Peter Paul Koprowski

Koprowski, Peter Paul (b Piotr Pawel). Composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, b Lodz, Poland, 24 Aug 1947, naturalized Canadian 1976; Artist Diploma (State Music College, Lodz) 1966, MA (Higher School of Music, Krakow) 1969, D MUS (Toronto) 1977.

Koprowski, Peter Paul

Koprowski, Peter Paul (b Piotr Pawel). Composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, b Lodz, Poland, 24 Aug 1947, naturalized Canadian 1976; Artist Diploma (State Music College, Lodz) 1966, MA (Higher School of Music, Krakow) 1969, D MUS (Toronto) 1977. Koprowski studied 1966-9 with Boleslaw Woytowicz in Krakow (where he also was music director for the new-music group Ars Nova) and 1969-71 with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, while living in London. He appeared as guest conductor and pianist in Europe before choosing to concentrate on composing. He emigrated to Canada in 1971 and studied 1971-7 with John Weinzweig at the University of Toronto. In 1981 he was composer-in-residence at the Leighton Artists' Colony, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and at the Canadian Opera Company (COC).

A prolific composer, Koprowski is principally known for his orchestral works, the first of which, In Memoriam Karol Szymanowski (1963, revised 1977), is still performed. He has worked with such ensembles as the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, the Olso Philharmonic (which premiered his flute concerto in 1983), the Polish Chamber Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, as well as with individuals such as Pinchas Zukerman and Trevor Pinnock. During his residency at the COC Koprowski wrote the one-act opera Dulcitius, which was premiered by the company in May 1989 and broadcast on CBC Radio 21 Oct 1989. His later works include Letters for mezzo-soprano, violin, clarinet, and piano, premiered in 1994 by mezzo Laura Pudwell (some sections were reprised in 1996 without voice); a viola concerto written for Rivka Golani in 1995; a trumpet concerto for Eric Schulz and the Sinfonia Mississauga in 1998; and Millennium Cantata, performed by the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and the Ottawa Choral Society in 2001. Behind the Iron Curtain, a symphonic reflection on Koprowski's past, was premiered 29 Jan 2005 by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under Andrey Boreyko. Koprowski's work Elegia, for soprano and string orchestra, on the poem Eulogy for a Polish Boy by Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski, was premiered 10 Nov 2005 by the University of Ottawa Symphony Orchestra.

Koprowski has won the Jules Léger Prize twice, in 1989 for Sonnet for Laura and again in 1994 for his Woodwind Quintet. He was given the Canada Council's Victor M. Lynch-Staunton Award in 1989. In 1997 he received the Jean A. Chalmers National Music Award for his Viola Concerto and other works. The Viola Concerto, recorded by Golani, was also nominated for a Juno in 2002.

Though his early influences, Scriabin and Szymanowski, inform much of his music to the present, Koprowski has experimented in many post-war musical languages. He did not subscribe to any one way of writing, though; in his own words, his musical aesthetic "is in the tradition of composers who have been concerned with a 'summing up.' I am less interested in contributing to the development of the language than I am in contributing to how the language is used" (Accordion USA website). Indeed, his music has been variously described as post-modern and neo-Romantic, its harmonies often evoking comparisons to Nielsen, Sibelius, and Mahler. The accordion concerto he wrote for Joseph Petric and the Toronto Symphony in 1993 has been described as "the first post-modern intertextual accordion concerto in the repertoire" (Midtown Media website). Koprowski is inspired by many subjects ranging from the mystical to the absurd, but his recurring impetus, both conceptually and practically, is his family; he reportedly wrote his Symphony of Nordic Tales (1995) with his teenage daughter as the intended audience (Words & Music, May 1998).

Koprowski has taught theory and composition 1971-3 at the University of Toronto, 1973-4 at McGill University, and thereafter at the University of Western Ontario, where he became co-ordinator of new music at campus concerts and conductor of the New Music Ensemble. He is a member of the Canadian League of Composers and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.

Selected Compositions

La Jolie Russe. 1964. Baritone, chamber orch (piano). Ms

In Memoriam Karol Szymanowski. 1966. Orch. Ms

String Quartet. 1967. Ms

String Trio. 1967. Vn, viola, violoncello. Ms

Symphony No. 1. 1969. Ms

Lullabies for an Angel. 1979. Sop, alto fl, piano. Ms

Epitaph. 1980. Str quartet, string orch. Ms

Flute Concerto. 1982. Ms

Souvenirs de Pologne. 1983. Pf, orch. Ms

Moment Musical. 1984. Orch. Ms

Rachel - Games and Daydreams of a Child. 1986. Orch. Ms

Sinfonia da Camera. 1987. Chamb orch. Ms

Vignettes. 1987. Pf quint. Ms

Capriccio. 1988. Ms

Songs for Christmas. 1988. Children's chorus. Ms

Songs of David. 1988. Mezzo, SATB, (optional fl, horn). Ms

Sonnet for Laura. 1988. Fl, piano. Ms

Three Poems on a Winter Day. 1988. Mezzo, orch (fl and piano). Ms

Intermezzo 1989. Orch. Ms

Dulcitius, chamber opera (R. Anderson, after Hrotsvitha). 1989. Ms

3 Madrigals (C. Sivier). 1989. SATB. Ms

Rhapsody on a Theme of Brahms. 1990. Pf. Ms

Songs of Forever. 1991. Mezzo, orch. Ms

Pygmalion and Galatea. 1991. Fl, bassoon, piano. Ms

Woodwind Quintet. 1991. Fl, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon

Sinfonia Concertante. 1992. Orchestra

Dream People. 1993. Narrator, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion

Sinfonia Mystica. 1993. Orchestra

Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra. 1993

Intermezzo. 1994. String orchestra

Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra. 1994

Letters. 1994. Mezzo-soprano, violin, clarinet, piano

Concerto for Viola and Orchestra. 1995

Symphony of Nordic Tales. 1995. Orchestra

Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. 1996

Ancestral Voices. 1996. Orchestra

Saga. 1996. Orchestra

Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. 1996

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. 1998

Fable Mystique de Rachel. 2000. Orchestra


Further Reading

  • 'Karen Kieser talks with Peter Paul Koprowski,' Musicanada, 33, Oct 1977

    Schulman, Michael. 'The composer as perfectionist: continual revision and polishing,' Canadian Composer, 152, Jun 1980

    Macmillan, Keith and Beckwith, John, eds. Contemporary Canadian Composers (Toronto 1975)

    Gessell, Paul. "When music never sleeps," Ottawa Citizen, 5 Oct 1997

    Poole, Elissa. "Ahead by a century," Words & Music, May 1998