Photo : © Adam Stępień / Agencja Gazeta
Krauze’s compositions include seven operas: “The Star” (1981), “Balthazar” (2001), “Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy” (2004), “Polyeucte” (2010), “The Trap” (2011), “Olympia of Gdansk” (2015) and “Yemaya – The Queen of the Seas” (2019). They were staged in such theatres as the National Theater in Mannheim, Theatre National de la Colline in Paris, Staatsoper Theater in Hamburg, Teatr Wielki in Warsaw, Opera Wrocławska, Warszawska Opera Kameralna, Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse, Opera Bałtycka in Gdańsk. In 2012 a staging of the opera „Polyeucte” received the award of the French Syndicat de la critique Théâtre, Musique et Danse as the best musical creation of the year.
The instrumental forms employed by Krauze vary from miniatures to symphonic works engaging hundreds of musicians. In his compositions, piano is the instrument given the highest priority. As an actively performing pianist, Krauze not only composes for this instrument, but also performs his own compositions. This applies both to his early work, such as “Six Folk Melodies” (1958), through compositions resulting from experimentation with musical notation (“Five Unitary Piano Pieces” 1963, “Triptych” 1964), later experiments with the sound of the piano (“Stone Music” 1972, “Arabesque” 1983, “Adieu” 2001), theatrical games (“Gloves Music” 1972, “One Piano Eight Hands” 1973) and piano concertos (1976, 1996, 2019) where virtuosity is combined with a strong emotional charge. Other important instrumental works include: “Tableau Vivant” (1982) for chamber orchestra, “Blanc-rouge / Paysage d’un Pays” (1985) for a wind orchestra, a mandolin orchestra, an accordion orchestra and 6 percussions, “Quatuor Pour La Naissance” (1985), “Piano Quintet” (1993), “Canzona” for a chamber orchestra (2011), “Memories of the East” (2012) for 80 Chinese instruments and Concerto for accordion and orchestra (2016).
Unitary music is exceptionally important in the list of Krauze’s work. As he says: „The sound is individual enough to make it possible to distinguish it from the chaos of other music and other sounds. The performed composition has the ability to put time in order. (…) The beginning of each composition immediately exposes the entire range of sounds and during the piece nothing new is introduced. There will be no surprises. (…) This music creates the space for a different way of being perceived. A perfect situation would occur if the music were continually present, the listener came at the time that he or she felt convenient and left when the right moment right to do so was found.” The theoretical base of unitary art comes from the paintings of Władysław Strzemiński. Examples of Krauze’s unitary music are “Polychromy” (1968), “Pieces for Orchestra No. 1” (1969), “String Quartet No. 2” (1970) and “String Quartet No. 3” (1982).
Krauze was the first composer in Poland to employ new performance forms – musical space compositions (installations). He collaborated with architects: Teresa Kelm in the Contemporary Gallery in Warsaw (1968, 1970), with Wiesław Nowak and Jan Muniak in Metz (1987) and in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Łódź, as well as in the natural setting of the Eggenberg Castle in Graz (1974) and the Rohan Palace in Strasburg.
Music for theatre is also present among Krauze’s compositions. He has been collaborating with Jorge Lavelli, an Argentinian director living in France, for over three decades. From this collaboration grew musical illustrations to plays staged in the Comédie-Française and in the Theatre National de la Colline in Paris, including “Polyeucte” by Pierre Corneille (1987), “Opérette” by Witold Gombrowicz (1988), “Macbeth” by Eugene Ionesco (1992), “Merlin” by Tankred Dorst (2005), “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles (2008) and “El Avaro” by Moliere.
The last, however, not least important, group of works are choral pieces and songs. The most notable among them are compositions from recent years: “Ball In The Opera” (2006) for chamber choir and 12 instruments based on Julian Tuwim’s text, and “Voyage de Chopin” (2010) for a chamber choir a capella, or with an ensemble of folk instruments, based on Chopin’s letters. Five Songs for Baritone and Piano (2010) is influenced by the poetry of Tadeusz Różewicz (2010) and “La Terre” (1995) for soprano, piano and orchestra, illustrates Yves Bonnefoy’s poems.
Krauze is often invited to cooperate with foreign cultural institutions. Nearly all of his compositions are commissioned. His most important partners are: the Ministries of Culture of Poland and France, Austrian Radio, Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Cologne, Südwestrundfunk Radio in Baden-Baden, the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, Suntory Limited in Tokyo, the National Theater in Mannheim, Radio France and Polskie Radio. Zygmunt Krauze’s compositions have been performed at numerous music festivals both in Poland and abroad, as well as in renowned concert halls, such as Wiener Konzerthaus, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Palais de Festival in Cannes and Beethovenshalle in Bonn. Many of his compositions have been recorded and released on records of Polskie Nagrania, DUX, ORF, Nonesuch, Thesis, Musical Observations (CP2), Collins Classics, Warner Classics, Recommended Records, Bôłt Records and EMI.