SPISAK, Michał (1914-1965)

Composer. Spisak was born on 14th September 1914 in Dąbrowa Górnicza. His first violin lessons he took in his home town; and after some time, his mother decided to send him to family in Warszawa [Warsaw], where he could begin a “professional” education at the Mieczysław Karłowicz School of Music. As a youth of 16, he returned to his home area and, in 1930, began his studies at the Music Conservatory in Katowice in composition and violin. During his studies, he enjoyed a reputation as an exceptionally talented violinist and very promising, especially creative composer. This ambitious and talented student was not fully satisfied with his composition lessons under Aleksander Brachocki, and so took the decision - fairly risky because of the disloyalty of it - to take private lessons under Kazimierz Sikorski.

After graduating from the Conservatory, receiving a first class degree with honours, Spisak received a scholarship from the Silesian Music Society to study composition in Paris. This fact affected his whole future life - leaving Poland in 1937, he surely didn’t suppose that France would become his second home, in which he would remain to the end of his life. At the Paris Conservatory, he began his studies under the renowned educator, Nadia Boulanger. He earned her uncommon recognition of his talent, and also acquired from her a particular passion for the works of Igor Stravinsky.

In 1939, following the outbreak of the Second World War, the composer moved to Voiron
- a small town in the south of France. Despite the difficult political situation and the disturbing news coming from home, this was one of the most creative periods in the life of the composer. Before the War, Spisak had joined the Association of Young Polish Musicians in Paris, and in 1939 he became its president. The idea of integration with the Polish musical world was close to him to the end of his life.

After the War, he returned to Paris. The 1950s brought Spisak success and international acclaim. His popularity resulted, above all, from his winning, in 1954, the Premier Grand Prix at the Queen Elizabeth International Composers’ Competition in Brussels for his Serenade for orchestra, written in 1939. Three years later, at the same competition, he won another first prize, this time for his Concerto giocoso for chamber orchestra. In 1955, Spisak won the International Competition for the Official Olympic Hymn – his Hymn was chosen from among 392 scores and was performed at the opening of the VII Winter Olympic Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo and at the XVI Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. Worsening ill health took a toll on his spirits. From the beginning of the 1960s, he stopped composing. In a last great effort, he travelled to the Warszawska Jesień [Warsaw Autumn] Festival in 1964. Also in that year, he was awarded the annual prize of the Polish Composers’ Union. A few months later – on 28th January 1965 – Spisak died, in Paris. More about the composer can be found on this dedicated website.

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