Conductor, composer and teacher. Born 16 June 1923 in Grudziądz, died 16 January 2003 in Warsaw
Conductor, composer and teacher. Born 16 June 1923 in Grudziądz, died 16 January 2003 in Warsaw. Czyż was one of Poland’s most famous conductors as well a significant composer, and leader in contemporary Polish music - a passion to which he devoted most of his active professional life.
Henryk Czyż, photo: courtesy of POLMIC
Henryk Czyż was one of Poland’s most famous conductors as well a significant composer, and leader in contemporary Polish music - a passion to which he devoted most of his active professional life. His own compositions constituted his most personal input into Polish contemporary music. He composed throughout his life and his operas have a place of their own in the landscape of Polish 20th Century music. He revealed his aspirations as a composer by joining the Polish Composers’ Union in 1952 after previously having been a member of the Youth Circle of the Polish Composers’ Union. He later became a Board Member and actively participated in the activities of the Union while sitting on many of its various committees.
Through his conducting he became a very significant contributor to Polish contemporary music. His composer colleagues profited hugely from his promotion and generosity. One early and important collaboration was with Krzysztof Penderecki during the 1960s that included the first performances of "St Luke Passion", "Dies irae" or "The Devils from Loudun", as well as the performances of many other works in numerous countries. The recording of the "Passion" under Czyż’s conduction won the most prestigious record awards and spread the fame of Krzysztof Penderecki’s music throughout the world.
He began his career studying Law and Philosophy at the Mikołaj Kopernik University in Toruń from 1946 - 1948. In 1952, he graduated from the State Higher School of Music in Poznań where he studied composition with Tadeusz Szeligowski and conducting with Valerian Berdyaev. During the years 1952-53, he conducted in the Stanisław Moniuszko Opera in Poznań and between 1953-57 he was second conductor of the Grand Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio. From 1957 through 1960 he served as the artistic director and first conductor of the Łódź Philharmonic and from 1961-62 as the conductor at the Opera in Warsaw. From 1963-1967 he was the artistic director and first conductor of the Cracow Philpharmonic.
As an educator, he taught conducting at the State Higher School of Music in Cracow from 1962 to 1966 where Antoni Wit was one of his many students. In 1971-74, he held the position of Generalmusikdirektor in Düsseldorf, and at the same time he was the artistic director and first conductor at the Łódź Philharmonic. Between 1980-95, he taught classes in conducting at the Academy of Music in Warsaw.
Henryk Czyż music has been performed throughout Europe, South America and the United States. He conducted the Leningrad, Berlin, Stockholm, Madrid, BBC and Santa Cecilia philharmonic orchestras. He recorded with such recording companies as Polskie Nagrania, Philips, Harmonia Mundi, Miełodija, and Electra winning numerous international awards, among them, the Grand Prix du Disque and the Edisona Award for recording Krzysztof Penderecki’s "Passion" (Philips, 1967), and the Grand Prix Mondial for the quadrophonic recording for Robert Schumann’s "Paradise and the Peri" (Electra, 1974).
His wide repertoire included oratorium, classical and contemporary music. He introduced many works by Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Honegger and Claude Debussy to the Polish opera and concert stages. As mentioned before, he cooperated closely with Krzysztof Penderecki between 1966-69, conducting the first performance of "Passion", "Dies irae", and the "Devils from Loudun" and presenting his work in many countries.
He published numerous books on the subject of music including such titles as: "Ucieczka spod klucza" (The Flight from the Clef) (Warszawa 1973), "Porcelanowy amorek" (China Cupid) (Warszawa 1977), "Jak z nut" (By the Notes) (Warszawa 1978), "Serkal i inne tizery" (Serkal and other teasers)(Łódź 1978), "Nie taki diabeł straszny - gawędy telewizyjne" (Don’t Be Afraid of the Devil – TV Tales) (Łódź 1979), "Tizery" (Teasers)(Warszawa 1982), "Scrip-tease" (Warszawa 1988), "Pamiętam jak dziś" (I Remember As If It Were Today) (Warszawa 1993), "Niewczesne żarty" (Ill-timed jokes) (Warszawa 1995).
Henryk Czyż was awarded with the Golden Cross of Merit (1953), the Knight’s Cross of the Polonia Restituta Order (1958), First Degree Award of the Minister of Culture and Arts (1975), the First Degree State Award for lifetime achievement (1978).
Henryk Czyż possessed an exceptional talent for popularising contemporary music. He wrote extensively about contemporary music in an engaging way, and often spoke about it on television programmes - publicly demonstrating his genuine involvement and deep faith in its value. He was able to reach out to enthusiasts and convince the sceptics about the value of contemporary music. He was one of those rare truly Renaissance-type figures and he is greatly missed by the Polish music world. The loss of his passing will be only partially alleviated by his marvellous recordings, TV programmes and books.
More important compositions:
• "Shepherdess" for high-pitched voice and piano (1941)
• "Triptych" for symphony orchestra (1948)
• "Farewells", three songs for low-pitched voice and piano to the words by Alexander Pushkin (1948)
• "Etude" for symphony orchestra (1948-49)
• "Wedding", cantata for tenor, mixed choir and orchestra to the words by Bruno Jasieński (1949)
• "Divertimento B-dur" [version 1] for chamber orchestra (1949-50)
• "Concertino" for piano and orchestra (1949-62)
• "Quartet for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon" (1950)
• "Symphonic Variations on a Polish Theme" for orchestra (1950-52)
• "Piano Variations" (1951)
• "Rondo" for piano and small symphony orchestra (1952)
• "Dance Impressions" for small symphony orchestra (1952)
• "Overture" for symphony orchestra (1954)
• "White-Haired", musical (1962)
• "Two Buffo Arias" for bass voice and piano to the words of the composer (1964-74)
• "Three humorous songs" for low-pitched voice and piano (1964)
• "Bałandaszek’s Aria" for tenor voice from the unfinished opera "Them" after Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (1965)
• "The Baffled Cynologist", comic opera in 1 act (1965)
• "Musical Dreams", two songs for soprano and piano (1966)
• "Divertimento B-dur" [version 2] for chamber orchestra (1977)
• "Divertimento" per otto (1977)
• "Kreutzer Etude no.1 a-moll" for string orchestra (1979)
• "Kreutzer Etude no.2 C-dur" for symphony orchestra (1979)
• "Kreutzer Etude no.8 E-dur" for symphony orchestra (1979)
• "Jazz Etude" for string quartet (1982)
• "Canzona di barocco" for string orchestra (1983)
• "Rondo" for flutes and double-bass (1992)
• "Joy of Swinging Music", dance suite for flute quarter and double-bass (1995)
• "Triptych" for voice and string orchestra (1999)
Polish Music Information Centre, Polish Composers’ Union, January 2003.