Marta Ptaszyńska is one of the best known Polish woman composers. Born in Warsaw, Poland, and living in the United States since 1972, she has been musically active in both the U.S. and Europe. Also widely recognized as a virtuoso percussionist specializing in performances of contemporary music, she has appeared on many new music festivals, and premiered numerous percussion works.
In her native Poland Ptaszyńska studied composition with Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz and percussion with Mikołaj Stasiniewicz and Jerzy Zgodziński. In 1968 she earned three Master of Arts degrees with distinction in composition, music theory and percussion at the Academy of Music in Warsaw and Poznań. In the early seventies she continued her composition studies with Nadia Boulanger and electronic music at the ORTF Center in Paris, and then percussion at the Cleveland Institute of Music in the U.S., where she received an Artist Diploma Degree in 1974. At the Institute she worked with Cloyd Duff, Richard Weiner and Donald Erb.
Since 1970 she has been teaching composition and percussion first at the State College in Warsaw and then successively at Bennington College in Vermont, the University of California in Berkeley and Santa Barbara, and Indiana University. For many years Ptaszyńska has been in demand as visiting lecturer and clinician, and has given master classes, lectures and concerts at many colleges, universities, and music schools in the U.S.
She often serves as a judge at international and national competitions for composers and percussionists, and has also participated in many workshops.
Ptaszyńska has received numerous awards, grants and commissions over the years, including a second prize at the International Rostrum of Composers at UNESCO in Paris in 1968 for Winter's Tale for string orchestra, the Polish Radio and Television Composers Award for a TV opera Oscar of Alva to the Lord Byron poem. In 1988 she was honored with a medal from the Union of Polish Composers. Her works for percussion instruments have won critical acclaim around the world and have received prizes from the Percussive Arts society in the U.S. for Siderals in 1974, for Classical Variations in 1976, and for Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra in 1987.
Her music has been performed in many countries and has been presented at prestigious international festivals of contemporary music including the ISCM World Music Days, Warsaw Autumn, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany, Aspen Festival, Gulbenkian Foundation New Music Festival in Mexico City, International Cantata Oratorio Festival in Wrocław, Poland and the Percussive Arts Society International Conventions in the U.S. Many of her works have been premiered by such artists as Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Mathias Bamert, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Keiko Abe, Bertram Turetzky, Nancy Allen, Roman Jabłonski, Ewa Podleś, and by such renowned ensembles and orchestras as the Cleveland Orchestra, the Polish Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia, Warsaw Percussion Group, and Les Percussions de Strasbourg.
In 1991 Ptaszyńska became co-founder and vice president of the American Society for Polish Music, a non-profit organization for promotion of Polish music in the U.S. She is music advisor to the Lira Singers in Chicago and served as a member of the board of directors of the Percussive Arts Society in the U.S.
PTASZYŃSKA ABOUT COMPOSING
"I think that it is very important for composers to express their own ideas and their own personality. Congregating into a single group or adhering to one style is not an authentic way to go about being a composer. Moreover, it is not the novelty that counts. The composer should express his/her own soul and own personality in the music - then the language will always be understandable. Shostakovich wrote his 14th Symphony in 1969; this was exactly the year that Peter Maxwell Davies composed his "Eight Songs for a Mad King." These are completely different works, in different styles and based on completely opposing aesthetic principles. It does not mean that Shostakovich's piece is of a lesser value! If we judge this way that it is the novelty that is the main criterion for music, then the music will become rather uninteresting very soon. Shostakovich's music is fantastic, but it is written in a traditional style. He seems to be saying: "If I sound old-fashioned so be it: it is my style and it can't be changed. This is my personality." I agree with that. In the future time will judge the value, it will judge us differently than we see it at the present moment".
[Ptaszyńska in an interview by Dr. Harley, 1999]
"In vocal works the text suggests immediately the outline, the form, and the structure of the music. The text in the music becomes its most important feature. That's why when I start writing a piece with text I have to analyse the text first, and then figure out when the climax of the poetry occurs, what structural elements are there, how the poetry is built.... I also look for recurring elements in the poem; I locate the boundaries between separate textual units. There are many kinds of elements that need to be taken into consideration. I believe that musical ideas should reflect the poetry". [Ptaszyńska in an interview by Dr. Harley, 1999]
MANUSCRIPTS AT USC
From Parisian Tapestries, for harp solo. Manuscript score in pencil and ink (1975), 5 pages. This piece was later revised into Arabesque for harp solo.
