b. 19 September 1938, Warsaw


Pianist and composer Zygmunt Krauze studied at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. In 1957 he was awarded First Prize at the All-Polish Contemporary Competition in Łódź and in 1966 First Prize at the International Competition of Gaudeamus Foundation in Holland.

Since 1963 Krauze appeared as piano soloists and since 1967 he has also performed with The Warsaw Music Workshop ensemble. Zygmunt Krauze has played with the leading orchestras conducted by Gary Bertini, Jan Krenz, Leif Sagerstam, Kazimierz Kord, Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Bohdan Wodiczko, Paul Zukofsky, Ernest Bour, Hans Zender, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Wojciech Michniewski and many others.

Many of his artistic activities took place outside Poland: in the U.S. (where he taught piano at the Cleveland State University), France (where he was an artistic adviser at IRCAM in Paris), and in Berlin (where he was an artist in residence). He has given master classes for pianists at the Jerusalem Music Center, Music Academy in Stockholm, Osaka College of Music, Indiana University in Bloomington, Music Academy in Basel. He was also visiting professor of composition at Yale University in New Haven.

Zygmunt Krauze fulfilled many public functions, including  serving five terms as President of the Polish Society for Contemporary Music, as well as being President of the International Society for Contemporary Music during the years 1987-1989. He also served as juror in international competitions for performers and composers.

In acknowledgement of his accomplishments he was decorated with the Silver Cross of Merit (Poland, 1975), and in 1984 in France he was awarded the title of Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 1988 he won the annual prize of the Polish Composers Union and in 1989 the Prize of the Ministry of Culture in Poland.

Krauze is best known as a composer of “unistic” music [muzyka unistyczna]. He abandons form in the traditional sense and deprives his music of the dramatic development, of the tensions, climaxes, contrasts, and typical emotions. According to Krauze, in this static music “everything that the listener discovers in the first few seconds will last to the end without any surprise.” The audience are encouraged to notice the changeability and motion of the apparently unchanging material, to distinguish the smallest elements in the glimmering sound texture, to focus on the most subtle nuances. The composer worked out this formula in such works from the 1960s as Five Unistic Piano PiecesPolychromy, and Pieces for Orchestra No. 1 and No. 2.

Krauze further explores the inherently “spatial” concept of unistic music in the physical performance space. Sometimes he fills it with loudspeakers simultaneously playing layers of music (Spatial-Musical Composition No. 1 and No. 2Rivière souterraine). He also creates “music from other music” and “music of the return to the roots.” The original folk material used in his compositions is not treated as a source of inspiration for artistic transformations. Instead, it is “pasted” on to a foreign aesthetic world thus combining music of different conventions and provoking unusual associations. The tendency to quote extends to Krauze’s selection of instruments, including borrowings from folk, early music, and childhood repertories combined with traditional instruments of classical music.

More recent compositions continue to be process-oriented and feature quotations and unusual combinations of sounds and instruments. Critics described Krauze’s piano sonorities as “strange and delightful” [in the Piano Concerto of 1976; Paul Griffith, New York Times, 1997] and wrote about the “quaint gentleness of his [unistic] music which, after all does not exclude the more forceful accents of energy and power” [Bohdan Pociej, Ruch Muzyczny, 1996].

Krauze’s activity as a performer led to the creation of his Music Workshop which played an important role in Polish musical life. By presenting numerous new compositions, most often written especially for this group, the ensemble became a real experimental workshop, both in the field of composition and contemporary music performance. Krauze was the first in Poland to create new “performance forms” where the performance consists of the visual as well as the musical elements.

As a pianist, he premiered his own piano works and continued giving solo recitals, entitled since the 1970s The Last Recital. The programs of these concerts included, in addition to contemporary music, various quotations from well-known classical and romantic repertoires, transformed and deformed in unusual ways. Thus, Krauze’s activities as a performer entered the arena of post-modernism, of playing with conventions.

Zygmunt Krauze’s music has been published by Agencja Autorska, Durand, Editions Amphion, Peters, PWM, Ricordi, and Universal Editions. His works have been recorded on CD by Sony, EMI, Collins Classics, Muza, ORF, Thesis, and Nonesuch, among others.

