Krzysztof Meyer

Krzysztof Meyer

[composer, pianist and educator; born 11 August 1943 in Krakow.]

Meyer began to study piano at the age of five. In 1954 he started taking private lessons in music theory and composition from Stanisław Wiechowicz. Upon graduating from the Fryderyk Chopin Music School in Krakow, he enrolled in the State Higher School of Music in Krakow (later the Academy of Music in Krakow); he studied composition, initially under Stanislaw Wiechowicz and after Wiechowicz's death under  Krzysztof Penderecki, graduating with honors in 1965. Meyer was also a music theory student under Aleksander Fraczkiewicz and similarly completed this course of study with honors in 1966.

In 1964, 1966 and 1968 he supplemented his musical education in Paris and Fontainebleau, where he studied composition and piano performance under Nadia Boulanger.

Between 1966 and 1968 he performed as a pianist with the Krakow-based contemporary music ensemble MW2. Around this time he also began his career as an educator. Between 1966 and 1987 he taught composition and a range of theoretical subjects at the Academy of Music in Krakow. Meyer was also vice rector of this institution from 1972 to 1975 and headed the Music Theory Department between 1975 and 1987. An "Auswärtige Künstler zu Gast" scholarship allowed him to spend the 1980/81 academic year in Hamburg. He has been a professor of composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne since 1987. Meyer has also lectured on contemporary music in Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Switzerland, Venezuela, and the Soviet Union, and he is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Mannheim. During the 1991/92 season he was the composer-in-residence at the Cologne Philharmonic, and in 1996 he held the same position with the Seattle Festival.

Krzysztof Meyer is also a music writer and wrote the first-ever Polish monograph on the life and work of Dmitri Szostakovich (Krakow 1973; German edition - Leipzig 1980; new version: Krakow 1986; French edition - Paris 1994; German edition - Bergisch-Gladbach 1995), and recently published a book titled  Dymitr Szostakowicz i jego czasy / Dmitri Shostakovich and his Times (PWN / Polish Music Publishers, Warsaw 1999). He has authored numerous articles, primarily about contemporary music, published in periodicals like "Melos", "Muzyka", "Ruch Muzyczny" ("Music Movement"), "Das Orchester", and "Sovyetskaya Muzyka". He is also an active member of the Association of Polish Composers, having served on the organization's Governing Board between 1971 and 1989, and chairing this body from 1985 to 1989. Additionally, between 1974 and 1988 he took part in the work of the Repertoire Committee of the "Warsaw Autumn" International Festival of Contemporary Music.

Throughout his career Krzysztof Meyer has received numerous awards for his work as a composer. In 1966 he took second prize in the Young Composers' Competition of the Association of Polish Composers for his  Symphony no. 1, op. 10 (1964; rev. 1966) and first prize at the Concours des Jeunes Compositeurs in Fontainebleau for his songs set to the texts of Shakespeare. One year later he received an honorable mention at the Grzegorz Fitelberg Composing Competition for his Symphony no. 2 - Epitaph to Stanislaw Wiechowicz - In Memoriam, op. 14 for mixed choir and orchestra (1966-67), which was followed in 1968 by a first prize at the Fitelberg Competition for his Symphonie d'Orphee no. 3, op. 20 for mixed choir and orchestra (1968). In 1970 he marked a series of international successes, taking the Grand Prix de Composition Musicale of the Prince Pierre de Monaco Foundation for his opera titled  Cyberiada / Cyberade, op.15 (1967-1970), and receiving an honorable mention at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in Paris for his  String Quartet no. 2, op. 23 (1969). In 1972 Meyer took second prize at the Artur Malawski Composing Competition in Krakow for his  Concerto da camera, op. 29 for oboe, percussion and strings (1972), while in 1974 he received the first prize at the Karol Szymanowski Composing Competition in Warsaw for his  Symphony no. 4, op. 31 (1973). In 1975 he received his first Medal of the Government of Brazil for his  String Quartet no. 4, op. 33 (1974), which was followed by another in 1977 for his  Concerto Retro op. 39 for flute, violin, cello, and harpsichord (1976). Between these two awards, in 1976, he received another honorable mention at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers, this one for his  String Quartet no. 3, op. 27 (1970-71). Krzysztof Meyer was twice honored with the Award of the Minister of Culture and Art of the Republic of Poland (1973, 1975) and also received the Gottfried von Herder Award (1984), the Award of the Association of Polish Composers (1992), the Award of the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation in New York (1994), and the Johann Stamitz Award in Mannheim (1996). In 1966 he also received an Aaron Copland scholarship.