Arioso e toccata per violino solo (9 pages, 1969).
Siderals, for two percussion quintets and optional light projection (1974). Manuscript score in pencil, 13 pages.
Crystallites, for orchestra (1973). Manuscript score in pencil, 36 pages.
Un grand sommeil noir, for flute, soprano and harp, to a poem by Paul Verlaine. (1977). Manuscript sketches and the first version in pencil, 4 pages.
LIST OF WORKS
- Improvisations (1968); 8'
- First performance: March 26, 1971, The Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra,
- Renard Czajkowski, conductor. (PWM)
- Spectri Sonori (1973); 7'
- First performance: January 22,1974, The Cleveland Orchestra,
- Matthias Bamert, conductor.
- Crystallites (1973-74); 14'
- Commissioned by the Kościuszko Foundation in New York.
- First performance: January 24, 1975, Bydgoszcz, Poland,
- The Pomeranian Philharmonic Orchestra,
- Antoni Wit, conductor. (PWM rental)
- Concerto for Percussion Quartet and Orchestra (1974); 13'
- Commissioned by the Sage City Symphony Orchestra.
- First performance: October 10, 1974, Bennington, Vermont,
- Sage City Symphony Orchestra,
- Louis Calabro, conductor. (PWM)
- Conductus - A Ceremonial for Winds
- for symphonic band
- First performance: March 18, 1983, Chicago, The Chicago Symphonic Band.
- La Novella D'Inverno (Winter's Tale) (1984); 10'
- for strings
- Commissioned by and dedicated to Jerzy Maksymiuk and the Polish Chamber Orchestra.
- First performance: May, 5, 1985, Lisboa, Portugal, The Polish Chamber Orchestra,
- Jerzy Maksymiuk, conductor.
- Second Prize at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris, France, 1986. (PWM).
- Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra
- Dedicated to Keiko Abe.
- Premiere broadcast performance: May 8, 1986, Cracow,
- The Cracow Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra,
- Szymon Kawalla, conductor, Keiko Abe, soloist.
- Recordings: CD, Muza Records, Poland, 1991
- Charlie's Dream - Concerto for Saxophone and
Orchestra (1988); 18'
- Ode to Praise All Famous Women
- Commissioned by the Florida Space Coast Philharmonic.
- First performance: March 22, 1992, Orlando, Florida Space Coast Philharmonic Orchestra,
- Maria Tunicka, conductor.
- Fanfare For Peace (1993); 4'
- Commissioned by Jesus Lopez Cobos and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
- Premiered: Nov. 18, 1994, Cincinnati, The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra,
- Jesus Lopez Cobos, conductor.
- Concerto Grosso (1996); 14'
- for two violins and chamber orchestra
- First performance January 26, 1997, Warsaw, Sinfonia Varsovia,
- Lord Yehudi Menuhin, conductor.
- Fanfare in Memoriam Frederic Chopin (1999); 3'
- First performance June 12, 1999, Chicago, Polish American Symphony Orchestra
- Wojciech Niewzol, conductor.
- Drum of Orfeo - Concerto for Percussion (1999-2001); 20'
- Written for and dedicated to Evelyn Glennie.
Vocal and Instrumental Works
- A Tale of Nightingales (1968); 8'
- for baritone and chamber ensamble,
- to the poetry of K.I. Gałczyński,
- Vocalise (1971); 5'
- for female voice and vibraphone.
- First performance: July 18, 1971, Breukelen, Holland,
- Cornelia van der Horst, sop., Marta Ptaszyńska, vibes.
- Oscar of Alva opera in 6 scenes
(1971-72, revised in 1986); 60'
- for 5 soloists (soprano, mezzo, tenore, baritone, bass) mixed choir, and orchestra,
- in Polish with English subtitles.
