Marta Ptaszynska


Helen B. & Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Music and the Humanities


Composition studies under Tadeusz Paciorkiewicz, Nadia Boulanger and O. Messiaen in Paris; Music Theory, State Higher School of Music, Warsaw; Percussion Performance under Jerzy Zgodzinski, State Higher School of Music, Poznan, Poland; Cloyd Duff and Richard Weiner, The Cleveland Institute of Music


Office: Goodspeed 206
Phone: (773) 702-8663


Marta Ptaszynska has been a professor of Music and the Humanities at the University of Chicago since 1998.  In 2005 she was named the Helen B. & Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Music and the Humanities. Ptaszynska is an internationally known composer. Her music has been performed around the world at many international festivals, including ISCM World Music Days, the Warsaw Autumn International Festivals, the Salzburg Festival, the Schleswig- Holstein Music Festival, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Prix Futura in Berlin, and many others. She has received commissions from major orchestras and opera houses including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, the Polish Chamber Orchestra, the Sinfonia Varsovia, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the National Opera in Poland. Her first opera Oscar of Alva in 6 scenes (1971-72, rev. 1986; libretto after Lord G. Byron) received the Award of the Polish Television Broadcasting Co. and was presented in 1989 at the Television Opera Festival in Salzburg, Austria. Her opera for children Mister Marimba (libretto: Agnieszka Osiecka) has enjoyed phenomenal success with 114 performances over eight seasons at the National Opera in Warsaw, which in 2008 premiered her second opera Magic Doremik (2006-2007; libretto after Gianni Rodari).Her newest opera "The Lovers from the Valldemosa's Cloister" was commissioned for the Chopin Bicentennial and will be premiered in December 2010 by the Grand Opera Theatre in Lodz, Poland.

She is the composer of such well known works as the Holocaust Memorial Cantata, performed several times under the baton of Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Concerto for Marimba, Winter’s Tale, Sonnetsto Orpheus, Moon Flowers, Mosaics for string quartet (2002), Trois visions de l'arc-en-ciel for clarinet, violin, viola, cello, percussion & piano (2008), and Street Music for percussion orchestra of 70 players, (2008) as well as other popular compositions for solo percussion (Siderals, Graffito, Spider Walk, Space Model, Letter to the Sun). Ptaszynska has been honored with many prizes and awards, including the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Union of Polish Composers, the 2010 Simon Guggenheim Award, the Special Award given by the Minister of Culture of Poland for Outstanding Production for her opera on Chopin premiered by the Grand Opera Theatre in Lodz, the 2006 Benjamin H. Danks Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Fromm Music Foundation Award, First Prize at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris, several awards from the Percussive Arts Society, multiple ASCAP Awards, and in 1995 the “Officer Cross of Merit of the Republic of Poland.

Prior to coming to the University of Chicago, Ptaszynska taught composition at Northwestern University, Indiana University in Bloomington, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the University of California at Berkeley and at Santa Barbara, and Bennington College in Vermont.   

Her music is published by PWM – Polish Music Publications in Poland – and by Theodore Presser in the U.S.A. Recordings of her work are available on CD Accord-Universal, Muza Polish Records, Chandos, Olympia, Dux, Bayer Records, and Pro Viva Sonoton labels.

Recent Courses Taught

  • Contemporary Opera (Winter 2010)
  • Composition (all quarters)
  • Composition Seminar (all quarters)
  • 18th Century Couterpoint (Spring 2006)
  • Introduction to Composition (Spring 2008)
  • Musical Language of Olivier Messiaen (Winter 2006)

Selected Works

  • The Lovers from the Cloister of Valldemosa, opera in two acts, 2008-10
  • Of Time & Space, a Concerto for Percussion Solo with Electronic Tape and Orchestra, commissioned by the National Chopin Institute for the Chopin Bicentennial, 2010
  • Hymn of the Universe for Choir & Organ, 2008
  • Concerto for Flute, Harp & Orchestra, 2008
  • Lumen for Orchestra, 2007
  • Elegia in memoriam of John Paul II, for Viola, 2005
  • Pinophonia for Piano, 2004
  • Magic Doremic, opera in two acts, 2006-07
  • Mosaics for String Quartet, 2002
  • Drum of Orfeo, Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra, 2002
  • Letter to the Sun for Frame Drum, Narrator, and Percussion Quartet, 2000
  • Linear Constructions in Space for Percussion Sextet, 1997-98
  • Mister Marimba, opera in two acts for children, 1993-96
  • Concerto Grosso for Two Violins and Orchestra, 1996
  • Liquid Light for Mezzosoprano,Piano & Percussion, 1995    
  • Holocaust Memorial Cantata for 3 Soloists, Choir, and Orchestra, 1992
  • Grafitto for Marimba, 1988
  • Charlie’s Dream—Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra, 1988
  • Moon Flowers for Cello and Piano, 1986
  • Concerto for Marimba & Orchestra, 1985
  • La novella d’inverno (Winter’s Tale) for Strings,1984
  • Die Sonette an Orpheus for Voice & Orchestra, 1980-81
  • Dream Lands, Magic Spaces for Violin, Piano, and Percussion,1978
  • Oscar of Alva, opera in 6 scenes, 1972, rev. 1986