Krzysztof Meyer is a composer whose creative self-awareness is deeply intellectual. As part of a survey conducted in 1971 by the periodical "Res Facta," the composer, aged twenty-six at the time, wrote:

"When I first tried composing my own works, I began with twelve-note technique (1st Piano Sonata). Later, I assumed the so-called 'bruitistisc energeticism" that derives from Varese and is still followed in Poland by the likes of Górecki and, to a degree, by Penderecki (1st Symphony). Then I shifted to aleatorism in its many different forms (a controlled variety in the 4th Piano Sonata, poly-variational in the Trio for flute, viola and harp, poly-structural in the 2nd Symphony). Out of each of these techniques, I extracted those possibilities that seemed to be most agreeable to my aural world and abandoned them when they ceased being interesting, simply becoming boring. Nevertheless, something of each of them has always remained, and to this day, certain components of serial music I find necessary, just as I do elements of poly-variation and poly-structuralism. If I am to present myself effectively in these few sentences, then I will supplement what I have written already with one more statement: in composing, I am entertained by the possibility of drawing on various techniques. I think there are none among the newest techniques that would be entirely uninteresting to me. I draw much more joy from them than I did from my one-time propensity for indulging in streams of percussive effects generated by string instruments (1st String Quartet). Therefore, the use of various techniques is only a means of composing. It is in no way immodest of me or an exaggeration on my part to say that I enter certain regions of my inner musical world using any technical means available to me and that, independent of the means I choose, I nearly always find myself where I intended to be from the outset." ("Res Facta" no. 5, 1971)

The ideas of the avant-garde reigned supreme when Krzysztof Meyer was beginning his artistic career. Meyer, too, in exploring the aural realm, sought out new sounds. However, pure sonorism never disrupted his sense of form as a process characterized by clear dramatic development with phases of varying tension. Relatively quickly, he abandoned avant-garde notions of sound in favor of traditional aesthetic categories - formal order, the balance of elements in a work, and beautiful sound. Many of his works carry classical titles that suggest his application of traditional forms. These include symphonies, concertos, quartets and sonatas. Nevertheless, the links between the works of Krzysztof Meyer and tradition end with these general concepts of form. Both the internal structure of his works and their sonorous language manifest his fully conscious and highly original use of modern composing skills.

In a discussion focusing on his intellectual self-awareness, Krzysztof Meyer's writings on musicology also deserve mention. He is the author of a basic monograph on Dmitri Shostakovich that has appeared in print in several languages. Throughout his career, Meyer has held the Russian composer's works in high esteem. Jointly with his wife, Meyer also produced a two-volume biography of  Witold Lutosławski. He is the author of many papers and articles devoted to the music and artists of the 20th century as well as selected issues in the area of music theory. He has also taught music theory continuously since 1966.

Selected compositions:

