Marta Ptaszyńska, composer, percussionist, and professor of composition, born in Warsaw, Poland, is the author of such well-known works as the Concerto for Marimba, Concerto for Saxophone, Winter’s Tale, Sonnets to Orpheus, and Moon Flowers, as well as numerous compositions for percussion (Siderals, Graffito, Spider Walk, Space Model, Letter to the Sun), which have been performed many times around the world.
Ptaszyńska has received commissions from orchestras including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, Polish Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia, and the Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra and from artists such as contralto Ewa Podleś, marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and harpist Alice Chalifoux. She has also received commissions from the National Chopin Institute in Warsaw, Poland, the Kościuszko Foundation in New York, the Südwestfunk in Baden-Baden, Germany, the Caramoor International Music Festival, the International Harp Festival, and the Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago. She was commissioned by the Warsaw National Opera to write two operas for children (Mister Marimba and Magic Doremik) and by the Grand Opera Theatre in Łódź to write the opera The Lovers of the Valldemosa Cloister for Chopin’s Bicentennial. Her television opera Oscar of Alva, produced by the Cracow Television, received both audience and critical acclaim at the International Festival of Television Operas in Salzburg in 1989. Her opera for children, Mister Marimba, which was in the repertory of the National Opera in Warsaw from 1998 until 2006, has enjoyed phenomenal success and popularity for eight consecutive seasons with 114 performances.
Her Holocaust Memorial Cantata gained international recognition when performed several times in 1993 under the baton of Lord Yehudi Menuhin.
Ptaszyńska has been honored with many prizes and awards from prestigious foundations and institutions such as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Fromm Music Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. She received the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation Award in New York, multiple ASCAP Awards, the Award at the International Rostrum of Composers at the UNESCO in Paris, awards from the Percussive Arts Society, and awards from the Union of Polish Composers. In 1995 she received an “Officer Cross of Merit” of the Republic of Poland.
Her music has been performed at prestigious international festivals, including ISCM World Music Days, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Salzburg Festival, the Warsaw Autumn International Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the Gulbenkian Foundation New Music Festival, Prix Futura in Berlin, Caramoor International Music Festival, among many others.
In her native Poland Ptaszyńska studied composition at the Academies of Music in both Warsaw and Poznań. She also worked privately with Witold Lutosławski, who later became her mentor. As the French Government's grant recipient, she studied with Nadia Boulanger in the early seventies and attended Olivier Messiaen’s analysis classes at the Paris Conservatory and at the Centre Bourdan de L’ORTF. In 1974 she received an Artist Diploma Degree in Percussion Performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music in Cleveland, where she worked with Cloyd Duff, Richard Weiner, and Donald Erb. Widely acclaimed as a virtuoso percussionist, she performed extensively as a soloist percussionist for several decades and has participated in many European and American festivals.
Her distinguished career as a composition teacher includes professorships at Bennington College in Vermont, the University of California in Berkeley and in Santa Barbara, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Indiana University in Bloomington, and Northwestern University in Evanston. In 1998 Ptaszyńska was appointed a Professor of Music and in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. Since 2005 she holds an endowed chair of Helen B. & Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Composition.
In 1965-70 Ptaszyńska was a president of the Circle of Young Composers of the Union of Polish Composers in Poland. In the years 1981-84 she aso served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Percussive Arts Society (PAS) in the U.S. In 1991 she co-founded and was vice president of the American Society of Polish Music in New York for several years. As an artistic adviser, she arranged the music program of two Polish music festivals which took place at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in New York in 1994 and 1996.
Her music is published by PWM (Polish Music Publications) in Poland and by Theodore Presser in the U.S. Her works are recorded on many various labels around the world (CD Accord-Universal, Muza Polish Records, Olympia, Chandos, Dux, ProViva, and Bayers Records).
In 2002 Polish Music Publications in Cracow, Poland released a book about her music entitled Music - The Most Perfect Language, Conversations with Marta Ptaszyńska.