Marta Ptaszynska

  • Marta Ptaszynska, an internationally acclaimed composer, born in Warsaw, Poland and since 1972 living in the United States, has been enjoying a many-faceted career as a composer, percussionist, and a teacher. She is the author of such well-known works as the Concerto for Marimba, Winter’s Tale, Sonnets to Orpheus, and Moon Flowers, as well as numerous composition for percussion (Siderals, Graffito, Spider Walk, Space Model, Letter to the Sun) which have been performed often around the world. Ptaszynska has received commissions from orchestras including Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Polish Chamber Orchestra, W. Lutoslawski’s Symphony Orchestra and Sinfonia Varsovia, from the National Opera in Warsaw in Poland, from the Polish Television, and from artists such as contralto Ewa Podles, marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe, and percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Her television opera Oscar of Alva, produced by the Cracow Television, received both audience and critical acclaim at the International Festival in Salzburg in 1989. Her opera for children, Mister Marimba, which has been in the repertory of the National Opera in Warsaw since 1998, has enjoyed phenomenal success and popularity for seven consecutive seasons with 114 performances.

    Her Holocaust Memorial Cantata gained international recognition when performed several times in 1993 under the baton of Lord Yehudi Menuhin. Marta Ptaszynska has been honored with many prizes and awards, including the 2006 Benjamin H. Danks Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Fromm Music Foundation Award, Alfred Jurzykowski Award in New York, multiple ASCAP Awards, the Award at the International Rostrum of Composers at the UNESCO in Paris, awards from the Percussive Arts Society, and from the Union of Polish Composer. In 1995, she received the “Officer Cross of Merit” of the Republic of Poland.

    Her music has been performed at prestigious international festivals, including ISCM World Music Days, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Salzburg Festival, the Warsaw Autumn International Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the Gulbenkian Foundation New Music Festival, the Prix Futura in Berlin, and many others.

    In her native Poland, Ptaszynska studied composition at the Academies of Music, both, in Warsaw and in Poznan. Also, she worked privately with Witold Lutoslawski, who later became her mentor. As a French Government’s grant recipient, she studied in the early seventies with Nadia Boulanger and attended Olivier Messiaen’s analysis classes at the Paris Conservatory. In 1974, she received an Artist Diploma Degree in Percussion Performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music in Cleveland, where she worked with Cloyd Duff, Richard Weiner, and Donald Erb. Widely acclaimed as a virtuoso percussionist, for several decades she has performed extensively as a soloist percussionist, and has participated in many European and American festivals.

    Her distinguished career as a composition teacher includes professorships at Bennington College in Vermont, the University of California in Berkeley and in Santa Barbara, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Indiana University in Bloomington, and Northwestern University in Evanston. In 1998, Ptaszynska was appointed a Professor of Music and in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. Since 2005 she holds an endowed chair and is a Helen & Frank Sulzberger Professor of Composition.

    Ptaszynska’s commissions include the work Fanfare Peace for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra centennial, the opera for children Mister Marimba for the National Opera in Warsaw, Poland, orchestral work Inverted Mountain for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Winter’s Tale for the Polish Chamber Orchestra, Moon Flowers for BBC in England, a percussion work Linear Constructions In Spacefor Sudwestdeutsche Rundfunk in Baden-Baden in Germany, Drum of Orfeo – Concerto for Percussion for Evelyn Glennie, Mosaics for Pacifica String Quartet, Four Portraits for the Wilanov String Quartet, the arrangement of Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations for Safri Duo, Silver Echoes for the Kosciuszko Foundation’s 75th Anniversary, Scherzo di Fantasia for International Women’s Brass Conference, Sinfonia Wratislavia for the 50th anniversary of the W. Lutoslawski Symphony Orchestra and many others.