  • Sonata na wiolonczele op. 1 / Sonata for Cello Solo Op. 1 (1959-1961)
  • Sonata fortepianowa nr 1 op. 5 / Sonata for Piano No.1 Op.5 (1962)
  • Sonata fortepianowa nr 2 OP. 7 / Sonata for Piano No.2 Op. 7 (1963)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 1 op. 8 / String Quartet No. 1 Op. 8 (1963)
  • Concerto da Camera op. 6 / Chamber Concerto for flute, percussion, and strings (1964)
  • Symfonia nr 1 op. 10 / Symphony no.1 (1964)
  • Koncert skrzypcowy nr 1 op. 12 / Violin Concerto No. 1 OP. 12 (1964-1965)
  • Sonata fortepianowa nr 3 Op. 13 / Sonata for Piano No. 3 Op. 13 (1964-1966)
  • Symfonia nr 2 "Epitaphium Stanisław Wiechowicz in Memoriam" Op. 14 / Symphony no.2 "Epitaphium Stanisław Wiechowicz in memoriam" for mixed choir and orchestra (1966-1967)
  • Quartettino Op. 16 for soprano, flute, cello and piano (1966)
  • Cyberiada Op. 15, three-act comic opera (1967-1970)
  • Hommage à Nadia Boulanger Op. 17 for flute, viola and harp (1967)
  • Symfonia nr 3 "Symphonie d'Orphée" op. 20 / Symphony No. 3 "Symphonie d'orphee" for mixed choir and orchestra (1968)
  • Sonata fortepianowa nr 4 Op. 22 / Sonata for Piano No. 4 Op. 22 (1968)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 2 op. 23 / String Quartet No. 2 Op. 23 (1969)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 3 op. 27 / String Quartet No. 3 Op. 27 (1970-1971)
  • Concerto da camera op. 29 / Chamber Concerto op. 29 for oboe, percussion and strings (1972)
  • Sonata na klawesyn solo op. 30 / Sonata for Harpsichord Solo Op. 30 (1972-1973)
  • Symfonia nr 4 op. 31 / Symphony No.4 Op. 31 (1973)
  • Koncert na trabkę i orkiestreę op. 35 / Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra Op. 35 (1973-1975)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 4 op. 33 / String Quartet No. 4 Op. 33 (1974)
  • Spiewy polskie op. 34 / Polish Chants op. 34 for soprano and orchestra (1974)
  • Sonata fortepianowa nr 5 op. 32 / Sonata for Piano No. 5 Op. 32 (1975)
  • Sonata na skrzypce solo op. 36 / Sonata for Violin Solo op. 36 (1975)
  • Fireballs op. 37 for orchestra (1976)
  • Concerto retro op. 39 / Concerto retro op. 39 for flute, violin, cello and harpsichord (1976)
  • Trzy utwory na perkusje i tasme op. 40 / 3 Pieces for Percussion and Tape op. 40 (1976)
  • Symfonia D-dur w stylu W. A. Mozarta OP. 41 / Symphony in D Major in Mozartean Style Op. 41 (1976-1977)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 5 OP. 42 / String Quartet No. 5 Op. 42 (1977)
  • Dwadziescia cztery preludia na fortepian op. 43 / 24 Preludes for Piano (1977-1978)
  • Symfonia nr 5 op. 44 / Symphony No. 5 for strings (1978-1979)
  • Dziewiec fraszek Stanislawa Jerzego Leca op. 45 / 9 Limericks of Stanislaw Jerzy Lec for soprano and piano (1979)
  • Koncert fortepianowy op. 46 / Piano Concerto Op. 46 (1979)
  • Interludio drammatico Op. 48 for oboe and ensemble (1979-1980)
  • Hrabina op. 49 balet w 1 akcie na motywach opery Stanislawa Moniuszki / The Countess Op. 49, one-act ballet based on Stanislaw Moniuszko's opera (1980)
  • Trio na skrzypce, wiolonczelę i fortepian op. 50 / trio for violin, cello and piano Op. 50 (1980)
  • Sonata per flauti solo Op. 52 (1980)
  • Gracze op. 53 / The Gamblers Op. 53, full version of Dmitri Shostakovitch's three-act opera (1980-1981)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 6 op. 51 / String Quartet No. 6 Op.51 (1981)
  • Symfonia nr 6 "Symfonia Polska" op. 57 / Symphony no.6 "Polish Symphony" Op. 57 (1982)
  • Hommage a Johannes Brahms op. 59 for orchestra (1982)
  • Koncert na flet i orkiestre op. 61 / Concerto for Flute and Orchestra Op. 61 (1983)
  • Sonata na wiolonczelę i fortepian op. 62 / Sonata for Cello and Piano Op. 62 (1983)
  • Canti Amadei op. 63 / Canti Amadei - Concerto da Camera Op. 63 for cello and orchestra (1983-1984)
  • Concerto da camera op. 64 for harp, cello and strings (1984)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 7 op. 65 / String Quartet no. 7 Op. 65 (1985)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 8 op. 67 / String Quartet no. 8 Op. 67 (1985)
  • Concerto retro op. 39a for flute, harpsichord and strings (1986)
  • Kwartet na 4 saksofony op. 65a aranzacja Kwartetu smyczkowego no. 7 / Quartet for 4 Saxophones Op. 65a, arrangement of String Quartet No. 7 (1986)
  • Kwintet klarnetowy op. 66 / Clarinet Quintet Op. 66 (1986)
  • Msza op. 68 na chór mieszany i organy / Mass Op. 68 for mixed choir and organ (1987-1992)
  • Musica incrostata per Orchestra op. 70 (1988)
  • Wittener Kammermusik for flute, oboe and clarinet (1988)
  • Klonowi bracia op. 72 / The Maple Brothers Op. 72, two-act opera for children (1988-1989)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 9 Op. 74 / String Quartet no. 9 Op. 74 (1989-1990)
  • Fantazja na organy op. 75 / Fantasia for Organ Op. 75 (1990)
  • Kwintet fortepianowy op. 76 / Piano Quintet op. 76 (1990-1991)
  • Koncert na saksofon altowy i orkiestre smyczkowa op. 79 / Concerto for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra Op. 79 (1992)
  • Carillon pour orchestre op. 80 (1992-1993)
  • Trio smyczkowe op. 81 / String Trio op. 81 (1993)
  • Kwartet smyczkowy nr 10 op. 82 / String Quartet no. 10 Op. 82 (1993-1994)
  • Koncert wiolonczelowy nr 2 op. 85 / Cello Concerto No. 2 Op. 85 (1994-1995)
  • Msza op. 68a / Mass Op. 68a for mixed choir and orchestra (1995-1996)
  • Te Deum op. 84 for mixed choir (1995)
  • Sonata na skrzypce i orkiestre op. 86 / Sonata for Violin and Orchestra op.86, orchestration of Dmitri Shostakovitch's Violin Sonata op. 134d (1995)
  • Koncert skrzypcowy nr 2 op. 87 / Violin Concerto no. 2 op. 87 (1996)
  • Farewell Music op. 88 for orchestra (1997)
  • Au delà d'une absence op. 89 for string quartet (1997)
  • Trio na klarnet, wiolonczele i fortepian op. 90 / Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano op. 90 (1997-1998)
  • Stworzenie świata / The Creation of the World, oratorio (1999)
  • Capriccio interrotto for violin and piano (2000)

Source: Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, January 2002.