List of Works

Chamber Music

Prime numbers for 2 violins (1961), 8′
Polichromia for clarinet, trombone, cello and piano (1968), 4′
String Quartet No. 2 (1970), 16′
Voices for 15 optional instruments (1972), 9-27′
Aus aller Welt stammende for 5 violins, 3 violas and 2 cellos (1973), 15′
Automatophone for 3 or more mandolins and 3 or more guitars, 3 or more music boxes (1974), 22′
Idyll for tape and 4 soloists playing folk instruments (1974), 16′
Song for 4-6 optional melodic instruments (1974), 8′
Soundscape for tape and four soloists (1975), 16′
String Quartet No. 3 (1982), 18′
Quatuor pour la naissance for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1984), 18′
For Alfred Schlee with Admiration for string quartet (1991), 2′
Piano Quintet (1993), 16′
Terra incognita for 10 string instruments and piano (1994), 15′
Pastorale for flute, oboe, clarinet, basson and horn (1995), 4′

Orchestral Music

Piece for Orchestra No.1  (1969), 8′
Piece for Orchestra No. 2  (1970), 10′
Folk Music (1972), 10-20′
Piano Concerto (1976), 20′
Suite de danses et de chanson for harpischord and orchestra (1977), 17′
Violin Concerto (1980), 21′
Tableau vivant for chamber orchestra (1982), 11′
Piece for Orchestra No. 3 (1982), 20′
Arabesque for piano and chamber orchestra (1983), 18′
Blanc-Rouge/Paysage d’un pays for two orchestral masses of wind, mandolin and accordion orchestras and 6 percussions (1985), 53′
Symphonie parisienne for chamber orchestra (1986), 22′
La Terre for soprano, piano and orchestra (1995), 25′
Rhapsody for string orchestra (1995), 9′

Music for solo instruments

Diptychos for organ (1981), 8′
Commencement for harpsichord (1982), 4′
Je prefére qu’il chante for bassoon (1984), 8′

Music for piano

Five Pieces (1958), 6′
Preludium, Intermezzo, Postludium (1958), 5′
2 Inventions (1958), 4′
7 Interludes (1958), 5′
Monody and Fuge (1959), 9′
Ohne Kontraste (1960), 4′
5 Unistic Piano Pieces (1963), 6′
Triptych (1964), 10′
Esquisse (1966), 9′
Fallingwater (1971), 9′
Gloves Music (1972), 4-6′
Stone Music (1972), 5-9′
One Piano Eight Hands (1973), 13′
Music Box Waltz (1977 (Peters), 2
Ballade (1978), 9′
From Keyboard to Score (1987), 27′
Nightmare Tango (1987), 4′
La chanson du mal-aimé (1990), 6′
Refrain (1993), 8′

Vocal-instrumental music

Malay Pantuns for 3 flutes and alto (1966), 7′
Postcard from the Mountains for soprano, flute, oboe, clarinet, vibraphone, violin, viola, cello and double bass (1988), 3′

Incidental Music

Polyeucte (drama by P. Corneille), Paris, Comédie Française, 1987
Le Publique (play by F. Garcia Lorca), Paris, Théâtre National de la Colline, 1988
Réveille-toi Philadelphie! (play by F. Billetdoux), Paris, Théâtre National de la Colline, 1988
Operette (play by W. Gombrowicz), Paris, Théâtre National de la Colline, 1989
Macbeth (drama by E. Ionesco), Paris, Théâtre National de la Colline, 1992

Opera and Music Theater

The Star chamber opera (1981)
The Star [orchestral version] (1994)

Spatial Musical Compositions

Spatial Music Composition No.1 for 6 tapes (1968)
Spatial Music Composition No. 2 for 2 tapes (1970)
Fête galante et pastorale for 6 instrumental groups and 13 tapes (1974)
Fête galante et pastorale for 13 instrumental groups and 13 tapes (1974)
La Rivière souterraine for 7 tapes (1987)
La Riviére souterraine version for 7 tapes and 7 instruments (1987)

Manuscripts at USC

Commencement for harpsichord solo (1982). Sketches in pencil, 8 pp., on music paper from Dom Ksiażki, 26 staves.

“Zygmunt Krauze’s Commencement is an impressive piece of music: the calls demanding in their harshness, the trills on a short, suspended motif, descending in a manner which cannot easily be perceived–in the style of American repetitive music–in order to bedazzle with the brilliance of colors in the middle range, while simultaneously threatening with a dark murmuring in the bass register: the cannons hidden under the flowers? These lofty, vibrating sound draperies assumed at times a quality straight from the 17th century greatest personalities, something of the Couperins.” [Jacques Lonchampt, Le Monde, 6 March 1982]

Krauze About His Music

The origins of my work as a composer are tightly connected with the creative output of Władysław Strzemiński. Indeed, all the most important musical inspirations–I am talking here about early 1960s and even the end of the 1950s–were connected with the fine arts, and in particular with constructivism, especially as represented by Strzemiński. The most important moment was my visit to a retrospective exhibition of Strzemiński’s work held in 1957 in Łódz. This was the turning point. At that time I realized that both his art and what I read is the source from which I might draw. Strzemiński used such notions as form, color, movement, texture, which are also characteristic for music. My goal was to translate his theory into sound, to translate into my music what he had created and invented. This is mostly connected to the theory of “unism,” i.e. a theory completely opposed to Baroque art, a theory which required a unity of elements, the elimination of contrasts, the concern for the form which was homogeneous, seemingly created from a single unit. [Krauze in Sound, Word, Image, Thought. 1997]


Composer’s Website

Page updated on 20 March 2018