Table of contents: | Early Life | Career | Metropolis | Major Works | Film Score Works | Theatre music works |
He was born to a family of well-known Kraków musicians. His mother, Barbara Wrońska-Korzeniowska is a cellist, therefore Abel graduated in the cello class from the Academy of Music in 1996. In 2000 he graduated with honours from the Faculty of the Composition, Conducting and Music Theory. He also worked as an assistant under Krzysztof Penderecki between 1999 and 2000. From the very beginning of his career he devoted himself to composing music for theatrical plays and films. His compositions were performed at the most important music festivals in Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus.
His first major success came in 2000 when he won an individual prize – a Golden Lion for Best Film Score at the Gdynia Film Festival for his music for Jerzy Stuhr’s Duże Zwierzę (The Big Animal)
One year later The Cinema magazine listed him as one of the seven most significant Polish film music composers. He also received a nomination for the Golden Duck Award given by The Film monthly.
In 2001 his first symphonic piece had its first run. A preview of Hypnosis, performed by Sinfonietta Cracovia under the baton of Krzysztof Penderecki, took place in Berlin and was broadcast on German radio. In 2002 he became a laureate of the Ludwik Krakowski Prize, given by Kraków's theatrical society, for music for the play Kafka. Soon he had a chance to cooperate with Borys Lankosz, with whom he made music for a documentary, Rozwój (Evolution). In the same year he received a commission from Polish television to compose music for a series by Krzysztof Lang, Prawdziwe Psy (Real Cops).
Among his works, he regards the music for Człowiek Którego Nie Ma (Nowhere Man) as a very significant experience. The film tells the story of Chechen refugees, which made a deep and tragic impression on the author, as well as receiving a Findlings-Preis at the dokumentART - European Film Festival for Documentaries.
Korzeniowski composed the music for the adaptation of François Villon’s 15th century work Le Testament. The play was staged in Toruń in 2002 and was directed by Marta Stebnicka. Another important work by Abel Korzeniowski is the music for Shakespeare The Tempest staged in the Polski Theatre. His idea was to give the lead to rarely used instruments, such as the cornetto (a type of a wooden trumpet, not widely used in contemporary classical music but popular in the 16th century).
In 2005, Jerzy Stuhr made him another offer and commissioned music for Pogoda Na Jutro (Tomorrow’s Wheather). Korzeniowski received a Golden Knight Award for this at the Chelyabinsk Film Festival in Russia.
Korzeniowski’s film score for the silent film Metropolis by Fritz Lang is considered to be his biggest challenge so far. It was created for the purpose of a major Polish film festival – Era New Horizons. The film was shown with music performed live in Cieszyn in 2004. The 90-member Sinfonietta Cracovia performed the music and was accompanied by a 42–member main choir and a 60-member backing choir. Anna Witczak and Novika (Katarzyna Nowicka), folk and popular music singers, performed solo vocal parts. In an interview for Polityka weekly from 24th July 2004 the composer said:
It took me two years to prepare for composing this music and another six months to write down all of my ideas. The director’s vision of the future society, divided between the race of slaves and the race of masters, was born out of Lang’s admiration for 1920s New York. My role was not to add another layer of illustration to this classical piece but to attempt to interpret this movie in a modern way. Being totally artistically free I wrote quite a complex tune, lasting 147 minutes (as long as the original version of Metropolis). I named it The Symphony of Fear. It is a musical journey into the inside of the human brain suffused with fear.
The music is composed so that it should be perfectly synchronized with the film. Because of that, the main conductor, besides the score, has two monitors on his desktop, one where he can view the film and the second, a time code enabling synchronization of the music with the motion picture.
In the spring 2005 Korzeniowski signed a recording contract with Evolution Music Partners, one of the biggest agencies representing film music composers working for the Hollywood film industry. Soon he settled down in Los Angeles, where he wrote the music for five American feature films, one short and one animated film.
His soundtrack for the elegant gay drama A Single Man directed by Tom Ford (2010), won the San Diego Film Critics Society Award in the best music score category, World Soundtrack Award, as well as the International Film Music Critics Association's award for the best music score. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Two years later he was nominated again for W.E. – a film about the affair of Edward VIII with Wallis Simpson – directed by the pop icon Madonna (2012). In an interview for website Prosto o Muzyce given on 22nd January 2015, Korzeniowski said:
I work with someone who has always been at the very peak of popular culture, someone who seemed inaccessible. Before Madonna visited our home, we met a few times and spoke on the phone. When she tried to explain something and it was easier for her to sing a tune, I thought: Oh my God, it's Madonna singing my music into my ear! On the other hand I had to focus on work. It was a very colorful, multidimentional experience.
