Choralvorspiel [Chorale Prelude] for string orchestra, (1988)

Instrumentation: 0000-0000-archi (
Duration:  17’
Work dedicated to the memory of Witold Rowicki
Premiere: 22 September 1989 Stuttgart, „Ostinato” Chamber Orchestra, F. Chopin Music Liceum in Kraków, cond. J. Ambros

Chorale Prelude is part of a trend in Wojciech Kilar’s work inspired by highland folklore. It also refers to minimalism, which characterises the composer's early work. The chorale nature of the work is particularly emphasized by the uniform sound of the strings. The piece is basically a cycle of three preludes played attaca: Dolce Quito, Misterioso, Piu Largo. According to Leszek Polony, it is "undoubtedly one of Kilar’s finest and most sophisticated compositions. In this compact, three-part composition the composer joined minimalist-repetitive poetics with the most slow, but clearly perceptable development of form, discrete transformations and evolution of expression" (L. Polony, p. 171).

Choralvorspiel, część I, wyk. Polska Orkiestra Radiowa, dyr. Wojciech Rajski, wyd. DUX 0708, 2009
Choralvorspiel, część II, wyk. Polska Orkiestra Radiowa, dyr. Wojciech Rajski, wyd. DUX 0708, 2009
Choralvorspiel, część III, wyk. Polska Orkiestra Radiowa, dyr. Wojciech Rajski, wyd. DUX 0708, 2009

Générique for symphonic orchestra (1963)

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Duration: 5’
Premiere: 24 December 1963, Warsaw, Contemporary Music Festival “Warsaw Autumn”, Orchestra of the Silesian Philharmonic, cond. K. Stryja

"One of the most artistically valuable manifestations of Polish sonorism," as Leszek Polony called this piece which had its premiere at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1963. It was received with great enthusiasm, encored by the orchestra, the audience appreciated the excellent effects of the young composer's sonorist quest. The piece is designed for symphony orchestra with an expanded wind and percussion groups. It consists of five sections (A, B, C, D, E), rich in a variety of sound events, such as clusters, horns, rustling, tremolanda and many others.

Zieliński T. — „Générique” Wojciecha Kilara , in: „Ruch Muzyczny” 1963 nr 22

Kościelec 1909, symphonic poem (1976)

Instrumentation: 4444-4441-batt (6esec) 2ar pf-archi (
Duration: ca 18’
Premiere: 5 November 1976, Warsaw, Symphony Orchestra of the National Philharmonic, cond. Witold Rowicki

The piece was written in 1976 on the occasion of the 75th anniversary jubilee of the National Philharmonic. In Wojciech Kilar’s work this was a time of special fascination with Tatra folklore, which was already reflected "Krzesany", written two years earlier.

The piece is clearly associated with the figure of Mieczysław Karłowicz, who died tragically on the slopes of the Mały Kościelec. It was written in the hundredth anniversary of his birth, uses the form of symphonic poem, of which Karłowicz was the most prominent Polish representative. In addition, he also refers to the connection between the composer and and the first Polish Philharmonic Orchestra, growing on the threshold of the twentieth century. The piece combines three symbolic themes: the first is the "Kościelec theme", the second is the "call of the abyss" and the third (most powerful) - "fate".

Krzesany symphonic poem (1974)

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Duration: 17”
Piece dedicated to the National Philharmonic
Premiere: 24 November 1974, Contemporary Music Festival “Warsaw Autumn”, Symphony Orchestra of the National Philharmonic, cond. Jan Krenz

The symphonic poem „Krzesany” was written in 1974. Its first performance at the Warsaw Autumn Festival was a real event, bringing a wave of discussion and arousing very strong feelings. "An apology of highland culture, which pales against the famous ballet by Karol Szymanowski - 'Harnasie'" - A. Chłopecki wrote, "A colourful exclamation mark on the background of Warsaw’s - Autumn grey; it has all the elements to become a hit," wrote, in turn, O. Pisarenko. This is a one-movement piece, with simple textures and expressive motives, using folk elements and is designed for large symphony orchestra. Of particular importance is the initial motif, consisting of three chords, presented by the string instruments, and which returns in different variants.