    As a percussionist she has been performing extensively as a soloist and a chamber player, and has participated in many European and American festivals. Many compositions for percussion were written and dedicated to her. In 1986 she co-founded the International Percussion Workshops in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

    She often serves as a judge at international and national competitions for composers and percussionists, such as the International Competition for Musical Performers in Geneva, Switzerland, K. Serocki International Composers Contest in Warsaw, ASCAP Composers Contest in New York, PAS Composition Contests, and K. Penderecki’s International Contest for Contemporary Music in Cracow, Poland.

    In 1965-70 Ptaszynska was a president of the Circle of Young Composers of the Union of Polish Composers in Poland. Also, in the years 1981-84 she served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Percussive Arts Society (PAS) in the U.S. In 1991 she co-founded and for several years was vice president of the American Society of Polish Music in New York. Currently she is a member of ASCAP, the Percussive Arts Society, and the Polish Music Reference Center in Los Angeles, and serves on the board of the International Alliance of Women Composers.

    As an artistic adviser, she arranged the music program of two Polish music festivals which took place at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in New York in 1994 and 1996.

    Her music is published by PWM (Polish Music Publications) in Poland and by Theodore Presser in the U.S., also by the Fallen Leaf Press in Berkeley, CA and B. Willson Publishing Co. in New York. Her works are recorded on Muza Polish Records, Olympia, Chandos, ProViva, Bayers Records, DUX, and Polygram-CD Accord labels.

    In 2002 Polish Music Publications in Cracow, Poland released a book about her music entitled Music : The Most Perfect Language, Conversations With Marta Ptaszynska.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    114-40536 Graffito
    For Solo Marimba
    12:00 Percussion Unaccompanied
    114-40550 Six Bagatelles
    For Solo Harp
    114-40634 Space Model
    For Solo Percussion
    12:00 Percussion
    114-40734 Spider Walk
    For Solo Percussion
    8:00 Percussion Unaccompanied
    Chamber Ensemble
    114-40620 Mobile
    For Two Percussionists
    14422 Siderals
    for 2 Percussion Quintets and Lighting Projection
    14416 Fanfare for Peace
    5:00 3(Picc.) 2 2 3(Cbsn.) – 4 4 3 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    14420 Ode to Praise All Famous Women
    for Orchestra
    12:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 0; Timp. 2Perc. Str.
    14425 A Winter’s Tale
    (La novella d’inverno)
    9:00 String Orchestra (9 0 4 3 1)
    Orchestra w/ Soloist(s)
    14410 Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra
    30:00 Solo Marim.; 2 2 2 4(2Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; 4Perc. Hp. Str.
    14412 Concerto Grosso
    for Two Solo Violins and Chamber Orchestra
    13:00 2Vln. soli; 2 2 2 2 – 0 0 0 0; 2Perc. Str.
    Vocal / Choral
    14423 Die Sonnette an Orpheus
    for Medium Voice and Chamber Orchestra
    14:00 Med. Voice, 1 1 1 1 – 2 1 0 0; 2Perc. Hp. Str.

  • “She is a master of colorful, fantastical moods and feelings.”
    –Ted Shen, Chicago Reader

    “…without doubt [Ptaszynska] is an international composer… [she creates] a highly original concept of the sonic palette, which emphasizes the chromatic, the mosaic, and the expressive, and is achieved by various, oftentimes avant-garde, means of expressio
    –Zbigniew Granat (trans. Julia Rafalska),

    “This attribute [colorful and sensual strata of sounds and lyricism] … reveals itself in the music of Marta Ptaszynska with an intensity unlike in any other Polish contemporary composer. [She] mesmerizes the listener by the tasteful beauty of sonorous sou
    –Tadeusz Andrzej Zielinski (trans. Marta Ptaszynska),

    “Ptaszynska’s music is unique; she has the uncanny ability to compose with a variety of musical possibilities and is committed to the individuality of the final product… Her works are vastly admired for their overwhelming beauty that challenges the musica
    –Jane Weiner LePage,

