New York Dance and Art Innovations [NYDAI] has posted a video conversation with Marta Ptaszyńska, a distinguished Polish composer living in the United States since the 1970s, on YouTube. Part of the NYDAI “Quarantine Talks,” Ptaszyńska is interviewed by her younger Polish colleague, Jakub Polaczyk, NYDAI’s Vice President and Artistic Director.
Ptaszyńska’s wide ranging interview began with her comments on the Covid pandemic and countless concerts having been cancelled worldwide. “This pandemic actually gave me lots of ideas and inspiration—and more time to compose,” Ptaszyńska said. The results include three instrumental concertos: two for flute and orchestra and one for cello and piano and orchestra, composed for the renowned Cracow Duo’s twentieth anniversary of artistic achievement.
Polaczyk’s next line of inquiry touched on the ubiquitous offerings of live music online during the past year. “The sound is just bad on my computer,” Ptaszyńska averred and added that when listening to concerts, “even a TV set would have been an improvement.”
Ptaszyńska’s gift for reacting creatively to the images in surrealist, expressionist and contemporary paintings leads the composer to hearing harmonic structures. “Music evokes colors and colors evoke music for me,” she added, noting an article, Between Heart and Mind by Iwona Lidstedt, published in the December 2019 issue of Musicology Today that examines Ptaszyńska’s musical language and her place in the contemporary music canon.
Another important aspect of Ptaszyńska’s life in music is her long career as a teacher, beginning at a music school at the Warsaw suburb of Włochy in 1965. After moving to the U.S. in 1973, she taught at Bennington College in Vermont, University of California Berkeley, Cincinnati Conservatory, UC Santa Barbara, Bloomington Indiana (in the 1980s and 1990s), Northwestern University and, finally at the University of Chicago for the last 20 years. Her teaching legacy is truly inspiring and Ptaszyńska is clearly fond of her vast “family of students” all across the world, many of whom now hold prestigious professorships themselves.
Sooner or later, every Polish musician is asked about Chopin, and Ptaszyńska was duly queried on the subject by her interlocutor, Jakub Polaczyk. “Chopin is a singular genius, a composer with the greatest intuition,” Ptaszyńska said. She also described her delight in writing an opera, Chopin in Majorca, which was premiered by the Grand Theatre in Łódź in connection with the celebrations of Chopin’s bicentennial.
Ptaszyńska’s current plans—subject to the vagaries of health regulations—include a planned trip to Poland in late spring. She plans to remain there until late fall to attend premieres of her concerto for accordion and orchestra and the double concerto written for the Cracow Duo.
This interesting video presentation ends with bonus footage of the second movement of Ptaszyńska’s 2020 Second Flute Concerto, featuring soloist Agata Iglas and Olsztyn Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Piotr Sułkowski. Watch the entire interview and performance excerpt here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz4iaF-VNcs
For more information on the composer, visit www.martaptaszynska.com.
[Sources: press release, youtube.com]