- Libretto based on Lord Byron's poem by Z. Kopalko.
- A TV production: 1988, Cracow, Poland, Polish Radio and Television.
- Stanisław Zajączkowski, director,
- Cracow Radio and TV Orchestra and Chorus,
- Szymon Kawalla, conductor.
- (PWM rental)
- Epigrams (1976-77); 24'
- for women's choir, flute, harp, piano and percussion,
- to ancient Greek poetry; in English.
- Commissioned by the Dorians Choir of the University of California in Santa Barbara.
- First performance: May 8,1977, Santa Barbara, California, Dorians Choir,
- Michael Ingham, conductor.
- (EBM rental)
- Un Grand Sommeil Noir (A Great Dark
Sleep) (1977); 10'
- for soprano, flute and harp,
- to Paul Verlaine's poem (French/English).
- First performance: June 22, 1979, Pontino, Italy, XV Festival di Musica Contemporanea. (PWM).
- Die Sonette an Orpheus (Sonnets to
Orpheus) (1980-81); 14'-16'
- for middle voice and chamber orchestra,
- to R.M. Rilke's poems; in German.
- First performance: October, 1989, Warsaw, Poland, Sinfonia Varsovia,
- Jerzy Maksymiuk, conductor, Ewa Podleś, mezzosoprano.
- Ave Maria (1982 version); 7'
- for four men's voices, brass, percussion and organ.
- Commissioned by the S. Moniuszko Musical Society of Boston.
- First performance: October 10, 1982, Boston Cathedral,
- New England Conservatory New Music Ensemble.
- (PWM rental)
- Ave Maria (1987 version); 13'
- for men's choir and orchestra.
- First performance: April 18, 1988, Cracow, Poland,
- The Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir.
- (PWM rental)
- Polish Letters (Listy Polskie) (1988); 40'
- Cantate to commemorate Poland's Independence
- for percussion, piano, string quartet, soprano, mezzo, baritone soli.
- To the poetry of Polish and other European poets; in Polish.
- First performance: July 15, 1989, Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland,
- Warsaw Academy of Music chamber Choir and Instrumental Ensemble,
- Varsovia String Quartet,
- Ryszard Zimak, conductor,
- (PWM rental)
- VHS recording: Polish TV Poltel, Warsaw, 1984.
- Songs of Despair and Loneliness (Pieśni rozpaczy i samotności)
- for mezzosoprano and piano.
- Poems by Rilke, Verlaine, Shakespeare, Staff,
- and Lorca in original languages.
- Commissioned by Jerzy Marchwiński for Ewa Podleś, mezzosoprano.
- First performance: October 3, 1989, Warsaw Philharmonic, Poland,
- E. Podleś and J. Marchwiński.
- Recordings: CD, Muza Records, Poland, 1991
- Holocaust Memorial Cantata (1992); 40'
- for three solo voices, mixed choir and orchestra (percussion, harp, strings).
- To the poetry of Leslie Woolf Hedley Chant for All the People on Earth (English/Hebrew/Yiddish/Polish).
- Commissioned by the Lira Singers of Chicago.
- First performance: April 5, 1992, Glencoe, Illinois, Lira Singers,
- Lucy J. Ding conductor.
- Score and piano reduction.
- Recordings: CD, POLYGRAM CD ACCORD, Poland, 1996
- Liquid Light for Mezzosoprano, Piano and Percussion
- To the poetry of Modene Duffy.
- Commissioned by and written for Patricia Adkins-Chiti.
- Premiered at Warsaw Autumn 1997 and in the unabridged version at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Nov. 25, 1997. Patricia Adkins-Chiti, Mezzo soprano, Ian Buckle, piano, Marta Ptaszynska, percussion.
- Cantiones Jubilationis for Women's Choir and Percussion
- To the poetry of Modene Duffy.
- Commissioned by the Lira Singers of Chicago.
- Premiered: March 19, 1995, Chicago, The Lira Singers,
- Lucy Ding, conductor.
- Silver Echos of Distant Bells for Mezzosoprano and
String Quartet (1995); 28'
- To the poetry of Lord Tennyson, Laslie Woolf Hedley, Donald Bogan, Krzysztof Koehler
and Stanislaw Wyspiański; in English.
