Department of Composition

Origins – History – Contemporary times


Department of Composition in the Music Academy in Kraków was brought into being in December 1957. However, its origins reach as far as 1888 when the Kraków Conservatory was founded. That date was also a symbolical beginning of the Kraków composers’ school under the leadership of Władysław Żeleński – composer, teacher, and founder of the Conservatory.
Until the Second World War the following figures have gained in importance in the musical life of Kraków: Bolesław Wallek-Walewski (the only teacher to have his own composition class in the Conservatory during the years 1930-33), Jerzy Gablenz, Henryk Opieński, O. Bernardino Rizzi, Franciszek Konior, Kazimierz Garbusiński; in the 30-ties, shortly before the Second World War outbreak, a new generation of young talented composers has appeared: Artur Malawski, Mieczysław Drobner, Franciszek Skołyszewski, and Włodzimierz Poźniak.


The first years after the Second World War’s end open a new era in the history of Kraków composers’ school. In 1946 the Music Conservatories in Poland were transformed, according to the law, into the State Higher Music Schools.That was a rise and prosperity time for the State Higher Music School in Kraków. The two leading composition teachers, who have established the renown of the School in that field, were: Stanisław Wiechowicz (the first head of the Composition Department) and Artur Malawski. Significant role played also: Roman Palester, Stefan Kisielewski, and Bolesław Woytowicz (head of the Composition Department in 1963-65).
In the 50-ties and 60-ties a new generation of composers – alumni of the State Higher Music School in Kraków, has joined the faculty team of the Composition Department: Tadeusz Machl (head of the Composition Department in 1965-72), Krystyna Moszumańska-Nazar, Bogusław Schaeffer, Krzysztof Penderecki, Zbigniew Bujarski, Marek Stachowski, Krzysztof Meyer and Adam Walaciński.
In the next two decades another generation of composers graduating from the State Higher Music School (and since 1979 – Music Academy) has joined the faculty team and become the main teaching and research force of the Department: Józef Rychlik, Anna Zawadzka-Gołosz, Marek Chołoniewski, Magdalena Długosz andBarbara Zawadzka. At the turn of the centuries alumni of Marek Stachowski’scomposition class have joined the faculty as well: Marcel Chyrzyński, Wojciech Widłak, Maciej Jabłoński, Mateusz Bień, Wojciech Z. Zych, and Michał Pawełek. They contribute to the Department image, which stays open to the diversity of the contemporary currents in musical creation.


As the names of Wiechowicz and Malawski were the synonyms of Kraków composers’ school in the years after the War, today it is mastly associated with Krzysztof Penderecki, whose unprecedented success in the 50-ties, at the beginning of his career, became a turning point in the history of Department of Composition. Penderecki has opened the Kraków’s musical environment towards the Western Europe, after years of forced isolation, and has founded its strong position on the contemporary Europe’s musical map. As a long-standing rector (1972-87) and the head of the Department of Composition (1972-74) Penderecki has led the Music Academy in Kraków and the Department of Composition itself through the difficult years of the late communist era, preserving at the same time great autonomy and openness towards outside; he has revived the international cooperation, which is until now an unquestionable asset of the Music Academy, and as a teacher he has attracted many students from Poland and abroad.
The realisation of the objectives determined by Penderecki was continued by his aides: Krystyna Moszumańska-Nazar (d. in 2008, head of the Department of Composition in 1974-75, rector of the Music Academy in 1987-93, she has managed to obtain the present domicile of the Music Academy at św. Tomasza street) and Marek Stachowski (d. in 2004, head of the Department of Composition in 1975-2004, rector of the Music Academy in 1993-99 and 2002-04), Penderecki’s best alumni and an eminent teacher. Their activity has led to the development of the faculty team (in terms of research and didactics), bettering and modernisation of teaching methods, and strong emphasis on the Kraków composers’ presence on the national and international scale.


Nowadays the Department of Composition is an active teaching center, educating a few composition students on each year level. Animated international cooperation (i. a. Socrates and Erasmus programs) places the Music Academy in the forefront of the european universities and music conservatories. Each year the number of candidates, students and trainees from the european, asian, and american countries raises due to the eminent teachers and creative atmosphere of the place.Great educational potential of the Department of Composition is not without significance. It covers diverse currents of musical creativity represented by different teachers. It is also a continuation of the multi-layered tradition of Kraków composers’ school’s, in which we find choral music, folklorism, neoclassicism, dodecaphony and serialism, sonorism, new romanticism, electroacoustic and computer music, film and theatre music. Outstanding artistic personalities of the Department of Composition are forming together the image of a comprehensive, thoroughly educating unit, which brings new generations of prominent composers.
Studies program includes the general music courses (music literature, music analysis, music history) as well as the Arts (philosophy, aesthetics, aesthetics of music). The program covers so-called canon of the composition teaching: major courses – composition, orchestration, counterpoint and fugue, harmony, as well as the new educational techniques – contemporary composition techniques, electroacoustic and computer music, theater, film and jazz music.
Performances of students’ works are an important part of the didactic process. Concerts and workshops are organized in cooperation with Departmen of Contemporary Music and Jazz Music. Also diploma works of the second year students are being performed at the student orchestras concerts.
The Department is organizing workshops and masterclasses dedicated to various problems of contemporary music. Eminent composers from all over the world are invited to conduct those masterclasses and give lectures, amog them: Per Nørgård, Bent Sørensen, Peter-Jan Wagemans, Tan Dun, Marta Ptaszyńska, Martin Smolka, Douglas Knehans, François Sarhan, Richard Causton, Tadeusz Wielecki, Rytis Mažulis.


Electroacoustic Music Studio forms another branch of Department of Composition.
Founded in 1973 by Prof. Józef Patkowski, it is directed now by Prof. Marek Chołoniewski.
The outstanding activity of the Studio covers i.e. lectures, seminars, and new music workshops conducted by eminent specialists. Audio Art, Bridges, International Workshops of Contemporary Music Kraków – Stuttgart are among many events organized by the Studio. In 2005 the Electroacoustic Studio became part of the International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music.


The role of the Department of Composition Department is also to promote contemporary music. That includes: cooproduction of International Days of Kraków Composers’s Music, International Twentieth Century Chamber Music Competition, Polish Music Festival, Young Composers Forum, and cooperation with Polish Composers Association, “Muzyka Centrum” Association, Polish Music Edition (PWM), among many other cultural organizations. The newly established contemporary music ensembles attract both performers and composers. Symposiums, conferences, workshops, and concerts of new music are often organized in cooperation with Composition Department. Works of composers affiliated with Department have been recorded and published in Poland as well as abroad. The new generation of composers – alumni and teachers of the Music Academy – is present at the International Contemporary Music Festival “Warsaw Autumn” (Bień, Jabłoński, Zych, Gryka, Widłak), and at the UNESCO International Composers’ Tribune in Paris (Stachowski, Bujarski, Bargielski, Widłak, Długosz), which prooves additionally the artistic and didactic potential of the Department.
Wojciech Widłak


Stanisław Wiechowicz (1957-63)
Bolesław Woytowicz (1963-65)
Tadeusz Machl (1965-72)
Krzysztof Penderecki (1972-74)
Krystyna Moszumańska-Nazar (1974-75)
Marek Stachowski (1975-2004)
Wojciech Widłak (2005-2020)
Mateusz Bień (2020)