Mikołaj Zieleński

Mikołaj Zieleński (c. 1550 – c. 1616) – was a Polish composer. It is highly probable he came from Warka. According to Szymon Starowolski the composer had been studying in Rome. The first mention of the composer dates from 1604. The note lists Mikołaj Zieleński as the cathedral organist and the musician for Wojciech Baranowski, the bishop of Plock who took his position in 1590. More to the point between 1595 and 1596 the bishop was representing Sigismund III, the King of Poland, at the papal court of Pope Clement VIII in Rome. It is quite possible that the composer was accompanying the bishop on his voyage.
Wojciech Baranowski became Archbishop of Gniezno and the Primate of Poland in 1608, it is certain that Mikołaj Zieleński remained in his service, possibly as the Primate’s Kapelmeister at his court in Lowicz. It was the Archbishop’s patronage that guaranteed immortality to the composer’s music. He financed the publication of two volumes of Zieleński’s works. ‘The Offertoria and the Communiones for the Whole Year’ (Offertoria totius anni… and Communiones totius anni…) were published in Venice in 1611 at the printing press belonging to Jacob Vincentius.
The entire artistic work of Mikołaj Zieleński has survived only in these two volumes which contain more than a hundred different pieces of music. ‘The Offertoria’ contains seven and eight voice compositions enriched with the accompaniment of instruments (the organ) as well as a twelve voice Magnificat. The second volume contains pieces differing as to the number of voices (from one to five) and as to the cast of performers, the compositions are enriched with the accompaniment of string instruments and trombones.
To conclude, it is possible to say that ‘The Offertoria’ was written with the use of late Renaissance polychoral technique, typical of the Venetian School around the end of the 16th century. On the contrary, ‘The Communiones’ – especially for one voice with accompaniment, was written in accompanied monodies style which is regarded to be the forerunner of the Baroque manner. Taking into consideration the period of time when all these pieces of music were written, it is possible to say that they are a rare testimony of a stylistic breakthrough in European music.


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