    “Although the piece is clearly immersed in the new sound aesthetics, the composer avoids any artificial extremism and is not afraid of employing certain selected elements of tradition. In this way, she creates an original and suggestive style in matters o
    –Barbara Smolenska-Zielinska, Percussive Notes

    “Lyrical and fanciful expression materializes most beautifully in Sonnets, designed tastefully with refined tone colors, each with individual and very specific intervallic and harmonic climate.”
    –Olgierd Pisarenko, The Music Movement (Warsaw, Poland)

    “…a demonstration of a successfully integrated, yet novel, compositional approach. This work… has a diversity and spaciousness which is impressive. The manner in which musical actions and consequences follow upon each other in an allusive texture, effecti
    –Mark Behm, Perspectives of New Music

    “It is a powerful, strangely haunting work, written by an artist of complete integrity. Demanding unusual acoustical effects from all the performers and great technical skill, the work is particularly taxing for the singers.”
    –Kenneth A. Brown, Santa Barbara News Press

    “…It was compelling for its luminous counterpoint, echo effects and orchestral colors.”
    –Janelle Gelfand, The Cincinnati Enquirer

    “Composer Marta Ptaszynska’s Fanfare for Peace, written for the CSO centennial, opened the concert with muted trumpet calls and brash harmonies worthy of Beethoven himself.”
    –Mary Ellyn Hutton, The Cincinnati Post

    “The work… crowns the Polish composer’s output in the domain of public, monumental music devoted to events and causes that she deeply cares about. The Cantata acquires a universality beyond the limits of its title. The text becomes even more dramatic and
    –Maria Anna Harley-Trochimczyk,

    “The Cantata is a remarkable piece and has an enormous impact, a real power, which conveys the voices of the victims.”
    –Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Polish Television interview

    ” …profoundly moving and ultimately inspirational work”
    –Anshe Chesed, Fairmount Bulletin (Cleveland)

    “Listening to Holocaust Memorial Cantata was a shattering experience. I had difficulty sleeping that evening because the music, the words, and the form kept repeating in my head. I was a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. I have visit
    –Rabbi Bernard S. Raskas (Temple of Aaron, St. Paul),

    “…a strong, fascinating work.”
    –Robert Sherman, WQXR (New York)

    “Ptaszynska’s icy-beautiful piece for strings… was a hit.”
    –Ray Cooklis, The Cincinnati Enquirer

    “…one of the most interesting works heard… She was able, using only the resources of string instruments, to create amazingly varied sound colors.”
    –Jonathan Kramer, Musical America

    “In this particularly successful composition,… Ptaszynska presented a sound vision of dreamlike fantasies in a very suggestive and unusually attractive musical construction. Reaching for the music of Venetian composer, Ptaszynska did it so gracefully an
    –Tadeusz Zielinski, Ruch Muzyczny

    ” …equally spellbinding Liquid Light for mezzo-soprano, piano and percussion, featuring the brilliance of the composer,…evoked gentle and colourful pictures of the Caribbean in a rich warm light.”
    –Malcolm Cruise, Huddersfield

    “The work is stunning… The effect is a potent march through ever higher peaks of dramatic power.”
    –Timothy V. Clark, St. Louis Riverfront Times

    “…perhaps the first concerto for marimba ever written in the spirit of a grand classical piano concerto.”
    –Barbara Smolenska-Zielinska, The Music Movement (Warsaw)

    “The most significant was Pianophonia. [While] each of its three sections was inspired by a different 20th-century painting…one did not need to view the paintings to appreciate how beautifully Ptaszynska has translated visual images into arresting sounds…
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    “…a gigantic show-piece for percussion.”
    –Brigitta Huldt, Svensha Dagbladet (Stockholm)

    “…a tremendous score both in its physical dimensions and its sonorities. Some aspects of it evoked memories from when I was working with Varese on Ionisation.”
    –Nicolas Slonimsky, Los Angeles

