|Polish Music Center|
Karol Kazimierz Kurpiński, born on 6 March 1785 in Włoszakowice (Wielkopolska), was a composer, conductor and teacher. He first studied music with his father, Marcin Kurpiński (1744-1803), an organist at Włoszakowice. At the age of 12, he became organist at Sarnow (Wielkopolska), where his uncle Karol Wański was a parish priest. In 1800 another of his mother's brothers, the cellist Roch Wański, took him to Moszkłw (Małopolska), the estate of Feliks Polanowski, an amateur composer who had a private orchestra of which Wański was a member, and in which the young Kurpiński played second violin. It was probably at this time (before 1808) that he composed his first opera, Pygmalion, now lost. In 1808 he became resident music master to the Rastawiecki family in Lwów, and in 1810 settled in Warsaw. With the help of Elsner he became deputy conductor and from 1824 principal conductor of the Warsaw Opera, a position he held until 1840. He taught music at the schools of drama (1812 and 1817) and singing (1835-40) which he himself had founded. In 1815 he became a member of the Warsaw Society of Friends of Learning, and was also a member of many musical societies in Poland and abroad, including the Societe des Enfans d'Apollon in Paris. He became Kapellmeister of the Polish royal chapel in 1819 and in the same year received a medal for his services to music. In 1820-21 he founded and edited the first Polish music periodical, Music weekly. He was decorated with the Order of St Stanislaw in 1823, when he also travelled to Germany, France, Italy and Austria in the service of music. He married Zofia Brzozowska (1799-1879), a singer in the Warsaw Opera.
Kurpiński was one of the most talented Polish composers before Chopin and helped to lay the foundations of a national style and prepared the ground for Polish music of the Romantic period. Gifted with exceptional creative originality, he contributed to the development of Polish opera, introducing new musical devices and achieving an intensified dramatic expression. Operas and polonaises form the largest part of his output. His operas were successful at the time and some, for instance The Castle of Czorsztyn, have not lost their appeal. Of his 24 stage works, nine survive complete and eight in part, while the rest have been lost. Although brought up on the Viennese Classics, Kurpiński followed the spirit of his times, combining the new achievements of European music with the folklore of his own country. He died on 18 September 1857 in Warsaw.