Wojciech Kilar

Composer and pianist, born on 17th July 1932 in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), died on 29th December 2013 in Katowice.

Running away from the Soviet army, he moved with his family to Rzeszów in 1944, where he learned the piano with Kazimierz Mirski. In 1947 he made his debut as a pianist and composer playing his Two Children’s Miniatures at a Young Talents’ Competition (2nd prize). After a stay in Kraków (where he took piano lessons with Maria Bilińska-Rieger and harmony classes with Artur Malawski), in 1948 he left for Katowice, where he studied composition and piano with Bolesław Woytowicz. After graduation he served as an assistant to his professor in Kraków. In 1957 he took part in the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music. He subsequently went to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, but that eminent teacher is said to have decided that the young composer “did not need to learn anymore”.

His early works are in the neoclassical style. Later with Krzysztof Penderecki and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki he co-founded the Polish avant-garde (sonoristic experiments, dodecaphony, serialism). The symphonic poem Krzesany (1974) became a harbinger of the 70s’ New Romantic breakthrough. References to tradition that appeared in Kilar’s works at that time were coupled with a return to tonality and folkloric inspirations. Sacred music began to play an ever-greater role, especially in his last period.

Kilar is considered as Poland’s most outstanding composer of film music. He collaborated with leading film directors in Poland (Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, and others) as well as abroad (for instance with Roman Polański and Jane Campion). His music for Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula won him the Best Score Composer award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Wojciech Kilar’s accolades include the Gold Medal Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis, the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, the Per Artem ad Deum Medal of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and the Order of the White Eagle.

Phot. Czesław Czapliński / FOTONOVA
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