12 Polish Composers You Should Know

They say music is a universal language and like many other art forms it conveys moods and feelings. It has been present in human history since time immemorial and used as a communication tool, a healing agent, a communion ritual and in more recent times for leisure and entertainment. Its aesthetic qualities make it an excellent conductor of emotion. It is, therefore, a useful resource to underline concepts such as love, rebellion, serenity, grandeur, happiness, authority, power, sadness or allegiance to mention a few.

Every nation has its own musical prodigies and Poland is no exception. Like any artist who strives for international recognition, many Polish composers have left their mark or are inscribing themselves on the annals of classical music. They have done so not because they compose Polish music, but because they have succeeded in mastering the universality of music. Here are 12 Polish classical music composers you should know.

1. Fryderyk Chopin

Poland’s greatest composer and Warsaw’s favourite son, Chopin (1810-1849) has lent his name to everything from vodka to airports (and even an asteroid). And in the spirit of all the greats, there’s a considerable element of mystery surrounding the man. Read more ➞

2. Henryk Mikołaj Górecki

Górecki was as much known for his stubborn sensibilities, blunt sense of humour and anachronistic personality as he was for his incredible talent. He arrived in Katowice in 1955 and he studied at the State Higher Academy of Music from 1955-1960. His first symphony (1959) was well received in the west as well as Poland. Read more ➞

3. Jan Andrzej Paweł Kaczmarek

Kaczmarek was labelled the music school’s biggest disaster and advised to take up a different career path. He has composed music for the films UnfaithfulDreamerLost Souls and over 30 soundtracks including the Oscar-winner of Finding Neverland. Read more ➞

4. Wojciech Kilar

Composer and pianist, author of orchestral music, chamber vocal-instrumental and piano compositions, and scores for the theatre and cinema. Author of music for films such as Roman Polański‘s The Pianist or Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Read more ➞

5. Krzysztof Komeda

One of Poland’s finest music talents, he remains, even in death, a source of inspiration. He studied piano from an early age, and was inducted into Poznań’s conservatory in 1939. He collaborated with film directors and wrote scores for Roman Polanski’s classics Knife in the Waterand Rosemary’s Baby, among numerous others. Read more ➞

6. Stanisław Moniuszko

His music has earned general recognition in the Polish nation and is commonly regarded as exemplary “Slavic.” He started to learn piano with August Freyer in Warsaw in 1827 Read more ➞

7. Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Credited for sparking the Warsaw Uprising, he is rightfully regarded as a national icon. Having entered the Warsaw Conservatorium at the age of 12, he worked as a piano tutor after graduation. Read more ➞

8. Krzysztof Penderecki

A composer and conductor, his career stands out for his fast rise to the top, matched by none, with the possible exception of Stravinsky. He was born on 23rd of November, 1933, in Dębica.
Read more ➞

9. Artur Rubinstein

Regarded as one of the finest pianists of the 20th century, Rubinstein stands out as one of the legends of Łódź, and a true local hero. Read more ➞

10. Zbigniew Preisner

A graduate of the Jagiellonian University, he became a part of the Kraków-based cabaret Piwnica pod Baranami in 1978. In 1984 he began to write scores for films directed by Krzysztof KieślowskiRead more ➞

11. Władysław Szpilman

Born in Sosnowiec, Upper Silesia, in 1911, he studied the piano in Berlin before embarking on a successful career as a composer and concert pianist. Imprisoned inside the Warsaw ghetto, Roman Polański brought it to the screen as The PianistRead more ➞

12. Karol Szymanowski

The most celebrated Polish composer of the early 20th century, he is considered a member of the late 19th-/early 20th-century modernist movement Young Poland and widely viewed as one of the greatest Polish composers.
Read more ➞

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