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Andrzej Kurylewicz

Andrzej Kurylewicz, photo: Piotr Kłosek / FOTONOVA / East News
Andrzej Kurylewicz, photo: Piotr Kłosek / FOTONOVA / East News

Composer, pianist, trumpeter, trombonist, and conductor; born on 24 November 1932 in Lviv [then Lwów in Poland], died 13 April 2007.

He learned to play the piano since he was six, at the Music School in Lviv and after the war - in 1946-50 - at the Music Institute in Gliwice and the Secondary Music School in Krakow. He was a student of Krakow's State Higher School of Music in 1950-54, studying piano with Henryk Sztompka and composition with Stanisław Wiechowicz; however, he was expelled for playing jazz (forbidden at the time). In 1954, he was a pianist with the group MM 176, and set up his own quintet a year later, which was later transformed into the Polish Radio Organ Sextet in Krakow (in existence until 1962). In 1969 Andrzej Kurylewicz debuted as a composer of film music (Powrót / Return, dir. Jerzy Passendorfer, 1959-60).

As an instrumentalist and conductor, he performed in many European countries, the United States, Canada, and Cuba. In 1964-66 he conducted the Polish Radio and Television Orchestra in Warsaw. With his wife Wanda Warska, in 1969 he opened an artistic cellar in Warsaw, a regular venue for concerts, poetry evenings, and exhibitions. At the same time, in 1969-78 he ran the Formacja Muzyki Współczesnej / Contemporary Music Formation which played music from between modern jazz and avant-garde European music. They gave concerts all over the world, and Kurylewicz composed several pieces for the group. From 1980 he also devoted himself to composing classical music. He was a member of the Main Board of the Polish Composers' Union in 1987-91. He collaborated with the State University of Kansas in Lawrence at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s.
Andrzej Kurylewicz received numerous awards; in 1978 he won a prize at the 2nd Festival of Polish TV Art in Olsztyn for the music for the TV series Polskie Drogi / Polish Roads (dir. Janusz Morgenstern, 1976-78), in 1979 - a prize at the 6th Polish Film Festival in Gdańsk for the music for Lekcja martwego języka / Lesson of a dead language (dir. Janusz Majewski, 1979), and in 1981 a prize at the International Radio and Television Competition in Siena - the Prix Italia '81 - for his music for the film Droga / The Road (dir. Ryszard Ber, 1980). He also received a Polish Radio and Television Award (1965), a City of Warsaw Award (1978), and a City of Warsaw Medal (1997). In 1984 the city of Wilhelmshaven granted him the title of Stadtkünstler.

Andrzej Kurylewicz, 1962, photo: Marek Karewicz / Forum
Andrzej Kurylewicz, 1962, photo: Marek Karewicz / Forum

Andrzej Kurylewicz was one of the pioneers of jazz music in Poland. The price he paid for his enthusiastic love of jazz was expulsion from the music school in Krakow where he studied piano and composition in 1950-54. In those days the communist authorities considered jazz to be a harmful product of global imperialism and forbade anyone to play it. Kurylewicz did not give up and, taking advantage of the more lenient political line in the second half of the 1950s, set up the Polish Radio Jazz Band in Krakow, which he headed until 1962. An interest in bringing jazz and contemporary classical music closer together led him to set up his next group - the Contemporary Music Formation, with whom he worked in 1969-78 as a composer and instrumentalist; they were greatly successful at home and abroad. He was a valued jazz pianist as well as being an outstanding jazz trumpeter and a great trombonist. He gave up jazz in the late 1970s and devoted himself almost exclusively to composing classical music. In 1981 his String Quartet No. 1 was performed at the Warsaw Autumn festival. He was elected a member of the Main Board of the Polish Composers' Union in 1987, remaining a member until 1991. In his latter years he performed as a pianist, playing works by Karol Szymanowski and Fryderyk Chopin.


