By Marek Zebrowski

It is always a pleasure to stop by the Polish Music Publishers [PWM] headquarters in Kraków or their other office in Warsaw and meet with the Director and Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Daniel Cichy. During the past few years when he has been at the helm of PWM, the Polish Music Center and PWM were able to carry out several exciting joint projects, including publishing works by heretofore undiscovered Polish composers and promoting Polish music in general.

This time I was able to meet Dr. Cichy in Warsaw, as he was travelling there on business. We discussed many topics related to such composers as Roman Ryterband, Zygmunt Stojowski and Henryk Wars and touched on PMW’s new series of book publications that had just appeared in print.

This new and exciting series, called “Małe monografie” [Pocket biographies] highlights Poland’s leading composers in a very approachable, readable and friendly way. Directed towards the widest possible audience, these books eschew detailed musical analysis and musical examples and concentrate on the composers’ personalities, their often fascinating life stories, and their attitudes towards music, art, literature, and philosophy instead. Their small size, excellent cover artwork and refined graphic design make for a very attractive overall presentation. Written by experts in the field, these pocket biographies will certainly contribute to a better understanding of the lives and work of the composers presented in this book series.

The three little volumes that Dr. Cichy presented to the PMC include Lech Dzierżanowski’s Palester, Danuta Gwizdalanka’s Lutosławski, and Krzysztof Kwiatkowski’s Szymański. The music and life of Roman Palester (1907-1989) are less know today in Poland then in the 1930s and 1940s, when he was considered to be one of Poland’s preeminent composers. After his oeuvre was criticized at the infamous Composers’ Conference in Łagów in 1949 by the Communist authorities, Palester emigrated to Paris and later lived in Munich, where he worked for Radio Free Europe.

Danuta Gwizdalanka is an undisputed authority on Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994), having authored a detailed two-volume biography of this composer with her husband, Krzysztof Meyer. In this smaller essay, Gwizdalanka focuses on the latest discoveries regarding Lutosławski’s young years, brings in a more intimate personal portrait of the composer, and includes brief testimonials about Lutosławski from Poland’s leading artists and intellectuals, including Marcin Bogusławski, Julia Hartiwg, Ryszard Kapuściński, Jan Krenz, Zygmunt Mycielski, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Anna Szaniawska, Andrzej Wajda, Krystyna Zachwatowicz, and Krzysztof Zanussi.

Krzysztof Kwiatkowski’s volume on Paweł Szymański (b. 1954) brings a lot of fascinating information and insight into a composer known for his reticence to give interviews or comment extensively on his music. Here we find a more finely drawn portrait of Szymański, learn about his ways of composing, and are given a captivating view of the composer’s philosophical and aesthetic approach to music that is both thoroughly modern and yet rooted in well-established traditions.

Each of the pocket biographies contains a timeline of the composer’s life, a catalogue of major compositions and a bibliography, here described as “reading for the more discerning” consumers. As it is, this series will not only prove attractive to music lovers, students and concert-going public, but could possibly reach a still wider audience by being available in audio book and electronic formats. Well done and thank you!

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