    “Marta Ptaszynska gave a splendid account of her own Space Model, a piece for percussion and tape in three movements. The fascination here came from the fact that each successive movement was integrated with tape of the previous one, the layering eventual
    –Malcolm Cruise, Huddersfield

    “It is the most attractive example of inventive tone painting, in which excellent organization of ideas sets noticeably above the sound-effect category.”
    –Bill Zakariasen, New York Daily News

    “Ptaszynska’s setting of a Paul Verlaine poem… employs extremely subtle effects, …to reinforce the mournful, withdrawn emotions of the vocal part, which interweaves sung and spoken French and English. The three performers made something absolutely hau
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    “…easily the evening’s highlight.”
    –Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

  • Percussion Made in Europe - Volume 1 PERCUSSION MADE IN EUROPE – VOLUME 1
    Musica Europea (CD ME-03); January 1, 2008
    Performer(s): Nebojsa J. Zivkovic, marimba
    Work(s): Graffito
    Polish Music POLISH MUSIC
    Dux Records (DUX0241); January 1, 2004
    Performer(s): Warsaw Wind Quintet (Robert Nalewajka, Tytus Wojnowicz, Miroslaw Pokrzywinski, Zbigniew Pluzek, Wieslaw Grochowski), Michiko Otaki, piano, Krzysztof Malicki, flute
    Work(s): Poetic Impressions
    Holocaust Memorial Cantata HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL CANTATA
    Polygram Accord (ACD 016); February 27, 2001
    Performer(s): Sinfonia Varsovia, Warsaw Chamber Choir; Yehudi Menuhin, cond; Zofia Kilanowisz (Soprano), Ryszard Minkiewicz (Tenor), Robert Goerlach (Baritone)
    Work(s): Holocaust Memorial Cantata Chant for All the people on Earth
    Per Uno Solo PER UNO SOLO
    Polonia Records (CD 027); January 1, 1994
    Performer(s): Stanisław Skoczyński
    Work(s): Spider Walk
    Marta Ptaszynska MARTA PTASZYNSKA
    Polskie Nagrania Muza (PN CD 075); January 1, 1991
    Performer(s): The Polish Chamber Orchestra; Jerzy Maksymiuk
    Work(s): La Novella D’inverno (Winter’s Tale)
    Koncert Na Marimbę I Orkiestrę / Kwiaty Księżyca KONCERT NA MARIMBĘ I ORKIESTRĘ / KWIATY KSIĘŻYCA
    Polskie Nagrania Muza (SX 2709); January 1, 1990
    Performer(s): Keiko Abe, marimba; The Cracow Radio Symphony Orchestra, Szymon Kawalla, conductor
    Work(s): Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra
    Moon Flowers
    Epigrams / Space Model / Moon Flowers EPIGRAMS / SPACE MODEL / MOON FLOWERS
    Pro Viva (ISPV 152); January 1, 1988
    Performer(s): The Dorians Choir; Michael Ingham, Phoebe Houk, Barbara Imhoff, Carolyn Horn, Marta Ptaszynska
    Work(s): Epigrams
    Moon Flowers
    Space Model
    Warsaw Autumn WARSAW AUTUMN
    Polskie Nagrania Muza (SX 1847); January 1, 1979
    Performer(s): Flute – Barbara Świątek; Harp – Bogumila Lutak-Modrinić; Soprano Vocals – Olga Szwajgier
    Work(s): Un Grand Sommeil Noir (A Great Dark Sleep)

  • 2006: Benjamin H. Danks Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
    2005: Endowed chair and a Helen & Frank Sulzberger Professor of Composition at University of Chicago
    1995: Officer Cross of Merit of the Republic of Poland
    1989: Oscar of Alva received both audience and critical acclaim at the International Festival in Salzburg
    Fromm Music Foundation Award
    Alfred Jurzykowski Award in New York
    ASCAP Awards
    Award at the International Rostrum of Composers at the UNESCO in Paris
    Percussive Arts Society awards
    Union of Polish Composers awards