  • Music for the film Powrót / Return, dir. Jerzy Passendorfer (1959-60)
  • Concerto on themes from Jarzębski for trombone and jazz orchestra (1966)
  • Rok Polski / Polish Year, 12 songs for amplified voice and orchestra (1975)
  • Schema Quattro per Quattro per archi, tromboni e batteria (1975)
  • Pięć Rozgrzewek / Five Warm-ups for solo piano (1975)
  • Adagio da Dramma for orchestra (1976)
  • Music for the film Polskie Drogi / Polish Roads, dir. Janusz Morgenstern (1976-78)
  • Screenplay for symphony orchestra and tape (1977)
  • Trzy Pieśni Romantyczne / Three Romantic Songs for baritone and piano to the poems of Alexander Pushkin (1977-79)
  • Music for the film Lalka / The Doll, dir. Ryszard Ber (1977-78)
  • Psalm 60 per orchestra d'archi (1978)
  • Episodi per Tre for horn, harp and double bass (1978)
  • Capriccio per oboe solo (1978)
  • Nastroje / Moods for solo double bass (1979)
  • Szkic Krajobrazu / Landscape Sketch for strings (1979)
  • Te Deum per soprano ed organum (1979)
  • Music for the film Lekcja Martwego Języka / Lesson of a Dead Language, dir. Janusz Majewski (1979)
  • Pięć Pieśni wg Jana Kochanowskiego / Five Songs based on Jan Kochanowski for voice and string orchestra with piano (1980)
  • Sonet per archi (1980)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1980)
  • Music for the film Droga / Road, dir. Ryszard Ber (1980)
  • Capriccio a due per flauto e violoncello (1981)
  • Pięć Pieśni wg Czesława Miłosza / Five Songs based on Czesław Miłosz for voice and string orchestra with piano (1981)
  • Salve Regina for boys' choir and organ (1981)
  • Hail Mary [version I] for soprano and organ (1981)
  • Hail Mary [version II] for soprano and string quartet (1981)
  • Symphonic Poem No. 1 "In Verona" for mixed chorus and great symphony orchestra (1981)
  • Little String Quartet (1982)
  • String Quartet No. 2 "Stuttgart" (1982)
  • Drzeworyt 1 / Woodcut 1 for solo flute (1982)
  • Missa Brevis for soprano and organ (1982-83)
  • String Quartet No. 3 "Easter" (1983)
  • Drzeworyt 2 / Woodcut 2 for solo flute (1983)
  • Serenata per archi (1983)
  • Due Pezzi Semplici per organo solo (1983)
  • Three Psalms for alto and piano (1984)
  • Das Urteil der Zeit, 8 songs for tenor and piano (1984)
  • Two Songs from the "Carmina Burana" Cycle for medium voice and harpsichord (1984)
  • Duetto Lirico per violino e pianoforte (1984)
  • Tubesque per tuba solo (1985)
  • Symphonic Poem No. 2 'Godzina się zniża'&nbp / &nbp'The Hour Descends' for mixed chorus, piano concertante and great symphony orchestra (1985)
  • Tre Salmi per alto voce e pianoforte (ossia cembalo ossia organo) (1985)
  • Anima Christi I per soprano solo (1985)
  • Nord See Klänge [version I] for tape and ship's horns (1986)
  • Nord See Klänge [version II] for tape and any solo improviser (1986)
  • Due Altri Salmi per alto voce e pianoforte (1986)
  • Dormitina for string trio (1986)
  • Music for the film Nad Niemnem / On the Banks of the Niemen, dir. Zbigniew Kuźmiński (1986)
  • Blow the Wind for wind quintet (1987)
  • Seven Songs to Poems by Osip Mandelstam for alto and piano (1987)
  • Witraż w Miejscowości N. / Stained-glass Window in the Town of N. for 13 strings (1987)
  • Ave Maris Stella for soprano and cello (1987)
  • Anima Christi II per soprano e organo (1987-88)
  • Due Salmi Per Festa Dei Morti for alto, organ and string orchestra (1988)
  • Watsonbrass in Charge for brass quintet (1989)
  • Time For Jazz (Blow The Past) for wind quintet (1989)
  • Take on - Take off for orchestra (1990)
  • Gabriela per strumenti d'archi e pianoforte ossia cembalo (1990)
  • Music for the film Panny i Wdowy / Maidens and Widows, dir. Janusz Zaorski (1991)
  • Impromptu with Rosemary for solo harpsichord (1992)
  • Trio per tre per clarinetto, viola e pianoforte (1994)
  • New Year's Quartet for clarinet, trombone, cello and piano (1995)
  • Adagietto for voice, string quartet and piano (1996)
  • Dziesięć Notatek / Ten Memos for piano (1996-97)
  • Etto - "Kamienie Staromiejskie" / "Old Town Stones" for piano and strings (1997)
  • Three Songs based on Julia Hartwig [version I] for alto voice and piano (1997)
  • Three Songs based on Julia Hartwig [version II] for mezzo-soprano and piano (1997)
  • Msza za Miasto Warszawę / Warsaw Mass, Op. 61 for two low voices, mixed chorus, wind instruments and orchestra (1997-98)
  • Pavana per piano solo (1998)
  • Prayer for solo piano (1998)
  • El Dancion Sentimental for piano, violin and cello (1998)
  • String Quartet No. 4 "Of the Prayer" (1999)

Source: Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, April 2002; updated: April 2007.'s picture
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