Violetta Kostka Gdańsk

Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk

Paweł Szymański’s works referring to medieval music

Paweł Szymański (born 1954) is among the best Polish composers of our time. The basis for his creative work is the so-called two-level technique, consisting in composing with the use of entire and complex structures deriving from various musical traditions which, at the subsequent stages of work, are subjected to algorithmic or free transformations. Due to the fact that Szymański for decades has been moving within the same world of music ideas, he has created a compositional idiom, recognisable from the first bars of each of his compositions. This idiom consists, among others, in short sounds, glissandi, vitreous sounds, numerous pauses and a two-part form, usually resulting from the application of two diferente methods of working with the same material.
The majority of his pieces of music refer to baroque and classic musical styles but there are also two works with medieval elements: Miserere for voices and instruments and Three pieces for three recorders accompanied by a metronome, both of which were composed in 1993. Miserere ─ a modern psalm with medieval elements ─ is composed in a free way. Its solo bass sections entwine with sections for male chorus, four cellos, vibraphone and harp.
The work was a nominee for the International Tribune of Composers in Paris and therefore was performed in many countries and broadcasted by more than 30 radio stations all over the world. In contrast, Three pieces are composed in an algorithmic way. In each of three pieces three short medieval motives intertwine with each other in different relations, while the metronome plays regular beats. Paweł Szymański composed Three pieces for Internationale Tage für Neue Blöckflotenmusik in Basilea during which the work had its first performance.

Keywords: Paweł Szymański, intertextuality, dynamic process, meaning


Violetta Kostka. Trained as musicologist at the University of Poznań, she received her PhD degree and then her habilitation from the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. Teaches History of Music at the Academy of Music in Gdańsk. She has won scientific scholarships from the University of Cambridge, the Polish Library in Paris and the State Committee of Scientific Research in Poland. Her scientific output includes 2 books and about 80 articles, mainly on the music of Polish composers of the 20th and 21st century. She has taken part in many musicological conferences, including the ones in Leipzig, Greifswald, Frankfurt (Oder), London, Canterbury, Lisbon, Vilnius and St. Petersburg. In 2013 she gave lectures at Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Wien. In 2016 she organised a nationwide musicological conference titled Post-modern music from the perspective of intertextuality.