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Marta Ptaszyńska,

composer, percussionist and teacher; born on 29th July 1943 in Warsaw. She studied composition with Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz and music theory at the State Higher School of Music in Warsaw as well as percussion performance with Jerzy Zgodzinski at the State Higher School of Music in Poznań. She also worked privately with Witold Lutosławski, who later became her mentor. As a French Government grant recipient, in 1969-70 she continued her compositional studies with Nadia Boulanger and attended Olivier Messiaen’s analysis classes at the Paris Conservatory and at the Centre Bourdan de L’ORTF. In 1974 she received an Artist Diploma in Percussion Performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she worked with Cloyd Duff, Richard Weiner, and Donald Erb.

Marta Ptaszyńska won prizes at numerous composition competitions, including the Youth Competition of the Polish Composers' Union (1971), the Polish Radio & Television Composers' Competition (1972), competitions of the Percussive Arts Society in the US (1974 and 1976). In 1986 her work La Novella d’Inverno for strings (1984) won the 1st Prize at the International Rostrum of Composers at UNESCO in Paris and her Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra (1985) received an award at the International Composers Competition in New York. She has also received several ASCAP Awards.

Ptaszyńska has received commissions from orchestras including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, Polish Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia, and the Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra and from artists such as contralto Ewa Podleś, marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and harpist Alice Chalifoux. She has also received commissions from the Fryderyk Chopin National Institute in Warsaw, Poland, the Kościuszko Foundation in New York, the Südwestfunk in Baden-Baden, Germany, the Caramoor International Music Festival, the International Harp Festival, and the Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago. She was commissioned by the Warsaw National Opera to write two operas for children (Mister Marimba and Magic Doremik) and by the Grand Opera Theatre in Łódź to write the opera The Lovers of the Valldemosa Cloister for Chopin’s Bicentennial. Her television opera Oscar of Alva, produced by the Kraków Television, received both audience and critical acclaim at the International Festival of Television Operas in Salzburg in 1989. Her opera for children, Mister Marimba, which was in the repertory of the National Opera in Warsaw from 1998 until 2006, has enjoyed phenomenal success and popularity for eight 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.

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, Prix Futura in Berlin, Caramoor International Music Festival, among many others.  Widely acclaimed as a virtuoso percussionist, she performed extensively as a soloist percussionist for several decades and has participated in many European and American festivals.

Her works are published by PWM Edition (Polish Music Publishing House) in Poland and by Theodore Presser in the U.S. Her works are recorded on many various labels around the world (CD Accord-Universal, Muza Polish Records, Olympia, Chandos, Dux, ProViva, and Bayers Records). In 2002 PWM Edition released a book about her music entitled Music – The Most Perfect Language, Conversations with Marta Ptaszyńska.

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 Ptaszyńska was appointed a Professor of Music and in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. Since 2005 she holds an endowed chair of Helen B. & Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Composition.

In 1965-70 Ptaszyńska was a president of the Youth Circle of the Polish Composers' Union. In the years 1981-84 she aso 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 was vice president of the American Society of Polish Music in New York for several years. As an artistic adviser, she arranged the music programme 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.

She has received many awards and decoration, including the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (1995), the award of the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation (1997), the Benjamin H. Danks Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006), the Fromm Music Foundation Award from Harvard University (2006), the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Award (2010), the annual award of the Polish Composers' Union (for outstanding work as a composer and promotion of Polish musical culture in the world, 2011), the Silver Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis awarded by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland (2013), the Polish Heritage Award of the Polish American Congress (2017), and the  American Council for Polish Culture Award (2019), Commandery of the Order of Merit of the People's Republic of Poland (2022).

updated: 2008, 2020 (ac), 2022 (wa)

