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Jerzy Kornowicz

Jerzy Kornowicz, fot. Monika Kosińska
Jerzy Kornowicz, photo: Monika Kosińska

Composer, piano improviser and musical organiser. Many years' president of Polish Composers' Union. Director of International Festival of Contemporary Music 'Warsaw Autumn' since 2017.

Kornowicz is one of the founders of the intuitive music group Mud Cavaliers, which brings together improvising composers and authors of alternative and jazz music. He has performed with the group at numerous festivals, including 'Chopin and His Europe', Musica Polonica Nova, Warsaw Autumn, Audio Art in Cracow, Audio Art in Warsaw and Warsaw Music Encounters.

He studied composition under Tadeusz Baird and Marian Borkowski at the Academy of Music in Warsaw, and under Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague. He participated in international courses for composers in Kazimierz Dolny, Darmstadt and Villenueve-lez-Avignon and received scholarships from the Dutch government, the Polish Foundation of Culture and the British Council, among others.


He has written many compositions commissioned by festivals, institutes and eminent performers from Poland and abroad, including BBC Radio, Polish Radio, Polish Radio's Experimental Studio, the BBC Singers' Choir, the Warsaw Autumn festival, De Ereprijs Orchestra, the Joachim Quartet, the Praga Philharmonic and the Philharmonic of the City of Wrocław. His work is part of the repertoire of Elżbieta Chojnacka (winner of the Orpheus Award at Warsaw Autumn for Shapes of the Elements), Jerzy Maksymiuk, Krzysztof Bąkowski, the Modern Music Orchestra and the National Symphonic Orchestra of the Polish Radio, among others. Orchestras that have played his work include: Leopoldinum, Wratislavia, the Polish Chamber Orchestra Sinfonia Varsovia, Aukso, Weltblech and Melos Ethos Ensemble, as well as the choir of Schola Cantorum Gedanensis.

Kornowicz's compositions have been presented at Warsaw Autumn, World Music Days and the BBC Radio Festival, along with various festivals in Middelburg, Cheltelham, Paris, Lille, Bucharest, Minsk, Kiev, Odense, New York and Tokyo. His work has appeared on albums produced by BBC Music, Signum Classic, Acte Préalable and the Polish Music Information Centre. In 2000 his Interwoven Figures received a mention at the UNESCO International Composers' Tribune, while the orchestral piece Build-ups (2007) was one of only seven nominees for the first OPUS Public Media Musical Award in 2008. In 2014 his Great Spinning was shortlisted in the finals of the 1st Wrocław Music Award “Polonica Nova”.



Educational activities

From 1998 to 1990 Kornowicz served as chairman of the Polish Composers' Union Youth Circle, and from 1989 to 1992 and 2002 to 2007 he was a member of the board of the Polish Society for Contemporary Music. He co-organized the 2nd and 3rd Gdańsk Encounters of Young Composers Road (1989 and 1991), and helped to initiate the Lublin Accords and the Generations concerts on the Polish Radio. He was also the artistic curator of the Audio Art Festival in Warsaw and Sound Spaces at Warsaw's Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle. He started the Sound Academy, a series of educational concerts of modern music in Warsaw schools. He is the artistic curator of the 'Codes' Festival of Traditional and Avant-garde Music in Lublin as well as author and organiser of the annual event for free sound enthusiasts 'All-Polish Collection of Brand New and Second-Hand Sounds' since 2004.

He participated in the establishment of the European Composers Forum in Vienna, as well as the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance in Brussels. He has sat on the juries of a number of national and international composition competitions, including the Witold Lutosławski Competition in Warsaw, the Grzegorz Fitelberg Competition in Katowice and the Karol Szymanowski Competition in Warsaw. He has also lectured at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, and has appeared as a guest lecturer at several other universities in Poland and abroad. Since 1994, he has run his own musical education programme in schools that are members of the Culture and Education Association in Warsaw.

The composer has been actively involved in promoting the presence of music in public space, the awareness of music, access to artistic creations and to culture as a constituent of individual and social identity. He was one of the initiators of the Institute of Music and Dance, the Polish Music Convention, the programme of commissions for new music and online access to musical works. At present he is involved in the development of instruments for access to music recordings and publications.

From 2004 to 2006, Jerzy Kornowicz served as vice-president of the Minister of Culture's Council of NGO's. Between 2003 and 2015 he held the post of president of the Polish Composers’ Union. Since 2013 he is also the President of 'Creative Poland' association, which brings together Polish artists and creative industries. He is also the vice-President of the Music Programme Board of the Institute of Music and Dance. Since 2017 he has been the director of International Festival of Contemporary Music 'Warsaw Autumn'.

In 2005 he was awarded the Gloria Artis Medal for Merit to Culture, in 2008 – the ZAiKS Polish Society of Authors and Composers Award for his contributions to the promotion of Polish music, and in May 2014 – the Cavalier’s Cross of the Polonia Restituta Order.