- Commissioned by the Kosciuszko Foundation.
- Premiered: Dec. 10, 1995 in New York at the Kościuszko Foundation by
Mary Henderson-Stuckey, mezzosoprano and the Halycon String Quartet.
- Four Preludes (1965); 8'
- for vibraphone and piano (PWM/EBM)
- Scherzo (1967); 3'
- for xylophone and piano (PWM/EBM)
- Jeu-Parti (1970); 8'
- for harp and vibraphone (MFP)
- Madrigals "Canticum Sonarum" Igor Stravinsky in
Memoriam (1971); 10'
- for woodwind and string quartets, trumpet, trombone and gong.
- First performance: March, 1972, Warsaw, Poland, Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Players.
- Special Mention, Young Polish Composers Contest, 1971. (AA)
- Cadenza (1972); 9 minutes
- for flute and percussion. (PWM)
- Siderals for two percussion quintets and light
projection (1974); 22'
- Commissioned and premiered in 1974 by the University of Illinois Percussion Ensemble,
- Thomas Siwe, conductor.
- 1974 Percussive Arts Society Award.
- Mobile for two percussionists (1976);
- First performance: November 10, 1976, Bennington College, Vermont,
- Louis Calabro, Marta Ptaszyńska.
- Published - special order (TPC).
- Classical Variations for timpani and string
- 1976 Award at the Percussive Arts Society Composition Contest. (EBM
- Synchromy for percussion trio (1978);
- Dream Lands, Magic Spaces for violin piano and 6
percussion players (1979); 24'
- First performance: November 13, 1980, San Francisco Conservatory Percussion Ensemble,
- Daniel Kobialka, violin, Barry Jekowski, conductor.
- Percussive Arts Society Internaational Conference, San Jose, California.
- Scintilla for two marimbas (1984); 5'
- First performance: 1985 by the duo Tavernier in France. (AA)
- Moon Flowers (Kwiaty Księżyca) for cello and piano
- Commissioned by the BBC in Bristol for the duo R. Jabłoński, cello,
- and K, Borucińska, piano.
- First broadcast performance: May 14, 1986, BBC, England.
- First live performance: September 27, 1986, Warsaw, Poland,
- 29th International Music Festival Warsaw Autumn, . (FLP)
- Recordings: Proviva - Teldec Germany, ISPN 152.
- Ajikan - Unfolding Light for flute and
percussion (1989); 12'
- Commissioned by and dedicated to the Uroboros Ensemble in England.
- First performance: September 10, 1989, Southampton International Music Week.
- Poetic Impressions for wind quintet and
piano (1991); 20'
- Commissioned by the Warsaw Wind Quintet.(TPC)
- Recordings: CD, DUX Records, Poland (CD of the Year 1996)
- Concerto for saxophone and chamber orchestra
- Solo alto and tenor saxophone.
- Written for David Pituch and Sinfonia Varsovia
- First performance: June 26, 1997, Festival European Cultural Month in Lubljana, Slovenia.
- Four Portraits for string quartet (1994); 15'
- Written for the Wilanów String Quartet.
- Premiered: April 22, 1994 at Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center in New York.
- Concerto Grosso for 2 violins and chamber orchestra
- Written as "A Birthday present for Lord Yehudi Menuhin"
- First performance: January 26, 1997, Warsaw, Poland, Sinfonia Varsovia and Lord Menuhin.
- VHS recording By Polish Television, Warsaw, 1997
- Letter To The Sun for frame drum, percussion quartet and narrator
- To the poem by Julia Rafalska; in English.
- Written for Morris Lang and the Brooklyn College Percussion Ensemble.
- First performance: November 8, 2000, New York, USA,
- Brooklyn college Percussion Ensemble,
- Brian Willson, conductor.
- Scherzo Di Fantasia for euphonium and piano
- Commissioned by the National Brass Society for the International Brass Conference in St. Louis.
- First performance: June 29, 1997, St. Louis, USA,
- Gail Robertson, euphonium.
