Composer, born on the 20th of October, 1943, in Lviv.
Elżbieta Sikora graduated from the Department of Sound Engineering of the Higher State School of Music in Warsaw. Here, she studied under Antoni Karużas. In the years 1968-70 she studied electroacoustic music in Paris at Groupe de Recherches Musicales under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer and François Bayle. After returning to Warsaw she studied in Tadeusz Baird’s and Zbigniew Rudziński’s composition class at the Higher State School of Music in Warsaw. In 1973 together with Krzysztof Knittel and Wojciech Michniewski Sikora founded the composer’s group KEW, alongside which she performed at concerts in Poland, Sweden, Austria and Germany. She has lived in France since 1981.
Sikora participated in a computer music course at IRCAM and furthered her education in the field of composition by studying under Betsy Jolas. As a scholarship holder of the French government, the City of Mannheim and the Kościuszko Foundation, she worked under the direction of John Chowning at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics in California.
I`ve been to France before and it had already captivated me - Sikora says in an interview with Wojciech Sitarz - My mom was a francophile, she graduated from classical philology faculty and tried to teach me the language. She didn’t succeed eventually, but I started to be interested in France and it became a predictable destination. I hitchhiked to get there, and a trip during which I have visited whole of Europe, lasted two months.
In 1999 she received the title of doctor of composition from the Academy of Music in Wrocław. From 1985 to 2008 she was a professor of the Conservatory in Angoulême, where she currently leads classes in composition of electroacoustic music. She also leads sound workshops at Ecole Supérieure de l'Image in Angoulême.
I started composing electronic music in 1968, when it has already had a long history and it was in a full bloom - Elżbieta Sikora said in the Polish Radio. - Since then, technology has changed a lot. In 1981, I happened to be in the French IRCAM (Centre for Research and Coordination of Acoustics and Music), where there were huge computers. In order to compose, you had to learn the program. For most musicians, and for myself, it was a stage of "suspension" in anticipation of a more friendly technology. And it quickly appeared. Hence, in these days, composing electronic music is so easy that anyone can do it.
The first operatic attempt of Elżbieta Sikora was 'Ariadne' created in 1977. The composer emphasized in interviews that at that time she did not consider opera as an attractive and adequate form of expression to engage the public. In 1995 the Grand Theatre – National Opera in Warsaw staged Elżbieta Sikora’s opera “Wyrywacz serc”. The performance was directed by Mariusz Treliński. In 1997 a French language version of this opera was shown at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
In Sikoras’ operas , like in her songs, for instance Le Chant de Salomon (1992), the predominantly mesmerizing factor is the sound of vocal parts – wrote Weronika Nowak in Meakultura.pl – The variety of styles of singing and vocal techniques, such as bel canto, melorecitation, whisper or shout, is used by the composer as a tool for creating a wide range of moods, stretched somewhere between introverted lyricism and expansive drama.
On the 15th of November at the UNESCO hall in Paris, on occasion of the International Year of Chemistry and on the 100th anniversary of awarding Maria Skłodowska-Curie the Nobel Prize, the world pre-premiere of the opera “Madame Curie” took place. It was directed by Marek Weiss-Grzesiński and was realized by the troupe of the Gdańsk National Baltic Opera under the supervision of Wojciech Michniewski who was the musical director of the performance. The electroacoustic fragments were prepared by the composer at INA/GRM in Paris in collaboration with Diego Los. The Polish premiere of “Madame Curie” took place on the 25th of November 2011 at the Baltic Opera in Gdańsk. DVD with the recording of the opera receiwed the prestigious award from French Académie du Disque Lyrique.
Elżbieta Sikora has received many awards. She was granted, amongst others, the 2nd award at the Carl Maria von Weber Competition in Drezden in 1978 for the opera “Ariadna” (“Ariadne”; 1977), distinctions at the Competition of Electroacoustic Music in Bourges in 1980 for the pieces “Lettres à M. pour bande” (1980) and “Ziemia jałowa” (“Barren Land”; 1979) which was written for tape, 1st place at the Female Composers’ Competition in Mannheim in 1982 for the piece “Guernica - hommage à Pablo Picasso” (1975-79) for mixed choir, two SACEM awards in 1994: Prix pédagogique for "Chant' Europe pour trois choeurs d'enfants et orchestre de chambre" (1993) and Prix du printemps for her entire output. In 1996 the French Association of Dramatic Authors and Composers gave her an award for the opera “Wyrywacz serc” (“Heart Extractor”; 1984-86). In 1997 she was distinguished with the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. In 2004 the French Minister of Culture bestowed upon her the highest French distinction - Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2002 she received the Special Distinction of the Paris Jury de l'Académie du Disque Lyrique for "Le Chant de Salomon" (1992) for soprano and instrumental ensemble and "Eine Rose als Stütze" (2000) for soprano and piano, which was released on the album Chant du Monde/Harmondia Mundi. In 2008 she was awarded a prize in the vote Sztorm Roku which was organised by the newspaper “Gazeta Wyborcza” - her “Koncert Oliwski” (“Oliwa Concerto; 2007) for organ and orchestra won in the classical music category. Elżbieta Sikora was the artistic director of the 2011 edition of the Wrocław “Musica Electronica Nova” festival.
Elżbieta Sikora’s pieces have been performed at the Warsaw Autumn festival, the Poznań Musical Spring festival, the Avignon Festival, Festival Estival in Paris, Syntèse in Bourges, Festival ICMC in Bucharest, Brighton L'Espace du Son, Festival Acousmatique de Bruxelles, Fylkingen in Stockholm, Dresden Music Festspiele, the Braunschweig Festival, Berlin Festspiele, the Alexandria Festival of the Arts, the Bath – Newcastle Festival, the Heidelberg New Music Festival, Antidogma Musica in Turin, Festival International de Musica Electroacustica in Havana, the Seoul International Computer Music Festival in South Korea, the EMF Festival in New York and the International Festival of Today's Music in New York. Her compositions were published by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, Chant du Monde, Stokłosa Editions and Adriane Verlag.
Sikora’s pieces have been performed by ensembles of the Grand Theatre – National Opera in Warsaw, the Ballet of Monte Carlo, the Annabella Gonzales Dance Theater, Centre Pompidou, the Polish National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra, the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra, the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre Poitou-Charentes, Orchestre Stadt Ulm, the Wilanów Quintet, Camerata Varsovia, Ensemble Itinéraire, Ensemble 2E2M, Ensemble Aventure, the Heidelberg Festival Ensemble and the Danel Quartet. Sikora’s compositions were performed under the direction of such conductors as Antoni Wit, Michel Tabachnik, Pascal Verrot, Wojciech Michniewski, Jacek Kaspszyk, Gabriel Chmura, Tadeusz Wojciechowski, Annick Minck, Jean Thorel and James-Alain Gaehres. Sikora’s pieces have been recorded by the Polish Radio, WRD and Radio France.
Elżbieta Sikora’s website: www.elzbietasikora.com
Author: Małgorzata Kosińska, Polish Music Information Centre, Association of Polish Composers, July 2002, updated: December 2011, updated: August 2014
Translated by: Marek Kępa