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English Section

Polish maestro Jerzy Maksymiuk turns 85

09.04.2021 12:56
The Polish musical world as well as fans of Polish music worldwide have been congratulating conductor Jerzy Maksymiuk, who celebrates his 85th birthday on Friday. 
Jerzy Maksymiuk.
Jerzy Maksymiuk. Photo: PAP/Jakub Kamiński

Maksymiuk is a versatile musician who, apart from pursuing a conducting career spanning six decades, is a pianist and composer. He continues to be in excellent form, appearing regularly on the conductor’s podium. Critics often describe him as a man who does not just conduct music but breathes it.

To mark his birthday, a CD entitled Maksymiuk – Perfectionist has been launched by the Sinfonia Varsovia orchestra, with which the conductor has worked closely for decades.

In addition to works by Claude Debussy, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Andrzej Panufnik and Wojciech Kilar, it features Maksymiuk’s 2011 composition Liście gdzieniegdzie spadające (Leaves Falling Here and There) for chamber orchestra and piano, with the composer performing the piano part.

Maksymiuk was born in Grodno, in present-day Belarus. He completed his musical studies in Warsaw with three diplomas, in piano, composition, and conducting.

In 1961 he won first prize at the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Piano Competition in Bydgoszcz, northern Poland, but soon afterwards abandoned the piano in favour of conducting.

In 1972, he founded the Polish Chamber Orchestra. Hailed by many critics as one of the world’s leading ensembles of its kind, it performed in many prestigious venues such as the Carnegie Hall, the Wiener Konzert-Verein and the Royal Albert Hall. 

The British debut with the Polish Chamber Orchestra set the seal on Maksymiuk’s international career. It was followed by a series of recordings for EMI.

Between 1975 and 1977, he held the post of principal conductor of the Great Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, with which he toured extensively in Europe and the United States.

From 1983 to 1991, he served as chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow. In recognition of his commitment to the orchestra, the BBC conferred upon Maksymiuk the title of Conductor Laureate.

Maksymiuk has worked with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre National de France.

His discography comprises over 100 records for top labels such as EMI, Hyperion and Naxos, some of which won the Gramophone Awards and the Fryderyk Award of the Polish recording industry.

Maksymiuk holds the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Strathclyde University in Glasgow, and is one of only two artists in the world to have been presented with the Gold Medal from the Elgar Society for the promotion of Elgar’s music.

His compositional output includes symphonic and ballet music, chamber works, songs and film soundtracks.