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Szalonek, Witold


Born in Czechowice-Dziedzice (Silesia, Poland), he died in Berlin. He studied the piano with Wanda Chmielowska and composition with Bolesław Woytowicz at the Music Academy (PWSM) in Katowice (1949–56). He continued his studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris (1962–63). From 1967 he taught composition at the Music Academy in Katowice, and in 1970–74 he headed the Department of Composition and Theory at the same academy. A DAAD scholarship in Berlin (1970–71) resulted in an engagement at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin in 1973, where Szalonek succeeded Boris Blacher as professor of composition. One of his achievements was to discover “combined sounds,” multiphonics of a particular timbre, which can be obtained on woodwind instruments.

From 1970 he conducted courses and seminars on his own compositional techniques at music academies and universities in various countries, including Denmark, Germany, Finland, Poland, and Slovakia. His works were performed at many festivals of contemporary music, such as the Summer Courses of New Music in Darmstadt, ISCM World Music Days, Warsaw Autumn, Time of Music in Viitasaari (Finland), Gulbenkian Música in Lisbon, Inventionen in Berlin, Alternatives in Moscow, and Contrasts in Lviv.

In 1964 he was awarded the Music Prize of the City of Katowice, and in 1967 the Minister of Culture and Arts Award. In 1990 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Münster, and in 1994 he won the annual award of the Polish Composers’ Union.


Major works (after 1990): Symphony of Rituals for string quartet (1991–96), Medusa’s Head I–II for one to three recorders in C (1992–93), Invocazioni per due chitarre (1992), Diptych I for mixed choir (1993), Diptych II for 16 saxophones (1993), Sept épigrammes modernes for saxophone quartet (1994), Gerard Hoffnungs Six Unpublished Drawings for saxophone quartet (1994), Three Preludes for Piano (1996), Zakopane Suite for reed mouthpiece (1996), Medusa’s dream of Pegasus I for horn and recorder (1997), Medusa’s dream of Pegasus II for horn and flute in C (1997), Miserere for 12-voice choir (1997), Chaconne–Fantaisie for violin (1997), Bagatelle di Dahlem II for flute and piano (1998), Oberek no. 1 for guitar (1998), Drei Liebeslieder for baritone and piano (1998), L’hautbois mon amour for oboe, two harps, timpani and string orchestra (1999), Poseidon and Medusa for two piccolos, alto flute, bass flute and crotales (2001).