Department of Early Music

Department of Early Music is the first department in all Polish music academies offering such comprehensive artistic and research possibilities with respect to historical instruments. Its formation was possible thanks to the longest tradition of harpsichord performance in Poland and the long history of early music performance in Krakow. Established in 1981 as the Harpsichord and Plucked String Instruments Department, it was transformed in 2012 into the independent Department of Harpsichord and Early Instruments (later: Early Music) and Department of Guitar and Harp due to the expansion of its teaching range. The Department owes its rapid growth connected with the formation of early instruments speciality, which was a pioneering move in our country, to its long-time Head, Professor Elżbieta Stefańska (1981-1990 and 1997-2012), and the first teacher of the Baroque violin class, Zygmunt Kaczmarski, PhD (habil.). On his initiative, in 1991, under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the European Cultural Foundation, and the Stichting Internationale Concerten en Wergroepen (SIC), cooperation was established with lecturers from the Sweelinck Conservatorium (now the Conservatorium van Amsterdam) and soloists from the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, including Jacques Ogg and Marinette Troost. As a result of that cooperation, regular open courses in early music performance were conducted and joint concerts by artists-pedagogues from Krakow and abroad were held. Those projects, in turn, led to the opening of new classes of historical instruments. Professor Magdalena Myczka, who held the office of Department Head from 1990 to 1997, was actively involved in the process.

In the years 2012-2016, the Department was headed by an outstanding organist and early music performer Professor Marcin Szelest, PhD, who was very committed to developing the potential of the Department in terms of its teaching offer and building a model of education and artistic activity tailored to the specific needs of the conscious performance of early music. In 2016, a renowned harpsichordist, organist and versatile early music performer Professor Marek Toporowski, PhD, was successfully recruited to head the Department. In 2017, that position was taken over by Monika Gardoń-Preinl, PhD (habil.). At present, the Department is headed by Zbigniew Pilch, PhD (habil.).

Since its inception, the Department has been very active in the concert, research and teaching areas. In 1985, it held the 1st Wanda Landowska International Harpsichord Competition in Krakow. Since 1996, it has been the organiser of the “Bach Days” Festival, which serves as a concert forum for teachers and students of the Krakow academy as well as other Polish and foreign universities.

In 2008, on the initiative of Professor Elżbieta Stefańska, the Baroque Orchestra of the Academy of Music in Kraków was established, and it gives regular concerts, performing both independently and with numerous soloists, the choir of the Academy and – when performing operas – students of the Department of Voice, under the baton of such guest conductors as Paul Esswood, Peter Holtslag and Joshua Rifkin. Usually held in the stylish “Florianka” concert hall of the Academy of Music, the orchestra’s concerts – which take place at least six times in one season (academic year) – are extremely popular with Krakow music lovers and are a unique phenomenon of the city’s musical life.

The lecturers of the numerous master classes organised by the Department have included, among others: Mark Kroll, Jacques Ogg, Johann Sonnleitner, Huguette Dreyfus, Hetil Haugsand, Mitzi Meyerson, Aline Zylberajch-Gester, Martin Gester – harpsichord; Paul Badura-Skoda, Petra Matějová – pianoforte; Lucy van Dael, Sirkka Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch, Marinette Troost, Carol Lieberman – Baroque violin; Peter Holtslag, Ricardo Kanji – recorder; Rachel Brown – transverse flute; Rainer Zipperling, Richte van der Meer – Baroque cello; Lilianna Stawarz, Thérèse de Goede – basso continuo realization; Annelie de Man, Elżbieta Chojnacka – interpretation of contemporary harpsichord music. Students at the Department have had the opportunity to work with excellent pedagogues, outstanding masters and experts in historical performance.

In 2017, the Baroque oboe class was revived, and in 2017/18 the historical piano class was added. Through extensive efforts, the range of instruments is constantly enhanced, which enables the expansion of the performance offer and repertoire possibilities.
As regard its teaching activities, the Department of Early Music provides undergraduate and graduate programmes in the following specialities:
– harpsichord
– Baroque violin
– Baroque cello,
– viola da gamba,
– transverse flute,
– recorder,
– Baroque oboe,
– natural trumpet
– lute;
and graduate programmes in the historical piano and violone specialities.

Distinguished teachers of the Academy of Music in Kraków and young research and teaching staff are joined in their educational efforts by visiting foreign professors (see Department Staff).

The bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes offer comprehensive education in early music and the playing of historical instruments, including classes in historical dance and classes with a regularly performing Baroque Orchestra.

The Department’s activities also include regularly organised master classes, seminars and national and international conferences, which provide a unique opportunity of meeting outstanding artists, pedagogues and scientists. The annual “Bach Days” festival (March) is a concert forum for teachers and students of the Department and the invited guests.