In the 1830s, Theodore Narbutt’s History of the Lithuanian People, in which he collected many folk tales and myths that had only been passed down orally, was a publishing sensation. Although the historical and philological accuracy of this otherwise highly distinguished man was sometimes questioned, his efforts proved very inspiring, not least to Ignacy Józef Kraszewski, who developed some of the stories in verse, including in his now forgotten poem Anafielas. An episode from the first part of the poem, Witolorauda, recalls the story of Nijola, who wants to console her mother Krumine, the goddess of good harvests, by offering her the flower of happiness; during her search for the flower, she is lured by the water goddesses Wundynas and kidnapped by the deity of death – Poklus. The text served as the canvas for Stanisław Moniuszko’s cantata Nijoła – the work was presented in Vilnius with great success in 1852, and four years later also in Saint Petersburg (as Les Ondines), after which it fell into oblivion until the 21st century, when it was recorded for the first time (together with the cantata Milda) under the baton of Łukasz Borowicz. Also long forgotten was the charming cantata version of Mickiewicz’s ballad Pani Twardowska (Lady Twardowska), one of Moniuszko’s late works (and one of his relatively numerous pieces written to Mickiewicz’s poems) composed more or less at the same time as his last completed opera, Paria.
Interested in programme music, Mieczysław Karłowicz perceived it primarily in psychological and symbolic categories, rather than as a purely illustrative art form. His youthful Symphony “Rebirth” follows the Classical-Romantic four-movement model, and in terms of ideas it encompasses an extensive and original programme in the style of the Young Poland movement. It speaks of “gloomy, ominous singing” and the slow awakening of a lethargic soul (1st mvt), contemplation of the world under the sun (2nd mvt), a temptation for the trivial pleasures to which the soul is exposed (3rd mvt) and, finally, the eponymous rebirth of the human spirit for the “eternal call”. Karłowicz’s individual style fully crystallised in this composition, although he himself, always dissatisfied with his own achievements, decided against submitting the symphony for publication.