*5 VII 1933 Góra Kalwaria
Irena Poniatowska was born on 5th July 1933 in Góra Kalwaria near Warsaw. In 1957-62 she studied musicology at the Warsaw University. Since 1965, she has been working at the Institute of Musicology of the Warsaw University, going through all the stages of an academic career: assistant (1968), lecturer (1970), reader (1984), professor extraordinarius (1991) and ordinarius (1996). In 1970, she obtained a PhD for her dissertation The piano texture of Beethoven, written under the tutorship of Prof. Józef M. Chomiński. In 1983, she obtained a habilitation for her dissertation Piano music and playing in the 19th century. In 1974-79 she was deputy director of the Institute of Musicology. In 1988-2003 she was Head of the Music History Department at the same Institute. In 1986-90 and 1993-99 she was also vice-dean of the Department of History of the Warsaw University.
During her 40 years of activity at the Institute of Musicology of the Warsaw University she has given lectures and seminars in music history from the Baroque to the 20th century. She has promoted 73 MAs and 8 PhDs, and has reviewed over 30 dissertations. In 1993-4 she was also visiting professor at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. She has been guest lecturer at other Polish universities and music academies (including the post-graduate cursus at the F. Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw), scientific societies, at the Third Age University, Polish Children's Found, and abroad at the universities of Mainz, Paris, La Châtre, Kyiv and New Delhi.
Since 2001, she has chaired the Programme Board of the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw.
Prof. Irena Poniatowska has written several books, including The Piano Texture of Beethoven (Warsaw 1972), A Chronicle of Musical Events in Poland, 1945-72 (Cracow 1974), Piano Music and Playing in the 19th Century (Warsaw 1991), History and Interpretation of Music. Research on the Music of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries (Cracow 1993), School Dictionary of Music (Warsaw 1991), and over 100 articles published in the leading music periodicals in Poland and abroad, entries in music encyclopedias (including Beethoven and Mozart for the PWM Music Encyclopedia), numerous reviews and popular articles. She is also the editor or co-editor of a number of cyclic musicological publications, including Chopin w kręgu przyjaciół [Chopin and His Friends, 6 vols. published to date], and interdisciplinary yearly Barok published by the Warsaw University since 1994. In 1962-72 she worked as an editor for Polish Scientific Publishers PWN, and in 1972-91 she was director of the 20th-century composers department of the PWM Music Encyclopedia. Since 1999, she has been member of the Editorial Board of Chopin in the World, yearly of the International Federation of Chopin Societies. She has worked with the world's leading music encyclopedias, including Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Among her major editorial achievements are the critical edition of Maria Szymanowska's 25 Mazurkas (Hildegard Publishing Company, 1993), the facsimile edition of Chopin's 24 Preludes Op. 28 with an introduction in Polish, French and English (Biblioteka Narodowa, Warsaw 1999), and a source edition of the Polonaise brillante Op. 4 for violin and piano by Henryk Wieniawski (Henryk Wieniawski Music Society, Poznań 2000).
Irena Poniatowska's scientific output centres on piano playing, piano music and Fryderyk Chopin. Already her PhD dissertation The Piano Texture of Beethoven (1972) was an important contribution not only to Beethoven studies but to research on piano texture in general, looking at texture as a parameter of individual compositional style and form. Through her analysis of Beethoven's piano texture, Poniatowska has also suggested a new periodisation of his output (also outlined in the Beethoven entry of the PWM Music Encyclopedia). This analysis has been extended by linking it to other elements of musical composition.
Poniatowska's next dissertation, Piano Music and Playing in the 19th Century (Warsaw 1991), was awarded with the Minister of National Education Prize in 1992. 19th-century music has been presented in a wide perspective, taking into account the development of the instrument itself (including the conditioning of the piano sound), pianistic technique (seen through contemporary theoretical works and the analysis of the major schools of piano playing), Romantic aesthetics, and the social dimension of piano music (with comprehensive discussion of salon and 'trivial' music).
In her research on virtuosity and 19th-century piano music, an important role is played by Poniatowska's studies on the relationship between Chopin and Franz Liszt, including her reedition of Liszt's famous book on Chopin of 1852 (Paris 1990), preceded by a comprehensive introduction (co-written by Maria Poniatowska). In her other studies, she has focused on Johann Hummel, Muzio Clementi, Maria Szymanowska, Theodor Leschetizky, Ignacy J. Paderewski, Clara Wieck, Robert Schumann, Antoni Kątski and other leading figures of Polish and European piano music. Her publications have met with approval in Poland and abroad, and are continued by her students. As emphasised by the author, these studies take their beginning with the notion of 'real sound', formulated by Irena Poniatowska's tutor, Józef M. Chomiński.
Also Poniatowska's wide interests - which are not limited to piano music - show the legacy of Chomiński's school. Among the major methodological and theoretical issues addressed in her writings are historicism (inspired by Carl Dahlhaus, Walter Wiora and other German musicologists), history (from Baroque to modernity), nationality versus tradition, and the reception of the musical work. The latter is addressed by Poniatowska from a wide interdisciplinary perspective, with regard to the works of Chopin, Beethoven, J. S. Bach, Schubert, Spohr and others.