Michał Kleofas Ogiński
Michał Kleofas Ogiński (25 September 1765 – 15 October 1833) was a Polish diplomat and politician, Grand Treasurer of Lithuania, and a senator of Tsar Alexander I. He was also a composer of early romantic music.
Ogiński was born in Guzów, Żyrardów County (near Warsaw) in the Kingdom of Poland. His father, Andrzej, was a Polish nobleman and governor of Troki, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. His mother, Paulina Szembek (1740–1797), was the daughter of Polish magnate, Marek Szembek, whose ancestors were Austrian, and Jadwiga Rudnicka, who was of Lithuanian descent. His first introduction to music arose during a visit to relatives at Słonim where Michał Kazimierz Ogiński had a contemporary European theatre that hosted opera and ballet productions. Michał Kleofas received an Enlightenment gentleman's education. He studied music with Osip Kozlovsky and took violin lessons from Giovanni Battista Viotti and Pierre Baillot.
Aged only 20, Ogiński was chosen as an envoy of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. He served as an adviser to King Stanisław August Poniatowski and supported him during the Great Sejm of 1788–1792. In 1790 he was despatched as a diplomatic representative to the United Kingdom, where he met with Lord Mansfield who warned him about the danger posed by the tri-partite powers about to dismember the Kingdom of Poland. After 1790, he was sent to The Hague as a diplomatic representative of Poland to the Netherlands and was Polish agent in Constantinople and Paris. In 1793, he was nominated to the office of Vice-Treasurer of Lithuania.
During the Kościuszko Uprising in 1794, Ogiński commanded his own unit. After the insurrection was suppressed, he emigrated to France, where he sought Napoleon's support for the Polish Commonwealth. At that time he saw the creation of the Duchy of Warsaw by the Emperor as a stepping stone to eventual full independence of the Commonwealth. He dedicated his only opera, Zelis et Valcour, to Napoleon. In 1810, Ogiński withdrew from political activity in exile and, disappointed with Napoleon, returned to Vilnius. Adam Jerzy Czartoryski introduced him to Tsar Alexander I, who made Ogiński a Russian Senator. Ogiński tried in vain to convince the Tsar to reconstitute the former Commonwealth. Disillusioned, he moved abroad in 1815. He died in Florence in 1833.
As a composer, he is best known for his polonaise (Farewell to my Homeland), written in 1794 in the Zalesie region on the occasion of his emigration to western Europe after the failure of the Kościuszko Uprising. This piece, with its unreservedly melancholic melodies and fantasia-like passages, can be considered among the earliest examples of romantic music.
Ogiński admired French and Italian opera. He was a violinist, and played the clavichord and the balalaika. He began composing marches and military songs in the 1790s that gained popularity among the rebels of 1794. He composed some 20 polonaises, piano pieces, mazurkas, marches, romances and waltzes.
Some of his other popular works and compositions include:
- Opera Zelis et Valcour, ou 'Bonaparte au Caire' (1799).
- Treatise 'Letters about music' (1828).
- 'Mémoires sur la Pologne et les Polonais, depuis 1788 jusqu'à la fin de 1815' ('Memories of Poland and the Poles, 1788–1815' ), published in Paris.
Polonaise by Ogiński
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- "In short, I felt, says Ogiński, that Poland must be dependent either on France or Russia, and between the two, I saw a greater chance for its welfare, and greater hopes even of its recovering its nationhood under the sceptre of Tsar Alexander." in: The Foreign quarterly review, Vol. 3, Treuttel and Würtz, 1829, p. 491
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