Suite on Four Polish Carols
Henry composed Suite on Four Polish Carols for accordion and strings in 1993 and recorded it with members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. It was released on the Soli Deo Gloria CD, A Classical Christmas, that year, and re-released the next year in the United States by the Pittsburgh record label Alanna Records, and in Canada by the Montreal label: ATMA Records. He revised the accordion part and re-recorded it in 2002 on a single CD release.
Since then, Henry has performed this suite with the Ames Iowa High School Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra. The CD recording of Henry’s suite can often be heard on classical radio stations in America and abroad, especially during the Christmas season. Even two decades after the original release, Henry still receives e-mail messages from time to time from fans who recently heard Suite on Four Polish Carols on their local classical radio station.
The ten-minute suite—scored for free-bass accordion, violins, violas, celli and double basses—consists of four movements:
Allegro: Przybiezeli do Betlejem
Adagio: Lulajze jezuniu
Allegretto: Dzisiaj w Betlejem
Allegro: Gdy Sie Chrystus Rodzi
Henry explained, “My parents both enjoy music. My mother played violin as a child, and she and my father enjoyed listening to 33 rpm records of Polish kolędy (traditional carols) during the Christmas season. I have fond childhood memories of hearing Polish carols on our record player, and breaking and sharing opƚatki wafers with my parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins, during the Wigilia Christmas eve dinner at my Babczi and Dziadzi’s house. Years later, I wrote this suite in tribute to my Polish heritage and as a Christmas gift to my father and mother, who, incidentally, sometimes had to use firm measures (mostly nagging) to get me to practice the accordion when I was a boy.”
Listen to Suite on Four Polish Carols.
Pittsburgh’s “Church Man”
Most intriguing for listeners will be the four Polish carols arranged for accordion and string quartet. These lucid pieces evoke images of romantic nineteenth-century Warsaw: cobblestone streets, horses and wagons, candlelight, and siedem potraw—the traditional Polish Christmas eve dinner—as well as the simple joys of family Christmases in rural homes.
George David Exoo
A Classical Christmas is a delight and brightened our holiday programming with its fresh arrangements and lovely original compositions. And it certainly increased our appreciation of the accordion as a “serious” instrument.
I thank you particularly for the Suite on Four Polish Carols which includes the only recording I’ve encountered of one of my favorites: Lulajze Jesuniu.
Suite on Four Polish Carols places the accordion in one of the most complementary and pleasing instrumental combinations possible. It seems as though the accordion was always meant to be with the string quartet because the quasi-woodwind sound it produces blends and intertwines with the sonorities of the strings so completely, that it is hard to imagine a better-sounding ensemble in any other form.
As always, Henry’s composition and orchestration skills combine to produce four little gems with an abundance of clever harmonic and motivic material, all very rewarding to the ears of an audience with widely varied tastes. This arrangement can be heard on Henry’s CD, A Classical Christmas, but one doesn’t have to wait until Christmas to enjoy these pieces. As evidenced by the year-round broadcast schedule on classical radio stations throughout the U. S., they can be enjoyed in any season.
Fortnightly CD Reviews
As a unit, this ensemble of accordion and strings characterizes good balance and refined musical taste. They ‘breathe’ together in long phrases, playing with the full, big sound. The accordion part is performed by Henry most professionally, technically confident, polished musically and stylistically. It is quite an impressive work. ****
Great Christmas Music From WBJC 91.5 FM!
I have a stack of my own holiday music CDs waiting to be played, but WBJC in Baltimore apparently has an endless supply of Christmas music that’s been holding my interest during the season.
This year , one that caught my ear which I hadn’t heard before was Henry Doktorski’s Suite on Four Polish Carols for accordion and strings, very engaging and ingenious.
WBJC radio listener
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