Mała uwertura (Little Overture) for symphony orchestra (1955)

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Duration: 5’
Premiere: 25 June 1955, Katowice, WOSPR, cond. J. Krenz

Wojciech Kilar's youthful, neoclassical composition from 1955, for which the composer received second prize in the Competition for Symphonic Works at the Fifth Youth Festival in Warsaw. The piece is characterised by motoring rhythms, large dynamic contrasts and strong climaxes on a background of an evenly pulsating rhythm. This is the first work by Wojciech Kilar published by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne.


Orawa for chamber string orchestra (1986)

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Duration: 9’
Premiere: 10 March 1986, Zakopane, Polska Orkiestra Kameralna (now: Sinfonia Varsovia), cond. Wojciech Michniewski

Orawa for chamber string orchestra crowns a series of Wojciech Kilar’s compositions inpsired by highland folklore. Since the first performance in Zakopane in 1986 it has been a hit in concert halls, delighting with its spontaneity, energy and temperament. In an interview the composer mentioned that he "dreamed of creating a piece inspired by highlander band," and realized his dream in "Orawa". "This is actually a piece for a multiplied band and one of the rare examples of when I have been happy with my work." (“Cieszę się darem życia”, p. 33)

Orawa - perf. Śląska Orkiestra Kameralna, cond. Massimiliano Caldi, pub. DUX 0677 (Little Big Music), 2009

Orawa transcription for 12 saxophones (1986/2009)

Instrumentation: con sopranoino, 2 sxf s.,3 sxf a., 3 sxf ten.,2 sxf bar.,4on b.
Duration: 9’

The popularity of "Orawa" – an excellent, lively piece for string orchestra led to its rearrangement for other performance forces. One is the unusual grouping of twelve saxophones, arranged by Cezariusz Gadzina.


Orawa transcription for 8 cellos (1986/)
Duration: 9’

The popularity of "Orawa" – an excellent, lively piece for string orchestra led to its rearrangement for other performance forces. One is the unusual grouping of eight cellos, arranged by Zdzisław Łapiński.

Przygrywka i kolęda for string orchestra and 4 oboes (1972)

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Duration: 10’
Piece dedicated to Ruth and Michał Choromański
Premiere: 16 September 1972, Contemporary Music Festival “Warsaw Autumn”, National Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Mario di Bonawentura

Prelude and carol comes from the seventies, from the period in which Wojciech Kilar clearly simplified his musical language, in which he began to refer to tradition and draw inspiration from folk music. This was a major breakthrough in the composer’s work, who was previously considered a leading representative of the Polish musical avant-garde and had already written pieces such as "RIFF 62" (1962), "Générique" (1963) and "Diphthongos" (1964). Both „Przygrywka i kolęda” and the previous "Upstairs-Downstairs" (1971) became harbingers of one of the composer's most famous works, the symphonic poem “Krzesany” (1974), which is defined as a turning point in Wojciech Kilar’s work. The composer himself said about the „Przygrywka i kolęda” that "in this one-movement piece one may distinguish three sections, separated by longer pauses: the initial (prelude), central, being a quasi-canonical development of the traditional Polish carol „Nastał nam jest dzień wesoły” and the final section - a type of coda."

Ricordanza per archi (2005)

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Duration: 12’
Premiere: 20 November 2005, XIV Upper Silesian Festival of Chamber Arts Ars Cameralis Silesiae Superioris
Piece dedicated to Marek Moś and the AUKSO orchestra

The work was written specifically for the AUKSO chamber orchestra of Tychy and its conductor - Marek Moś. It is a composition displaying the individual characteristics of Wojciech Kilar's musical language, dominated by vast sound planes and numerous repetitions.

