Michał Kleofas Ogiński

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Michał Kleofas Ogiński by Józef Oleszkiewicz

Michał Kleofas Ogiński (25 September 1765 – 15 October 1833)[1] was a Polish composer,[2][3][4] diplomat, politician,[5][6][7] Grand Treasurer of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and a senator of Tsar Alexander I.[8]


Ogiński was born in Guzów, Żyrardów County (near Warsaw)[1] in the Polish Kingdom (part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). His father Andrzej was a Polish-Lithuanian nobleman and governor of Trakai, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania; his mother, Paula Paulina Szembek (1740–1797), was a daughter of the Polish magnate Marek Szembek, whose ancestors were Austrians, and Yadviga Rudnicka, who was of polonised Lithuanian descent (the family name's root is of Lithuanian origin and the suffix indicates polonisation of her family name).[citation needed]

Taught at home, young Ogiński excelled especially at music and foreign languages. He studied under Józef Kozłowski, and later took violin lessons from Giovanni Battista Viotti and Pierre Baillot.[1]

Ogiński served as an adviser to King Stanisław August Poniatowski and supported him during the Great Sejm of 1788–1792.[9] After 1790, he was dispatched to The Hague as a diplomatic representative of Poland in the Netherlands[10][11] and was Polish agent in Constantinople and Paris.[8] In 1793, he was nominated to the office of the Treasurer in Lithuania.[8][9]

During the Kościuszko Uprising in 1794, Ogiński commanded his own unit.[12] After the insurrection was suppressed, he emigrated to France, where he sought Napoleon's support for the Polish cause.[9] At that time he saw the creation of the Duchy of Warsaw by the Emperor as a stepping stone to eventual full independence for Poland, and dedicated his only opera, Zelis et Valcour, to Napoleon.[13] In 1810, Ogiński withdrew from political activity in exile[8] and, disappointed with Napoleon,[14] returned to Vilna. Adam Jerzy Czartoryski introduced him to Tsar Alexander I, who made Ogiński a Russian Senator. Ogiński tried in vain to convince the Tsar to rebuild the Polish State. He moved abroad in 1815 and died in 1833 in Florence.[9]

As a composer, he is best known for his polonaise Pożegnanie Ojczyzny (Farewell to the Homeland),[2] written in 1794 on the occasion of his emigration to western Europe after the failure of the Kościuszko Uprising.[12][15] This piece, with its unreservedly melancholic melodies and fantasia-like passages, can be considered one of the earliest examples of Romanticism in music, preempting Frédéric Chopin by approximately a quarter-century. His polonaises influenced an entire generation of Polish composers, including Maria Szymanowska, Franciszek Lessel, and Ignacy Feliks Dobrzyński.


Ogiński coat-of-arms
  • 1786 – Polish Sejm deputy.
  • 1789 – Sword-bearer of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
  • 1790/1791 – Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Netherlands.
  • 1791 – Returned to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to decide a point of his family lands since Russia had occupied some of them.
  • 1793 – Deputy to the Hrodna Sejm.
  • 1793–94 – Deputy Treasurer in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  • 1794 – Participant in the Kościuszko Uprising.

When the Russians occupied Vilnius, he moved to Warsaw. The Russians outlawed him and seized all his lands. Thereafter he lived in exile successively in Vienna, Venice and Paris.

He swore allegiance to Tsar Alexander I of Russia and settled in Zalesie village, Ashmyany region, in present-day Belarus. At the new place of living Oginski built a new palace, an English-style park, a greenhouse, a zoopark and collected a lot of books for his library.

  • 1807 – Oginski met Napoleon in Italy.
  • 1810 – Oginski moved to St. Petersburg, Russia. There he met the Russian Emperor, who gave Oginski the rank of Senator and Privy Councilor. Also he was conferred decorations upon St Vladimir and Alexander Nevski.
  • May 1811 – Oginski introduced to the Emperor Alexander I of Russia his project of restoring independence of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. But the Emperor refused.
  • 1823 – Oginski moved to Florence, Italy where lived till the death.


Oginski was fond of Italian and French opera, played violin, clavichord and balalaika. He started composing marches and military songs in 1790s and became popular among the rebels in 1794.

He composed some 20 polonaises,[1] various piano pieces, mazurkas, marches, romances and waltzes. In 1794 he wrote a polonaise Farewell to the Homeland (Pożegnanie ojczyzny).[3]

Some of his other popular works and compositions include:

  • Opera Zelis et Valcour, ou 'Bonaparte au Caire' (1799).[1]
  • Treatise 'Letters about music' (1828).
  • 'Memoirs on Poland and the Poles, 1788–1815' ('Memoires sur la Pologne et les Polonais, depute 1788 jusqu'a la fin de 1815'),[16] published in Paris.

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See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Don Michael Randel, The Harvard Bibliographical Dictionary of music, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 649.
  2. ^ a b Jim Samson, The Cambridge Companion to Chopin, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 148.
  3. ^ a b Kielian-Gilbert, Marianne, "Chopiniana and Music’s Contextual Allusions", in The Age of Chopin: Interdisciplinary Inquiries, edited by Halina Goldberg, Indiana University Press, 2004, p. 182.
  4. ^ Justin Wintle, Makers of Nineteenth-Century Culture: 1800-1914, Routledge, 2002, p. 116.
  5. ^ Jerzy Lojek, "British Policy toward Russia and Polish Affairs, 1790-1791", The Polish Review, vol. 28, no. 2, 1983, p. 10.
  6. ^ Maciej Karpińki, The Theatre of Andrzej Wajda, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 131.
  7. ^ Antony Brett-James, 1812: Eyewitness Accounts of Napoleon's Defeat in Russia, St. Martin's Press, 1966, p. 40.
  8. ^ a b c d Roman Marcinek, Tadeusz Chrzanowski, Encyklopedia Polski, Wydawnictwo Kluszczyński, 1996, p. 457.
  9. ^ a b c d Jerzy Jan Lerski, Historical dictionary of Poland, 966-1945, Greenwood Press, 1996. p. 400
  10. ^ John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: The reluctant transition, Stanford University Press, 1983, pp. 10, 13
  11. ^ Lennart Bes et al. Baltic connections: archival guide to the maritime relations of the countries around the Baltic Sea (including the Netherlands) 1450-1800, Volume 1, Brill, 2007, p. 1853
  12. ^ a b Michael J. Mikoś, Polish Baroque and Enlightenment literature: an anthology, Slavica Publishers, 1996, p. 190
  13. ^ Iwo Załuski, A Polish family in music - Prince Michal Kleofas Oginski's musical gene lives on, Contemporary Reviev, February 1997
  14. ^ "In short, I felt, says Oginski, that Poland must be dependent either on France or Russia, and between the two, I saw greater chance of its welfare, and greater hopes even of its recovering its nationality under the sceptre of the Emperor Alexander." in: The Foreign quarterly review, Vol. 3, Treuttel and Würtz, 1829, p. 491
  15. ^ Bolesław Klimaszewski, An outline of Polish Culture, Warsaw, Interpress, 1984, p. 159.
  16. ^ J. C. Garlington, Men of the Time. A biographical dictionary of eminent living characters of both sexes, George Routlege and sons, 1865, p. 177

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