7 March 1911, Warsaw — 27 September 1991, Warsaw


Stefan Kisielewski was a composer, publicist, music writer and critic, writer, journalist, and teacher. In 1927 he entered the State Conservatory of Music in Warsaw, graduating with degrees in theory (1934, under Kazimierz Sikorski), composition (1937, also under Sikorski) and piano (1937, under Jerzy Lefeld). He also studied Polish literature and philosophy at Warsaw University and continued his composition studies in Paris during the years 1938-1939.

Kisielewski began composing in 1932 and, between 1935 and 1937, served on the editorial staff of the bi-monthly magazine Muzyka Polska. In 1939 he took the position of musical director of the Warsaw Broadcasting Station. During the German occupation he worked as an accompanist and music teacher. Most of his prewar compositions were lost during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. After the World War II Kisielewski settled in Kraków, being active as a composer, teacher and organizer. He lectured on harmony, counterpoint and instrumentation at the State Higher School of Music in Krakow (1945-1949) and first Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly Ruch Muzyczny (1945-1948). He rejoined the editorial staff in 1957, when Ruch Muzyczny was reactivated, and worked there until 1959. Since 1945 Kisielewski cooperated with the Universal Weekly, a journal of music criticism, for which his column. During the years 1965-1968 he served as Editor-in-Chief of Syncopation, published by Art and Film Publishers.

Stefan Kisielewski has written a number of fiction books and crime stories, as well as essays and books on music, politics and literature, published mostly by PWM, including, With Music Through the Years (musical essays, 1957), Musical Constellation (composers’ profiles, 1959, revised edition, 1982), Music Between Eras (1956) ,and Music and the Brain (1974). He was awarded a number of prizes, including the First Prize at the Competition for a song to Mickiewicz’s words (Baktchysarai at Night for voice and piano, 1955), Second Prize at the Polish Music Festival (Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, 1955), Musical Award of the city of Kraków (1956), Musical Award of the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation (New York, 1973), Andrzej Strug Award (Warsaw, 1979) and Award of the Polish Composers’ Union for his composer’s creative work, as well as writing on music (1982).

Known for his rapier wit and ardent political polemics, Kisielewski left a huge repository of aphorisms on a variety of subjects. Here are some of them in original Polish with approximate English translations:

Biednym nic z tego nie przyjdzie, że bogaci też zbiednieją.
The poor will not gain much when rich also become poor.

Czas zmarnowany nie istnieje we wspomnieniach.
Wasted time does not exist in memoirs.

Człowiek często kłamie tak, jak żyje: nieświadomie.
Human beings often lie, just like they live: unconsciously.

Człowiek zmienia się od dzieciństwa po grób. Kiedy więc jest sobą?
Human beings change from birth to death. When are they themselves?

Gdyby dureń zrozumiał, że jest durniem, automatycznie przestałby być durniem. Z tego wniosek, że durnie rekrutują się jedynie spośród ludzi pewnych, że nie są durniami.
If an idiot could understand his idiocy, he would automatically cease to be an idiot. Thus, a conclusion that idiots are found solely among those absolutely certain that they aren’t idiots.

Gloryfikacja własnego narodu to akt pogardy dla innych.
Glorifying one’s own nation is an act of disdain for others.

Kłamstwo to poprawianie prawdy.
To lie is to improve the truth.

Nacjonalizm to częstokroć wyraz małej wiary w rzeczywiste możliwości swego narodu.
Nationalism is often an expression of insufficient faith in real powers of one’s own nation.

Selected Compositions

Orchestral Works

Overture (1938) [lost]
Symphony No. 1 (1939) [lost]
Concerto for Chamber Orchestra (194) [reconstructed in 1948]
Rustic Rhapsody (1950)
Symphony No. 2 (1951)
Little Overture (1953)
Perpetuum Mobile (1955)
Chamber Symphony (1956)
Ballet Polka from the ballet Sunday on the Vistula River (1957)
Symphony for 15 Performers (1961)
Divertimento for Flute and Chamber Orchestra (1964)
Journey in Time in One Movement for string orchestra (1965)
Sports Signals overture for great symphony orchestra (1966)
Amusement Grounds symphonic suite from the ballet (1967)
Cosmos I (1970)
Symphony in a Square (1978)

Chamber Music

String Quartet (1935) [lost]
Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (ca 1940 [lost]
Sonata for clarinet (1944)
Suite for flute and clarinet (1961)
Rencontres dans un Desert for 10 performers (1969)
Dialogues for 14 instruments (1970)

Music for Solo Piano

Variations (1933) [lost]
Sonata No. 1 (1936) [lost]
Danse Vive (1939)
Prelude and Fugue from Six Preludes and Fugues (1943) [partially lost]
Toccata (1943)
Serenade (1945) (rev. 1974)
Sonata No. 2 (1945)
Fantasy (1949)
Dance Suite (1951)
Rustic Caprice (1951)
Moto Perpetuo (1953)
Suite (1955):
The Magic Carriage music to two excerpts to texts by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński (1959):
–Allegro Cantabile “About a Sailor and a Girl” – for voice and piano
–Allegro Furioso alla Polacca – Waltz “The Drunken Elephant”
Berceuse (1968)

Vocal-Instrumental Music

Tune from the Kurpie Region for women’s choir and folk band (1951)

Songs for Voice and Piano

The Osiers (1943)
Five Songs to texts by Gałczyński (1952)
–Autumn/A Visit/A Wild Rose/Fatamorgana/Caravan
Seven Songs to texts by Gałczyński (1954)
–Cradle Song of a Cradle/A Tune/The Blind Sleepwalker’s Prayer/About Our Household/Request for Happy Islands/About My Poetry/Bazaar
Baktchysarai at Night to texts by Adam Mickiewicz (1955)
Two Tunes from the Film “The Galoshes of Fortune” to texts by Sławomir Mrożek (1958)
–The Galoshes of Fortune/Recollections from Paris
Mr. Ink-Blot’s Extraordinary Adventure songs from a comedy to texts by Jan Brzechwa (1967)
–Mr. Ink-Blot’s Academy/A First-Class Mechanic/At Klimonto/Travel, Travel/When Famous Guests Arrive/When You Double Your Strength/Our Ditty/Long Live The Cog-wheels!/Three Fiancées/All People Should Be Loved/Phantasy Above All

Instrumental Works with Piano

Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano (1934)
Intermezzo for clarinet and piano (1951)
Suita per Oboe e Pianoforte (1954)
Capriccio Energico for violin and piano (1956)
Sonata for clarinet and piano (1972)

Stage Works

Polish Devils ballet (1957)
The System of Doctor “Tar” and Professor “Feather” ballet-pantomime in one act (1962)
Amusement Grounds ballet in one act (1967)

Page updated on 13 March 2018