Composer's website: www.martaptaszynska.com


Preludes for vibraphone and piano * (1965)
Scherzo for xylophone and piano * (1967)
Ostinato for piano * (1967)
Variations for flute * (1967)
Improvisations for orchestra * (1968)
A Tale of Nightingales for baritone and chamber ensemble (1968)
Suite Variee for children percussion quartet and piano (1968)
Three Interludes for two pianos * (1969)
Recitativo, arioso e toccata for violin solo * (1969-75)
Jeu-parti for harp and vibraphone (1970)
Vocalise for soprano and vibraphone (1971)
Madrigals „Canticum Sonarum” , Igor Stravinsky in memoriam for woodwind quartet, string quartet with double bass, trumpet, trombone and gong * (1971)
Cadenza for flute and percussion * (1971-72)
Space Model for percussion solo and pre-recorded tape * (1971-75)
Stress for percussion and  electronic tape (1972)
Arabesque for harp * (1972)
Spectri sonori for orchestra * (1973)
Crystallites for orchestra (1973-74)
Two Poems for tuba * (1973-75)
Touracou for harpsichord * (1973-75)
Siderlas for two percussion quintets and lighting projection (optional) * (1974)
Concerto for Percussion Quartet and Orchestra (1974)
Farewell Souvenir for piano (1975)
Mobile for two percussionists * (1976)
Classical Variations for timpani and string quartet (1976)
Quodlibet for double bass and prerecorded tape * (1976)
Epigrams for women’s choir, flute, harp, piano and percussion (1976-77)
Un grand sommeil noir (A Great Dark Sleep) for woman’s voice, flute and harp * (1977)
Tunes from Many Countries for percussion ensemble (1977)
Colorful World of Percussion for flutes, voices and percussion instruments (1978)
Journeys into Space for piano * (1978)
Dream Lands, Magic Spaces for violin, piano and percussion (6 players) * (1978)
Music of Five Steps for flutes and percussion ensemble * (1979)
Bagatelles for harp (1979)
Soirée snobe chez la Princesse, instrumental theatre (1979)
Die Sonette an Orpheus (Sonnets to Orpheus) for middle voice and chamber orchestra (1980-81)
Conductus – A Ceremonial for winds * (1982)
Ave Maria [version I] for 4 men’s voices, brass, percussion and organ (1982)
Miniatures for piano (1982)
Scintilla for two marimbas * (1984)
La Novella d’inverno (Winter’s Tale) for string orchestra * (1984)
Four Seasons for Four Hands for piano * (1984)
Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra * (1985)
Silver Threads and Other Songs for Children for voices, choir, piano and percussion instruments * (1985-86)
Music Alphabet for two pianos (1985-86)
Moon Flowers for cello and piano * (1986)
Ave Maria [version II] for men’s choir and orchestra (1987)
Charlie’s Dream – Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra * (1988)
Polish Letters, cantata for soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone, mixed choir and chamber ensemble (1988)
Graffito for marimba * (1988)
Songs of Despair and Loneliness for mezzosoprano and piano (1988-89)
Ajikan for flute and percussion (1989)
“Light breaks when no sun shines” for flute solo (1989)
Poetic Impressions for woodwind quintet and piano (1991)
Ode to Praise All Famous Women for orchestra (1992)
Hommage à I. J. Paderewski for piano (1992)
Holocaust Memorial Cantata for soprano, tenor, baritone, mixed choir and orchestra (1992)
Holocaust Memorial Cantata [chamber version] for soprano, tenor, baritone, mixed choir, percussion and piano (1992)
Spider Walk for percussion * (1993)
Fanfare for Peace for orchestra * (1993)
Mister Marimba, children opera in two acts (1993-96)
Four Portraits for string quartet (1994)
Variations on a Theme by Paganini by Witold Lutoslawski, arrangement for 2 pianos and 2 percussions  (1994)
Liquid Light for mezzo-soprano, piano and percussion * (1995)
Distant Voices for mezzo-soprano and string quartet * (1995)
Concerto grosso for two violins and chamber orchestra (1996)
Mancala for two violins (1996)
Scherzo di fantasia for euphonium and piano (1997)
Linear Constructions in Space for six percussionists (1997-98)
Olympian Rings for soprano steel drum (1997-98)
Letter to the Sun for frame drum, percussion quartet and narrator (1998-2000)
Primary Colors for percussion quartet (1999)
Fanfare in memoriam Frederic Chopin for orchestra (1999)
Drum of Orfeo – Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (1999-2002)
Inverted Mountain for orchestra (2000)
The Last Waltz in Vienna for accordion trio (2001)
Sogno d’Euridice for two harps (2001)
Mosaics for string quartet * (2002)
Sinfonia Wratislavia for orchestra (2003-2004)
Pianophonia for piano (2004)
Hurdy-gurdy for orchestra bells (2004)
Elegia in Memoriam John Paul II for viola * (2005)
Canzonetta [version I] for mezzo-soprano and vibraphone (2006)
Magic Doremik, opera for young audience in two acts (2006-2007)
Lumen for orchestra (2007)
Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra (2007-2008)
Street Music for large percussion orchestra (2008)
Hymn of the Universe for choir and organ (2008)
Trois visions de l’arc-en-ciel (Three Visions of a Rainbow) for chamber ensemble (2008)
The Lovers of the Valldemosa Cloister. Opera in two acts (2008-2009)
Of Time and Space. Concerto for percussion, electronic tape and orchestra (2009-2010)
Luna Stelle for two pianos and two percussionists (2010-2012)
Blue Line for marimba solo (2011)
Red Rays for flute and piano (2011)
Twittering Tree for xylophone solo (2011)
Luminosite du cristal for harp and organ (2012)
Viva la casa for snare drum solo (2013)
Improvisations after J.R. for vibraphone solo (2014)
Sinfonia for 104 for percussion orchestra of 104 musicians (2015)
Canzonetta [version II] for mezzo-soprano, clarinet and vibraphone  (2015)
Missa solemnis ad honorem Sancti Joannis Pauli Secundi for 3 solo voices, 2 mixed choirs and symphony orchestra (2015-2016)
Sappho Songs for flute and string trio (2015-2016)
The White Shadows for violin and piano (2016)
Piano Concerto  (2017)
Voice of the Winds for 100 percussionists (2017)
Se-ta (Sequenza e Tarantela) for accordion duo and percussion duo (2018)
Flute Concerto No. 1 (2018)
Double Concerto for Cello and Piano  (2018-2019)
Conversations with Angels for soprano and piano  (2019)
Flute Concerto No. 2 (2020)
Magic Voyage. Accordion Concerto  (2020-2021)
Enigma for marimba, clarinet, French horn and cello (2021)
The Gates of Light for cello and piano (2021)
Betsie Doll for vibraphone solo (2021)
Lullaby for Benjamin for alto flute and vibraphone (2021)