The music composed by Korzeniowski for the Victorian horror Penny Dreadful turned out to be a great success as well: he was nominated for two Primetime Emmy awards and received the British TV BAFTA Award for 2014. Korzeniowski was also the uncontested winner of 2014 International Film Music Critics Association Awards. He received two awards for his music for Carl Carlei's Romeo and Juliet - Best Film Score of the Year, and Best Original Score for a Drama Film - as well as the Film Composer of the Year award, beating celebrated composers such as Howard Shore, Brian Tyler and Theodore Shapiro.
In Poland he worked on the score for A Grain of Truth directed by Borys Lankosz and based on the novel by Zygmunt Miłoszewski. About his return to Poland he said:
What was unique in A Grain of Truth, was working with my childhood friend, which made the whole process smooth. Borys feels music, knows what it is capable of. As a director he lets people work without pressure, doesn't hasten. The score itself was mostly based on electronic music. We recorded only a few live instruments.
International Film Music Critics Association acknowledged his work once again in 2017, awarding his soundtrack for Nocturnal Animals, directed by Tom Ford. Since 2017, Abel Korzeniowski has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
- Pastel Quartet / Kwartet Pastelowy for string quartet (1997)
- Logos for symphonic orchestra (1999)
- Logos II for string orchestra (2000)
- Hypnosis for symphonic orchestra (2001)
Film Score Works
- Film score for Duże Zwierzę dir. Jerzy Stuhr (2000)
- Film score for Rozwój dir. Borys Lankosz (2001)
- Film score for Prawdziwe psy dir. Patryk Vega and Krzysztof Lang (2001)
- Film score for Anioł w Krakowie dir. Artur "Baron" Więcek (2002)
- Film score for Człowiek, którego nie ma dir. Mariusz Malec (2002)
- Film score for Pogoda na jutro dir. Jerzy Stuhr (2003)
- Film score for Prawdziwe psy - Krzysiek i Sławek dir. Krzysztof Lang (2003)
- Film score for "Metropolis" dir. Fritz Lang (film from 1927, music composed in 2004)
- Film score for The Half Life of Timofey Berezin dir. Scott Z. Burns (2006)
- Film score for Kurc dir. Borys Lankosz (2006)
- Film score for Terra dir. Igor Kujawski and Aristomenis Tsirbas (2007)
- Film score for Tickling Leo dir. Jeremy Davidson (2008)
- Film score for Confessions of a Go-go Girl dir. Grant Harvey (2008)
- Film score for A Single Man dir. Tom Ford (2009)
- Film score for Gwiazda Kopernika dir. Zdzisław Kudła and Andrzej Orzechowski (2009)
- Film score for Romeo and Juliet dir. Carl Carlei
- Film score for W.E. dir. Madonna (2012)
- Film score for Escape from tomorrow, dir. Randy Moore (2013)
- Film score for the TV series Penny Dreadful, dir. John Logan (2014)
- Film score for A Grain of Truth, dir. Borys Lankosz (2015)
- Film score for Nocturnal Animals, dir. Tom Ford (2016)
- Film score for The Nun, dir. Corin Hardy (2018)
Theatre music works
- Music for the play Faust dir. Jerzy Jarocki, Stary Teatr in Kraków (1997)
- Music for the play The Merry Wives of Windsor dir. Jerzy Stuhr, Teatr Ludowy in Kraków - Nowa Huta (1998)
- Music for the play Kafka dir. Tomasz Wysocki, Teatr Ludowy in Kraków, Nowa Huta (2001)
- Music for the play Franciszek Villon na dworcu... dir. Marta Stebnicka, Teatr Wilama Horzycy in Toruń (2002)
- Music for the play The Tempest dir. Jarosław Kilian, Teatr Polski in Warsaw (2003)
- Music for the play Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále w dir. Piotr Cieślak, Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw (2003)
- Music for the play 2007: Macbeth dir. Grzegorz Jarzyna, Teatr Rozmaitości in Warszawie (2005)
- Music for the play Odyseja dir. Jarosław Kilian, Teatr Polski in Warsaw (2005)
Originally written in Polish by Marek Dusza, January 2010; translated by W.O. 25.02.2014; updated by MG, March 2019.