Riff 62 for orchestra (1962)

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Duration: 8’
Piece dedicated to Nadia Boulanger
Premiere: 16 September 1962, Contemporary Music Festival “Warsaw Autumn”, Orchestra of the Silesian Philharmonic, cond. Karol Stryja

The title of the piece refers to jazz music terminology, which means an often repeated phrase or melodic-harmonic motive. This is an early composition by Wojciech Kilar, which became a symbol of rebellion against tradition, a manifesto for the future, almost showcase example of sonorism in Polish music. Its first performance at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1962 was a great success, the Symphony Orchestra of the Silesian Philharmonic under the baton of Karol Stryja encored the piece, which in the case of such premieres is rather rare. Leon Markiewicz wrote in "Ruch Muzyczny" that "from the aspect of sound it gives the listener full satisfaction." The work was written for the occasion of Nadia Boulanger’s 75th birthday.

Springfield Sonnet for orchestra (1965)

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Duration: 9’
Premiere: 6 September 1965, Stockholm, 21 September 1965 Warsaw, Contemporary Music Festival “Warsaw Autumn”, Symphony Orchestra of the National Philharmonic, cond. Witold Rowicki

This piece unites sonorism with elements of dodecophonic technique. Again after "Riff 62", "Générique" and "Diphthongos" it is an excellent effect of the composer’s sonic exploration. Designed for large orchestra with his traditionally particularly extensive percussion section. In the score of the work, the composer has placed the final part of Walt Whitman's poem, "Hush'd Be the Camps To-Day", which is dedicated to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who spent 17 years of his life in Springfield (Illinois). In 1865 he died at the hands of an assassin. As Leszek Polony noted this attack took place exactly one hundred years before the piece, which "has led to obvious associations with the event that shook the world two years earlier: the murder of President John F. Kennedy" (Żywioł i modlitwa, p. 96).

Fragment of the poem:

As they invault the coffin there;
Sing—as they close the doors of earth upon him—one verse,
For the heavy hearts of soldiers

L. Markiewicz – Ruch Muzyczny 1965 nr 17, p. 8

Symphony III „September Symphony" (2003)

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Duration: 40’
Work dedicated to Antoni Wit
Premiere: 2 November 2003, Warsaw, National Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Antoni Wit

  1. Largo
  2. Allegro
  3. Largo
  4. Moderato

The piece was created as a tribute to America after the tragic consequences of the wave of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, 11 September, 2001. The composer, deeply moved by the tragedy, created "a musical tale 'to lift hearts'" (Leszek Polony, p. 166), in which he referred to gospel music, American hymns and patriotic songs, including Samuel A. Ward’s famous "America the Beautiful". He finished composing it in 2003. The first movement of this work is a mournful chorale, the second – a Toccata full of drama and anxiety, the third is an elegiac song, whose theme is subjected to imitative working out, and the fourth has the character of a march.

The „September Symphony” is the third work of this genre in the composer's output. But, as Leszek Polony writes, "Symphony I for Strings and the next year, Symphony Concertante for piano and orchestra have been forgotten and are only reluctantly mentioned by the composer himself" (L. Polony, p. 75).

Uwertura uroczysta (Solemn Overture) for symphony orchestra (2010)

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Duration: 15’
Premiere: 12 September 2010, Katowice, Orchestra of the Silesian Philharmonic, cond. Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk

The work was written in 2010 on the occasion of the 145th anniversary of granting municipal rights to Katowice. It is Wojciech Kilar’s gift to the city, where he has lived for over sixty years and of which he is an honourary citizen. "I owe all of my education to Katowice," said the composer, "my whole life, everything that is most important. In this piece I pay homage to the city. I'm happy that I had such a chance.” A year later, the score of the piece was placed in the Museum of the History of Katowice.

Solemn Overture for Symphonic Orchestra (2010), perf. The Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, Miroslaw Jacek Blaszczyk - conductor, DUX 0781