- Mancala for 2 violins (1997); 8'
- Written for Hanna Lachert, violinist of the New York Philharmonic.
- First performance: April 18, 1997, New York, USA.
- Soirée Snobe Chez La Princesse Instrumental
Theatre (1979); 15'
- for 2 keyboard instruments, prerecorded tape, mimes and lighting.
- Commissioned and premiered in 1979 by Annette Sachs and Piotr Lachert,
- Théâtre European de Musique Vivante, Brussels, Belgium. Manuscript.
Instrumental Solo Works
- Variations for flute (1967); 6'
- Space Model for percussion (1971-75);
- Published - (TPC).
- Stress for percussion & tape (1972); 4'
- Arabesque for harp (1972); 7'
- Touracou for harpsichord (1974); 5'
- Farewell Souvenir for piano (1975); 6'
- Recitativo, Arioso and Toccata for
Violin (1969-75); 10'
- Two Poems for tuba (1975); 7'
- Quodlibet for double-bass and prerecorded
tape (1976); 12'
- Six Bagatelles for harp (1979); 9'
- Graffito for marimba (1988); 12'
- Commissioned by Nebojsa Jovan Ziukovic.
- Premiered: European Percussion Congress, Germany.
- Recordings: CD, Bayer Records, Tubingen, Germany. (TPC).
- Hommage a I.J. Paderewski for piano
- Premiered: 1992, Washington D.C., Jerzy Stryjniak.(FLP).
- Spider Walk for percussion (1993); 9'
- Dedicated to Stanisław Skoczyński
- Premiered: Nov. 10, 1993, Columbus, Ohio, USA,
- Stanisław Skoczyński
Music for Children
- Suite Variée for percussion (4) and
piano (1965); 4'
- Little Mosaic for percussion ensemble
- Little Mexican Fantasy for percussion and
piano (1971); 4'
- Arrangement of a Mexican folk tune. (PWM).
- Tunes from Many Countries of the
- Children's songs arrangement for percussion and instruments. (PWM).
- Journeys into Space for Piano in two
- A set of 19 miniatures. (PWM).
- Colorful World of Percussion (1978)
- A book for percussion training in 5 volumes.
- Co-author: Barbara Niewiadomska.
- Music of Five Steps for two flutes and percussion
ensemble (1979); 19'
- Commissioned by the International society for Musical Education.
- First performance: July 12, 1980 by the pupils of E. Mlynarski
- Elementary School of Music in Warsaw, Poland,
- during the XIV World Congress of ISME.(AA)
- Miniatures for piano (1982)
- 14 miniatures. (EBM)
- Four Seasons for Four Hands (1984)
- 12 pieces for Piano 4 hands. (EBM)
- Silver Threads and Other Songs for
- for voice, chorus , and percussion in various combinations,
- to the poetry of Josef Czechowicz, in Polish (PWM)
- Musical Alphabet for two pianos
- A set of 22 pieces, mainly dances from A to Z.
- Mister Marimba- children's opera in 3 acts
- Soloists, chidren choir and orchestra
- To the libretto of Polish lyricist Agnieszka Osiecka; in Polish and also in English
- Written for the National Opera in Warsaw, Poland.
- First performance: Nov. 1997, National Opera in Warsaw.
PWM Edition, Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne Foreign Trade Dept.
al. Krasinskiego 11a
331-111 KRAKOW, POLAND
Tel/Fax: 48--12--42 27-328
PWM Edition, Promotion Departmentaddress same as above
Theodore Presser Company
(Agent of PWM)
Presser Place, Bryn Mawr,
Pennsylvania 19010, USA
fax 215/527 7841
Distribution in North America:
KEY TO PUBLISHERS
TPC - Theodore Presser Company.
PWM - Polish Music Publications (Theodore Presser Company, distributor).
AA - Author's Agency Publications, Warsaw, Poland.
EBM - Edward B. Marks Music Publications, New York. NY.
FLP - Fallen Leaf Press, Berkeley, CA.
MFP - Music for Percussion, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
LED - Alphonse Leduc (Theodore Presser Company, distributor).
MLP - Morris Lang Percussion, New York, NY.
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Updated 9 September 2009.