Lydian dominant scale (tetrachord g-a-h-c♯-d) ( so-called Podhalean scale, popular in Lower Poland regions). [35]


In dance 6to, on page 2, irregular phrasing draws the reader’s attention. The phrase in bars 1-4, is followed by a repeated 3 bars (bar 5-7), while the final phrase is again 4-bar long (bar 8-10, 9th repeated). This phrase irregularity could derive from the standardized notation of a metrically irregular dance, which is common in Polish folklore. [36]



The aforementioned folklore characteristics are nonetheless mixed with galant elements. In dance 3to, on page 4, in Violino Secondo, the composer uses Alberti’s bass figure. Circle of fifths motif appears in dance 2ndo in bars 16-21 (page 1 and 3) (bar 1-2).

MS NO.14

This short suite ( ms no. 14) follows a similar path of mixing late galant ornamentation and cadences with folk or national dance characteristics. In II movement (Preludio 1mo) in bars 8-11 in Violino 1mo part, we find folk melodic turns based on triads and dominant seventh chord[37], doubled with bourdon in 4ths in Violino 2ndo.

Violino Primo

Violino Secondo


In the last bar of the movement we encounter typical polonaise cadance[38], which appears as well in the last bar of the III movement (Preludio 2ndo) :


MS NO.12 

In ms no.12 we encounter almost all features mentioned previously. Polonaise cadence appears in Aria 2 (page 1, bar 9)


The typical triad-dominant seventh melody appears in Aria 3 (page 2, bars 5-8)


as well as Aria 1 (page 1, bars 5-8)



In the case of three anonymous manuscripts, we see a very interesting phenomenon. Within frames of typically galant genres- sinfonia, concerto, and Harmoniemusik- inspired Parthia, anonymous authors use regional dances rhythms, and motifs. In each case, composers explore folk idioms in a slightly different way. Manuscript no.23, “Symphonia di Nativitate” (1749) is a typical galant, Vivaldi-inspired instrumental sinfonia. Consist of three movements: 4/4 Symphonia, 3/4 Andante, and 2/4 Allegro. Whereas there is no doubt about Venetian inspirations in the 1st and 3rd movements, the second movement has clear characteristics of chodzony / polonaise dance[39] and uses Phrygian dominant folk scale popular in Polish, Jewish, and Gypsy folk music (ms no.23, page 2,3).[40]

  • ms no.23, Violino 1mo, page 2, last two bars of the line



More extensive folk inspirations characterize Concerto ex G (ms no.5), for oboe solo, 2 violins, and basso fagotto. The form belongs to the standard concerto genre- 1st movement in 4/4 is followed by Adagio (here, unusually in alla breve) and the third Allegro movement in 3/8. The very first theme in the solo oboe part bears the hallmarks of folk dance, most probably mazurek, using semitonal pentatonic (g-a-c♯-d-e), popular in the Sandomierskie region[41].

  • Kolberg, Tarnów- Rzeszów, 63 [176] ,[42] example of semitonal pentatonic


Characteristics of another folk dance are prevalent in all voices in the 3/8 third movement. In the 1st violin part, 10 last bars are undoubtedly derived or cited from popular folk oberek melody; they show very peculiar sixteenth-note diminution, revolving around tetrachord, one of the most distinctive features of oberek dance.[43]

  • ms no.5, page, Violino 1mo, III mov

In comparison, here are examples of oberek from Kolberg:

  • Kolberg, Kujawy, str 151 ex 306

  • Kolberg, Kujawy,str 157, ex 316[44]


Another Polish folk melodic feature is using triplets in repeating motifs alternatively with sixteen notes groups or eight notes groups (page 5, Violino Secondo, bar 30-34); examples of this characteristic collected by Kolberg are mentioned in the next paragraph.




To my knowledge, the only Polish folk dance titled as such within chamber instrumental repertoire appears in ms no.13. The manuscript consists of Clarinetto part of three-movement miniature (very possibly, its instrumentation was similar to that of Gołąbek’s piece) and fragments of two other compositions: Moderato movement for Violino Primo and two first movements of violin sonata (Allegro, Rondo). In the clarinetto part, the third movement is titled Galandreße Polonaiße. The German pronunciation of French words corresponds with other inscriptions in these languages written in the part. What is particularly interesting, the melody of the polonaise seems to derive from the original folk source. Comparing it to polonaises and triple-time dances compiled by Oskar Kolberg in his monumental ethnographic monograph “Lud. (…)”, we find several distinct melodic characteristics in common. The most prominent of them would be basing melodic lines on triads and dominant seventh chords, as in the example below:

  • Kolberg, Lud, Rzeszów str 145 nr 135[45]

Moreover, ornaments appearing in Clarinetto line, very galant, at the first glance, are actually typical for triple-meter folk dances of Poland: trills, triol-ornaments as well as triols in melody and short appoggiaturas, as in examples below:

  • Kolberg Kaliskie, str 146 examples 152, 153
  • Kolberg Kaliskie, page 135, examples 207 (triads + D7, triols)[46]
  • ms no.13 Polonaise



Folk influences could have appeared as the result of many factors. Firstly, as a natural product of interference between folk music created by lower classes (i.e servants at the cloister, lower-class nuns, etc.) and the aristocratic musical world represented by noble nun-musicians. Secondly, in case of later manuscripts (last decades of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century) folk elements could indicate tendencies towards „nationalization" of style: this phenomenon, present e.g in works of Józef Elsner, Jan Stefani or Maciej Kamieński, was specific for early Partition of Poland era and began as a form of artistic political activism, later becoming an aesthetic trend. Thirdly, some regional elements could be characteristic for the genres- like in the phenomenon of so-called ‚church sinfonia’ of the 18th century, which, typical in the catholic Habsburg empire, when composed on Polish lands, very often included dances of krakowiak, polonez, mazur, etc. [47]

As for the appearance of polonaise dance, so widely known in Europe in the 18th century, it is safe to assume that it was the result of both local practices and international trends. In the first half of the 18th century, polonaise, from being restricted to the movement of dance suite or other instrumental genres, began to be included in vocal-instrumental forms, such as cantata and oratorio, often in disguise, titled just with the tempo marking or character description[48].