Chairman of the Polish Composers’ Union, Jerzy Kornowicz has told the Polish Press Agency that Poland has lost one of the most individual voices in 20th and 21st-century music.
Conductor and Kilar’s long-time friend, Antoni Wit, has described Kilar as a composer of a high international calibre, whose masterpieces, such as ‘Kościelec’, ‘Krzesany’ and ‘Orawa’ will remain in the repertoire of top orchestras.
“He was a man of integrity and high ethical values, willing to share with others. It was thanks to people such as Kilar that the Home for Senior Musicians could be built,” Wit has said.
Born in Lviv, now in Ukraine, in 1932, he lived in Silesia for six decades, describing it as his “second small homeland”.
A deeply religious man, was also strongly attached to the Black Madonna shrine of Czestochowa, where he celebrated all his birthdays.
Kilar’s diverse output includes orchestral and vocal-instrumental works, piano pieces, chamber music as well as some 130 soundtracks.
He collaborated with leading Polish film directors, such as Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Andrzej Wajda, Kazimierz Kutz and Krzysztof Zanussi, as well as with many famous foreign directors, including Francis F.Coppola (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and Jane Campion (The Portrait of a Lady).
Wojciech Kilar studied at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice, piano with Władysława Markiewiczówna and composition with Bolesław Woytowicz.
Kilar graduated with the highest honours in 1955 and then worked for three years as an assistant to Woytowicz at the State Higher School of Music in Kraków.
In the same period he took part in the International Courses for New Music in Darmstadt. He also studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, thanks to a grant from the French government.
In the early years of his career he often performed as a virtuoso pianist in a repertoire which also comprised his own pieces. Thanks to his scores from the late 1950s he was recognized as a co-founder of Polish avant-garde music.
In later years Kilar turned to tradition and looked for inspiration in folk music and religion. In many works he attempted to revive a national style in Polish music.
The folk music of the Tatras and the Tatra foothills inspired Kilar in such works as Kościelec, Grey Mist, Orawa and, first and foremost, Krzesany, his most popular orchestral piece, performed with much success all over the world.
He was among the founding members of the Karol Szymanowski Society in Zakopane. He served for many years as chairman of the Katowice Branch of the Polish Composers’ Union and a member of the Repertoire Committee of the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ Festival of Contemporary Music.