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performers (K)


Jan Krenz,

conductor and composer, b. 14th July 1926 in Włocławek; d. 15th September in Warsaw. Under the German occupation, he received tuition from Zbigniew Drzewiecki (piano) and Kazimierz Sikorski (composition). In 1945-47 he studied conducting with Kazimierz Wiłkomirski and composition with Kazimierz Sikorski at the State Higher School of Music in Łódź (now the Music Academy), from which he graduated with honours.

He made his conducting debut in 1946 in Łódź. In 1947-49 he worked as a conductor at Poznań Philharmonic. He specialized in performing contemporary music. Together with Tadeusz Baird and Kazimierz Serocki, he formed a composers' group called "Group 49". In 1949 he became associated with the Polish Radio Grand Symphony Orchestra (WOSPR) in Katowice, in which he worked till 1951 under Grzegorz Fitelberg. After the latter's death in 1953 he became the principal conductor and director of the Orchestra, a post he held till 1968. In 1968-73 he was the artistic director of the Grand Theatre in Warsaw. Simultaneously, he conducted the Danmarks Radio Orchestra in Kopenhagen, the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo, as well as appearing as a guest conductor with such orchestras as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Staatskapelle Dresden, Leningrad Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. In 1979-82 he held the post of Generalmusikdirektor of the City of Bonn, where he conducted the Beethovenhalle orchestra. In 1983-85 he was associated with the Dutch Radio in Hilversum. In 2005, he took the position of artistic director and first conductor of the Kraków Philharmonic, which he held until 2008. He was the honorary conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

He regularly participated in the "Warsaw Autumn" International Festival of Contemporary Music (during which he twice received – in 1969 and 1974 – the "Gold Orpheus" Award for performances of Polish music) as well as festivals in Edinburgh, Bergen, Prague, Montreux, Osaka and Vienna.

He made his debut earlier as a composer than as a conductor: his String Quartet No. 1 was premiered in 1943 in occupied Warsaw, during an underground concert. Later on, his brilliant conducting career held his creative work back, and at times many years separated his subsequent pieces. He composed, among others, music to films by the most important authors of the Polish film school: Andrzej Munk (Bad Luck) and Andrzej Wajda (Kanał).

Jan Krenz has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Gold Cross of Merit (1952), State Award, 2nd Class (1955), The Music Award of the City of Katowice (1957), the Award of the Polish Composers' Union (twice: in 1968 and 1996), State Award, 1st Class (1972), the "Diamond Baton" Award for the 70th anniversary of the Polish Radio (1995), Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2005), Gold Medal for Merit to Culture "Gloria Artis" (2005) and numerous international awards for his record releases. In 2011 he received the "Coryphaeus of Polish Music" Honorary Award of the Institute of Music and Dance. In 2018 he received an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Music in Łódź.

updated: 2020 (ac)


Jan Krenz is one of Poland's most outstanding conductors, but his conducting debut was preceded by his debut as a composer. His String Quartet No. 1 was first performed in 1943, in Warsaw under the German occupation, at an underground concert. Later his spectacular conducting career made it impossible for him to compose regularly, and therefore there were often long intervals between his successive compositions. Eventually, Jan Krenz took the same decision as... Gustav Mahler before him. He divided the year into two periods: seven months of conducting and five - for regular composition work. Thanks to this, since 1982 Krenz has more or less regularly delivered new compositions. He has never stopped conducting, and though he sees himself equally as a conductor and composer, he is obviously much more famous in the former role.

As a conductor, he is highly versatile. He said about himself: "I was once labelled as a contemporary music conductor: I have led somany first performances of new works, so often performed at the "Warsaw Autumn" festivals, and I am a 'contemporary' composer myself. At other times, I was classified as an expert on the Viennese classics, as I conducted many classical works. But a true conductor's repertoire ought to be as wide as possible. One such example was Karajan, who also conducted a great amount of contemporary music. The earlier generation, that of Furtwängler, Mitropoulos or Ansermet, had a much narrower repertoire. As for myself, I am curious about various epochs, styles and scores, but there is one period in music, the Baroque from Monteverdi till Handel or Bach, that I decided to leave to real experts. It is a period with many secrets, one that must be thoroughly familiar with. But from the Viennese classics, "Daddy" Haydn as he was once called, through the entire 19th century and the 20th century classics, to contemporary works - this is the wide repertoire of a modern conductor. This does not stop me, however, from concentrating my interest on some selected composers, recently - on Mozart and Beethoven. I am also intrigued by the late Romantics, who developed their kind of music to the extreme - first of all Mahler, but also Skryabin, and even Rakhmaninov, of whom I must confess I am very fond. And I am continually interested in 20th-century classics, headed by Bartók."

Unfortunately, in present-day concert halls we hear a rather limited repertoire, without early music, but also without contemporary music, which remains alien to most listeners. "At present, about 90 per cent of the music performed is Classicism and Romanticism. It is an anomaly, it is strange. This narrow repertoire blocks the listeners' ears, and for their love of Brahms or Tchaikovsky they are no longer capable of hearing the melody in Lutosławski or Messiaen. I always tell them that there is a melody in that music, only - of a different kind. But they reply, "No, even Szymanowski already had no melody". My God, what splendid, wonderful melody he did have! Different, admittedly - exuberant, capricious, broken, with broad intervals, enriched. But we cannot base all melody only on seconds and thirds, we must open our audience's ears!" (quotations from an interview printed in "Studio" 1993 no. 7)


Triptych for voice and piano (1946)
Sonata for oboe and piano (1947)
Symphony No. 1 * (1947-49)
Classical Serenade for small orchestra * (1950)
Two Songs (A Sad and A Joyful One) for a cappella choir * (1950)
Quartet for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon (1950)
Symphonic Dance for orchestra (1951)
Rural Serenade for small orchestra (1951)
Rhapsody for string orchestra, xylophone, tam-tam, kettledrums and celesta * (1952)
Concertino for piano and small orchestra * (1952)
Musica per clarinetto solo * (1958)
Messa breve per coro e campane * (1982)
Masks, symphonic triptych for orchestra (1982-85)
Musica da camera (Quartetto no. 3) per quartetto d'archi * (1983)
Sonatina per due violini soli * (1986)
Epitaphion for orchestra * (1989-90)
Symphony No. 2 (quasi una fantasia) * (1989-92)
Sinfonietta per fiati * (1994-95)
Impromptu pour violoncelle * (1997)
Tristan in memoriam. Postludium per quartetto d’archi (1997)
Symphony No. 3 for string orchestra, piano, percussion and French horn solo (2001-2003)
Aria and Perpetuum mobile for orchestra (2005)
Overture for symphony orchestra (2005)
Requiem for baritone solo, mixed choir and orchestra (2007)
Triptych for oboe and string orchestra (2008)
Katyn Elegy for cello and orchestra (2009)

literatura wybrana

Helman Zofia Krenz Jan In: Encyklopedia Muzyczna PWM (część biograficzna pod red. Elżbiety Dziębowskiej) [PWM Encyclopaedia of Music - biographical part, ed. by Elżbieta Dziębowska], vol. "klł", PWM, Kraków 1997
Kydryński Lucjan Jan Krenz, PWM, Kraków 1960
Markowska Elżbieta Jana Krenza pięćdziesiąt lat z batutą. Rozmowy o muzyce polskiej [Jan Krenz's 50 years of conducting. Conversations about Polish music.], PWM, Kraków 1996
Schaeffer Bogusław Krenz Jan In: The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Second Edition (ed. Stanley Sadie), vol. 13, Macmillan Publishers Limited, London 2001