Postmodern approach

Kornowicz is part of a generation that took a bolder approach to musical tradition than did earlier generations, sometimes even turning its back on it altogether. Responding to the avant-garde movement of the 1950's and 60's, the previous generation of musicians referred to tradition in a way that could be described as postmodernist stylistics. In this context, Kornowicz could be classified as a postmodernist composer, at least with respect to works like Coma Berenices for piano, Interwoven Figures for chamber orchestra and Shape of the Elements for harpsichord and tape. These composition are free from neo-romantic emotionalism, neoclassical cadenza passages and neo-Baroque rhythm formulae; they are simply celebrations of imagination and sound. But Kornowicz does not treat the question of music with the purist attitude of the avant-garde. He takes a casual approach, freely combining different styles, aesthetics and sources of sound, and in this respect he is more similar to the postmodernists.

Kornowicz's open approach to his composition is also "postmodern". He plays with different musical genres without limiting himself to that which is considered 'serious" (namely, classical music). He composes music for the theatre and for films, and writes songs and audio illustrations for literary-musical radio programmes. His work has been performed at the Festival of Polish Music in Opole and during the Gala of Singing Actors' Festival in Wrocław. He helps set the trends in experimental theatre and computer animation, an example of which is his Renesis for natural sounds, shadows and electrostatic stained-glass windows at Tadeusz Wierzbicki's Phenomena Laboratory. Last but not least, Kornowicz is involved in music pedagogy and organizational activities. He is one of the organizers of the Gdańsk Encounters of Young Composers "Road", Laboratories of Contemporary Chamber Music in Stara Wieś, the International Summer Courses for Young Polish Composers (organized by the Society of Contemporary Music) and concerts of the Young Circle of ZKP. He has also assisted the Concert Committee of the Polish Composers' Union and helped work on programmes for concerts of the Authors' Society ZAiKS.

Selected compositions

  • Interactions for 6 percussionists (1982)
  • Transmission for solo piano (1983)
  • Written in Poland for tape (1984)
  • Harmonikos for orchestra (1984)
  • Tibet I for tape (1985)
  • Totale for orchestra (1985)
  • Off Reduction for solo violin (1986)
  • Tukuang – Plateau of Phoenixes for 5-octave marimbaphone (1987)
  • Fractus for solo double-bass (1988)
  • The Round for 3 actors-percussionists (1988)
  • Report for alto flute and electronic echo (1990)
  • Coma Berenices for solo piano (1990)
  • Little Pavan for violin and piano (1993)
  • Breathing and Dust for chamber orchestra (1993)
  • Pavanette for violin and piano (1993)
  • Puzzler for chamber orchestra (1995)
  • Ceaseless Spinning of Matter for solo violin (1996)
  • Rollin'song for saxophone quartet (1997)
  • Interwoven Figures for chamber orchestra (1998-99)
  • Metanoia for harpsichord and tape (1998)
  • Four Poems to the texts of Czesław Miłosz for voice and piano (1999)
  • Shapes of the Elements for harpsichord and tape (2000)
  • Awaiting for mixed choir (2000)
  • Build-ups for piano quintet (2001)
  • Renesis for sounds of nature (2001)
  • Charms for mixed choir (2001)
  • Luminosity for violin and piano (2001)
  • The Ribbon of Purple (In the clutches of waltz) for piano (2002)
  • Four Streams for strings (2003)
  • Twilights I - In Praga for symphony orchestra (2004)
  • Twilights II - Ereprijs for chamber orchestra (2004-2005)
  • Twilights III - Weltblech for brass instruments and percussion ensemble (2005)
  • Twilights IV – Melos Ethos for 15 performers (2006)
  • Scenes from Infinity for instrumental ensemble, vocal ensemble and live electronics (2006)
  • Build-ups for orchestra (2007)
  • Two Songs to Texts of Chopin’s Songs for soprano and piano (2010)
  • Scenes from Bulgakov for chamber orchestra and improvising computer (2010)
  • Bells of Nielisz for two pianos (2011)
  • Scenes from Bulgakov – 'Minsk' for chamber orchestra and tape (2011)
  • Oblivion Stones from the cycle Photographic Scores – version for photos and two pianos – improvised music to photos by Mariusz Wideryński, with Szabolcs Esztényi; concept of the series by: Ryszard Latecki and Mariusz Wideryński (2011)
  • Bells of Saint- Acheul for two pianos and sampler (2012)
  • The Hour of Metamorphoses – Echo, King Midas and the Swans– a musical expedition based on themes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, edited by Anna Kamieńska (2012)
  • Silence of Sounds – Towards Sz. E. for piano and live electronics (2013)
  • Great Passage for symphony orchestra with concertante instruments (2013)
  • Great Spinning for big-band and soloists (2014) 

Author: Małgorzata Kosińska, Polish Music Information Center (Polmic), Polish Composers' Union, October 2002; updated: June 2016, AG.'s picture
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