For centuries, Poland has been a country steeped in musical tradition. From folk songs to classical compositions, Poland has made its mark on the music world. One instrument, in particular, stands out when it comes to Polish music: the accordion.
In this blog post, let’s explore how the accordion has shaped Polish music over the years—from before World War II through modern days.
Accordion music in Poland before WWII
The accordion first gained popularity in Poland around 1880. It was embraced by both lower-class citizens and upper-class citizens alike as a symbol of national pride and identity. During this time period, there were even popular polka bands formed solely for playing accordion music at weddings and other family events.
This era saw some of the most famous Polish composers writing works for the instrument, such as Adam Asnyk’s “Marusia Polka” which was played by many prominent musicians of the time. The popularity of this musical form continued until World War II when it fell out of favor due to its association with German occupation forces.
Pedal powered accordion from Poland
The famous Polish pedal accordion has a unique and instantly recognizable sound, created by two pedals operated by the musician to push air through pipes connected to it.
Beyond the pedals, it includes keys and buttons used to create rhythmical music full of character, which earned it great importance in the Mazowsze region of Poland throughout its history.
Despite being designed for seated play, the prestige surrounding this instrument encouraged musicians around the world to take on mastering it. Its unique combination of sounds continues to bring joy with every performance.
The popularity of Stamirowski accordions
Stamirowski’s accordions were renowned as Europe’s finest in the roaring twenties and thirties. Their excellence was officially recognized with a coveted gold medal at Poznan’s National Instrument Exhibition in 1928, followed by an impressive special distinction from New York’s World Technical Exhibition ten years later.
In the 1920s, Poland experienced a surge in accordion popularity due to radio broadcasts featuring live music from fashionable cafes and restaurants. This provided much-needed employment opportunities for professional musicians struggling with up to 60% unemployment during this time period.
As it was easier to adjust their performances within 4 – 5 minutes of airtime on the radio, many shifted from folk music to genres more appreciated by audiences of that era.
Poland’s passion for the accordion was made abundantly clear in a 1930s survey, which put it firmly in second place behind only the violin. Coming third? The humble mandolin.
Music from a bygone era of Polish culture has been preserved thanks to the radio broadcasts of Władysław Kaczyński, Boleslaw Buchalski and Wacław Suchocki. The Trio of Harmonists was founded in 1933, featuring Tadeusz Kozlowski and Józef Steć as well as their debutant on the airwaves – Tadeusz Wesolowski (1918-1972).
In the 1930s, talented accordionists were in-demand for collaborations with radio stars like Feliks Dzierżanowski Band. Despite wartime hardships and restrictions, many brave musicians kept performing at local cafes and restaurants until peace returned to Poland.
Following this turbulent period of history came a golden age of Polish music – when artists rejoined forces with Polish Radio to create unforgettable melodies that will live on forever!
They were part of instrumental ensembles. The preferred genre was stylized folk music, which, moreover, was supported by the cultural policy of the state at that time.
After World War II, traditional Polish music seemed to be forgotten with most people preferring more contemporary styles such as rock or jazz instead. However, in recent years there has been a resurgence in interest in traditional instruments like the accordion due to increased exposure from international tours and recordings from modern groups like Kapela Maliszów and Kwartludium.
These groups have created new sounds that mix traditional folk tunes with more modern musical elements such as electronic beats and improvisation. The result is an exciting blend of old and new that appeals to audiences both young and old alike.
This revival is not limited to just concerts either; it can be seen on television shows (such as “The Voice”) where contestants perform classic polkas alongside more contemporary pieces. Additionally, there are now multiple festivals dedicated to celebrating traditional Polish music styles including the National Accordion Festival held annually since 2006 in Warsaw which features performances by some of the country’s most talented musicians and the Krakow Accordion Festival.
Mazurka, a Polish folk dance
Mazurka, the traditional Polish dance popularized by renowned composer Frederic Chopin is getting an accordion twist! While initially played on instruments like violins and shepherd flutes, this iconic folklore music has been adapted to be enjoyed with a lively acoustic style of accordions. Gather your friends for some toe-tapping fun in true Polskie fashion!
Polish folk musical instruments
Polish Accordion Museum
If you’re an accordion enthusiast, then a visit to Poland’s accordion museum in Koscierzyna is a must. The museum showcases over 115 musical instruments, all with their own unique history and sound.
From hand-crafted French accordions to post-WWII Polish ones, the collection is a harmonious blend of artistry and heritage. It’s easy to get lost in the beauty of these musical marvels, but what’s truly impressive is the passion and dedication that went into preserving them.
The accordion is an instrument that’s deeply ingrained in Polish culture, and this museum is a testament to that. A visit here is truly a musical experience like no other. For more info please visit the museum’s website.
Popular accordion brand in Poland
When seeking the perfect accordion for traditional Polish musical stylings, musicians may look to Italy and Germany. Pigini, Rossetti, Hohner and Weltmeister are amongst the most favorable brands used by experienced players hailing from Poland. Despite a short-lived endeavor into its own production of Poloner and Stamirowski accordions in past decades, Italian and German models maintain their status as go-tos among those skilled with this iconic instrument.
Some useful websites and resources
- On this facebook page you can see videos and photos from the accordion museum of Poland.
- Official website of Polish American Accordion Association can be found here.
- The Accordion and the Polka in Polish-American Ethnic Music. A great read by Polish heritage of Rochester.
- Textbook resources for Polish accordionists and fans of accordion music from Poland.
- Some fun Polish solo accordion audible music pieces.
This book is a rare gem from the past, painstakingly preserved and brought back to life. Its journey has been fraught with imperfections – missing or blurred pages, poor pictures and errant marks that have arisen over its long history – yet we treasure it still as an important cultural artifact. We’re proud at keeping alive this piece of our shared past for future generations; thank you for understanding what went into restoring it so carefully!
Best Polish Accordionists
These musicians, celebrated both locally and internationally, have elevated the Polish accordion tradition to new heights, blending folkloric roots with contemporary influences.
From the legendary Wiesława Dudkowiak to the innovative techniques of Marcin Wyrostek and Jaroslaw Bester these accordionists are the custodians of a rich cultural legacy, enchanting audiences worldwide with their exceptional skill and passion.