Marta Ptaszyńska (born July 29, 1943) has been
described as "one of the best known Polish woman composers" as well as "a
virtuoso percussionist specializing in performances of contemporary music"
In her native Poland, Ptaszyńska studied composition at the Academies
of Music, both in Warsaw and in Poznan. Also, she worked privately with
Witold Lutosławski, who later became her mentor. As a French Government’s
grant recipient, she studied in the early seventies with Nadia Boulanger,
and attended Olivier Messiaen’s analysis classes at the Paris Conservatory.
In 1974, she received an Artist Diploma Degree in Percussion Performance
at the Cleveland Institute of Music in Cleveland, where she worked with
Cloyd Duff, Richard Weiner, and Donald Erb.
She has been a professor of Music and the Humanities at the University of Chicago since 1998. In 2005 she was named the Helen B. & Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Music and the Humanities. Ptaszyńska is an internationally known composer. Her music has been performed around the world at many international festivals, including ISCM World Music Days, the Warsaw Autumn International Festivals, the Salzburg Festival, the Schleswig- Holstein Music Festival, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Prix Futura in Berlin, and many others. She has received commissions from major orchestras and opera houses including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, the Polish Chamber Orchestra, the Sinfonia Varsovia, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the National Opera in Poland. Her first opera, Oscar of Alva, in 6 scenes (1971-72, rev. 1986; libretto after Lord G. Byron), received the Award of the Polish Television Broadcasting Co. and was presented in 1989 at the Television Opera Festival in Salzburg, Austria. Her opera for children, Mister Marimba, (libretto: Agnieszka Osiecka), has enjoyed phenomenal success with 114 performances over eight seasons at the National Opera in Warsaw, which in 2008 premiered her second opera Magic Doremik, (2006-2007; libretto after Gianni Rodari). Her newest opera, The Lovers from the Valldemosa's Cloister, was commissioned for the Chopin Bicentennial and was premiered in December 2010 by the Grand Opera Theatre in Łódź, Poland.
She is the composer of such well known works as the Holocaust
Memorial Cantata, performed several times under the baton
of Lord Yehudi
Menuhin, Concerto for Marimba, Winter’s Tale, Sonnetsto
Orpheus, Moon Flowers, Mosaics
for string quartet (2002), Trois visions de l'arc-en-ciel
for clarinet, violin, viola, cello, percussion & piano (2008), and
Street Music for percussion orchestra of
70 players, (2008) as well as other popular compositions for solo percussion
(Siderals, Graffito, Spider Walk, Space Model,
Letter to the Sun). Ptaszyńska has been honored
with many prizes and awards, including the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award
by the Union of Polish Composers, the 2010 Simon Guggenheim Award, the
Special Award given by the Minister of Culture of Poland for Outstanding
Production for her opera on Chopin premiered by the Grand Opera Theatre
in Łódź, the 2006 Benjamin H. Danks Award of the American Academy
of Arts and Letters, The Fromm
Music Foundation Award, First Prize at the International Rostrum of Composers
in Paris, several awards from the Percussive Arts Society, multiple ASCAP
Awards, and in 1995 the “Officer Cross of Merit”
of the Republic of Poland.
She often serves as a judge at international and national competitions for composers and percussionists, such as the International Competition for Musical Performers in Geneva, Switzerland, K. Serocki International Composers Contest in Warsaw, ASCAP Composers Contest in New York, PAS Composition Contests, and Penderecki’s International Contest for Contemporary Music in Cracow, Poland.
In 1965-70 Ptaszyńska was a president of the Circle of Young Composers of the Union of Polish Composers in Poland. Also, in the years 1981-84 she served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Percussive Arts Society (PAS) in the U.S. In 1991 she co-founded and for several years was vice president of the American Society of Polish Music in New York. Currently she is a member of ASCAP, the Percussive Arts Society, and the Polish Music Reference Center in Los Angeles, and serves on the board of the International Alliance of Women Composers.
As an artistic adviser, she arranged the music program of two Polish
music festivals which took place at the New York Public Library for the
Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in New York in 1994 and 1996.
Prior to coming to the University of Chicago, Ptaszyńska taught composition at Northwestern University, Indiana University in Bloomington, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the University of California at Berkeley and at Santa Barbara, and Bennington College in Vermont.
Her music is published by PWM – Polish Music Publications in Poland – and by Theodore Presser in the U.S.A. Recordings of her work are available on CD Accord-Universal, Muza Polish Records, Chandos, Olympia, Dux, Bayer Records, and Pro Viva Sonoton labels.
-- Throughout this webpage, names which are links
refer to my Interviews elsewhere on my website. BD
© 1988 & 1997 Bruce Duffie
These conversations were recorded in Chicago on March 4, 1988, and May 25, 1997. Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1988, 1993, and 1998. This transcription was made in 2017, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.