The classical world has lost one of the great composers, and Poland is mourning one of its most passionate music educators and cultural ambassadors.
He was born in Dębica in south-east Poland and studied in Kraków where he graduated from the Academy of Music. He continued at the Academy as a professor before his composing career took off. He received early acclaim for his Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (1960) and his large-scale St Luke Passion (1963-66). During the 1960s, he won numerous composition prizes, including the Sibelius Gold Medal (1967), the Prix Italia (1968 – for Dies irae) and the Award of the Polish Composer’s Association (1970).
The year 1973 saw his career extending to the United States with the premiere in Pittsburgh of his First Symphony and the start of a professorship at Yale University which ran until 1978. During the 1970s, his compositional language changed – less connected with the earlier influences of Webern and Boulez, and increasingly tonal with a focus on specific intervals. His Second Symphony, Christmas (1980), is a fine example of his newer style.
His Polish Requiem, which used an earlier work, Lacrimosa, commissioned by Solidarity to commemorate those killed in the anti-government riots in the Gdansk shipyards in 1970, made a great impact. It was a work he returned to twice, to revise. His Credo of 1997-8 is one of his most popular later works, alongside the Second Cello Concerto (1982), written for Mstislav Rostropovich.
His output was substantial numbering eight symphonies, five operas, a large number of concertante works (his two violin were written, respectively, for Isaac Stern and Anne-Sophie Mutter), vocal and choral works, and chamber music, including four string quartets.
He was active conductor, recording many of his own works.
Via Love Poland