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Henryk Sztompka,

pianist and pedagogue; b. 1st April 1901 in Bogusławka near Łuck (Wołyń); d. 21st June 1964 in Kraków. He studied the piano under Antoni Sygietyński at the Music Institute in Warsaw. In the years 1921-22 he studied at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw. He continued to learn the piano at the Warsaw Conservatory in the class of Józef Turczyński, which he graduated with honours in 1926.

He made his debut at the Warsaw Philharmonic on 24th October 1926, playing the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor by Sergei Rachmaninov. In 1927 he took part in the 1st International Chopin Piano Competition and received the Polish Radio award for the best performance of mazurkas. In 1928 he went to Paris and thanks to the Association of Young Polish Musicians, led by Piotr Perkowski, he met Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The master, having discovered the musical talent of Sztompka, accepted him into the group of his students – Poles. Until 1932 the pianist received a Paderewski scholarship and he had lessons with the master at the Palais d'Orsay in Paris or the Swiss villa Riond-Bosson in Morges. Here, on 26th August 1931, he gave a concert with other students of Paderewski: Leopold Stanisław Szpinalski, Aleksander Brachocki, Zygmunt Dygat and Albert Tadlewski.

On 24th January 1932 Henryk Sztompka made his debut in Paris, performing the Polish Fantasy by Ignacy Jan Paderewski with the Orchestra Colonne conducted by Gabriel Pierné. On 8th December of the same year he performed a very successful recital of works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann, and Frederick Chopin. Since then Sztompka led an active artistic life. In 1933-39 he gave concerts throughout the country, at the invitation of Karol Szymanowski, Grzegorz Fitelberg, the Musical Movement Organization (ORMUZ) and Polish Radio. He cooperated with artists such as Ewa Bandrowska-Turska (soprano), Stanisława Korwin-Szymanowska (soprano), Jan Kiepura (tenor), Eugenia Umińska (violin). He also performed abroad, including in London (he made his debut with a Chopin recital at Grotrian Hall on 9th March 1934), Paris, Moscow, Brussels, Antwerp, Liverpool, the Hague, Rotterdam, Bucharest and Sofia.

During World War II the pianist did not perform in public. After the war, he returned to the stages in the country and made several foreign tours. He played in England, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Iceland, eastern and western Germany, Sweden, Turkey, Hungary and the Soviet Union, and his performances were appreciated by critics and the public.

The core of Henryk Sztompka's repertoire were the works of Fryderyk Chopin, for the interpretation of which he was highly valued. With equal success he played the Piano Sonata in D minor Op. 31 by Ludwig van Beethoven, Carnaval Op. 9 by Robert Schumann, Prelude by Claude Debussey, works by Maurice Ravel, Sergiusz Rachmaninow (including Piano Concerto in C minor), Karol Szymanowski, and Ignacy Jan Paderewski (primarily his Polish Fantasy, and many piano miniatures).

He recorded all mazurkas, several nocturnes, polonaises and preludes by Chopin, Paderewski's Polish Fantasy, Piano Concerto in C minor by Rachmaninoff and Larghetto from the Piano Concerto in F minor by Chopin, from a public performance in Leipzig with the participation of the local radio orchestra led by Hermann Abendroth.

At the same time, Henryk Sztompka was involved in teaching. In the years 1936–39 he taught the piano class at the Conservatory of the Pomeranian Music Society in Toruń, during the occupation he participated in secret teaching. In the years 1945-64 he taught piano at the State Higher School of Music in Kraków (from 1955 as an associate professor, from 1958 as a full professor), in 1957 he became the head of the Piano Department, and from 1957 to 1963 he was the vice rector of the Kraków University. His students were, among others: Regina Smendzianka (first at the Conservatory in Toruń, then at the State Higher School of Music in Kraków), Krystyna Kotowicz, Zofia Zagajewska-Szlezer, Maria Szeligiewicz-Iwanejko, Anna Drozdowska-Missona, Joachim Gudel, Małgorzata Ptak -Kociołek, Irena Woźniakowska-Rudolf, Ewa Sobol, Andrzej Kurylewicz, Teresa Garbulińska, Bogna Hałacz-Weinbaum, Dorota Rajchel, Karol Tarnowski, Maria Korecka and Tania Achot-Haroutounian (later winner of the 3rd prize at the 6th Chopin Competition in 1960). The pianist also taught interpretation courses of Frederic Chopin’s music at the Hochschule für Musik in Leipzig in 1956. He was a member of jury at international piano competitions: Fryderyk Chopin in Warsaw (1949, 1955, 1960 – as the vice-chairman of the jury), Marguerite Long and Jacques Thibaud in Paris (1953, 1955, 1959, 1961), in Rio de Janeiro (1957), José Viana da Motta in Lisbon (1957), the International German Radio Broadcast Competition (ARD) in Munich (1959, 1960), Peter Tchaikovsky in Moscow (1958 – vice chairman, 1962), in Vercelli (1960) and Geneva (1962).

Henryk Sztompka was honored with many awards and decorations, including Golden Cross of Merit (1937), Officer's Cross of the Republic of Hungary (1948), Order of the Banner of Labor, 2nd class (1949), Music Award of the City of Kraków (1949 and 1958), Polish Nartional Award, 1st degree (1950), Commander's Cross with the Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1955).

He died after a serious illness. He was buried at the Avenue of Notables at the Rakowicki Cemetery in Kraków.

updated: 2020 (ac)