*29 VIII 1913 Kraków †15 VIII 2014
Jan Ekier – winner eighth award III Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw (1937). He was born into a musical family: his father composed music for dance and theatre; his sister was a pianist and pedagogue. He began by taking private piano lessons from Olga Stolfow – one of the best teachers in Kraków. Later, under the same teacher, he continued his musical education at the Władysław Żeleński Music School, where he also attended Bernardino Rizzi’s composition class. During 1932-1934 he studied musicology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. He completed his higher education at the Warsaw Conservatory with two specialisations: piano under Prof. Zbigniew Drzewieckiego and composition under Prof. Kazimierz Sikorski (1934-1939). During the war he studied the organ under Prof. Bronisław Rutkowski.
He began his concert career in early childhood; for one, playing piano pieces for four hands with his is sister, Halina Ekier. In 1937, he became a winner of the Chopin Competition and launched on his first Polish tour. He took part in concerts organised by the Musical Movement Organisation, which sought to promote musical appreciation throughout the countryside. During the German occupation, he performed secret concerts and took part in conspiratorial patriotic events – forbidden absolutely by the German’s under the penalty of the gravest sanctions, including death.
After the end of the war, Jan Ekier returned to artistic life, developing in several fields: pianist-virtuoso, pedagogue (professor of piano, initially at the Higher Music School in Sopot and later in Warsaw), composer, editor of piano literature and researcher of Chopin’s heritage.
As a pianist, he played concerts in all of the country’s major symphonies and travelled to several countries in Europe, South American and Japan. Several times he appeared as a soloist accompanying the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra on its foreign tours. He became renowned for his wonderful interpretation of both of Chopin’s Piano Concertos and pieces for solo piano, Karol Szymanowski’s Fourth Symphonie concertante for piano and orchestra, Prokofiev’s Third Concerto in C major and Bach’s Concertos. His playing is characterised by: an easy technique, logical musical narration, a feeling for the development of form, great pedal work, thoughtful articulation and expressiveness resulting from the content of the work.
As a pedagogue (until his retirement in 2000) Jan Ekier raised dozens of great Polish and foreign pianists. Those who studied at the Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw benefited from his broad knowledge as did participants of the dozens of ‘master’s workshops’, taught in Annec, Hamburg, Bonn, Cologne, Darmstad, Mannheim and Tokyo among others. The artist served on the juries of the next ten Chopin Competitions (1949, 1955, 1960, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995) as well as international competitions in Budapest (1956), Leipzig (1964), Paris (1967), Tern (1971, 1973), Prague (1973), Bolzano (1975, 1976), Geneva (1975, 1986), Seregano (1977), Le Mans (1980) Munich (1977), Tel Aviv (1980), Tokyo (1983) Vienna (1985), Hamburg (1987) and Fort Worth (1989).
Jan Ekier’s compositional heritage includes works for orchestra (Highlanders’ Suite, Piano Concerto), ballet (‘Straszak’, Day’s Tempo), chamber orchestra (Variations and Fugue for string quartet), piano (Toccata, Colourful Melodies, preludes, mazurkas, carols and others), vocals (Songs of the Underground, Strike Force (‘Szturmówka’) among others) as well as music for film; all to a great extent inspired by Polish folklore.
Jan Ekier has published critical annotated sheet music of Bach’s compositions (Inventions, French Suites, English Suites, Italian Concerto and Chromatic Fantasy) as well as several piano compositions by Polish and foreign composers.
Since 1959, Jan Ekier is the editor-in-chief of the National Edition of the Works of Fryderyk Chopin, which aims to publish Chopin’s works free of culminated editorial additions and based wholly on the genius creator’s hand-written manuscripts.
The artist holds and honorary doctorate from the Chopin Music Academy, bequeathed by decision of the Academy’s Senate in 1995.