Karol Kurpiński

Karol Kazimierz Kurpiński (March 6, 1785September 18, 1857) was a Polish composer, conductor and pedagogue.


Born in Włoszakowice, Karol began his studies under his father, Marcin Kurpiński, an organist. At the age of 12, he became organist at a church in Sarnowa, Konin County, near Rawicz, where his uncle Karol Wański was a parish priest. In 1800 his other uncle, the cellist Roch Wański, took him to the estate of count Feliks Polanowski near Lviv, who had a private orchestra of which Wański was a member, and in which the young Kurpiński played violin.

There, around 1808, Kurpiński composed his first opera, Pygmalion. In 1810 he settled in Warsaw. With the help of Józef Elsner he became a conductor of the Warsaw Opera, a position he held until 1840. He taught music at several prominent schools including one he founded. In 1815 he became a member of many musical societies in Poland and abroad, including the Société des Enfants d'Apollon in Paris. He became Kapellmeister of the Polish royal chapel in 1819 and in the same year received a lifetime achievement award for his services to music. In 1820 he founded and edited the first Polish music newsletter. He was decorated with the Order of Saint Stanislaw in 1823.

Kurpiński was a romanticist and one of the most revered composers before Frédéric Chopin, and helped to lay the foundations of a national style and prepared the ground for Polish music of the Romantic period. He contributed to the development of Polish opera, introducing new musical devices and achieving a novel mode of expression.

He died on September 18, 1857, in Warsaw, aged 72.

Works, editions and recordings

Stage works

  • Pygmalion, opera (c. 1800–08) (lost)
  • The Palace of Lucifer, opera in 4 acts (1811)
  • Mistress Marcin of the Harem, comic opera in 3 acts (1812)
  • The Charlatan, or The Raising of the Dead, opera in 2 acts (1814)
  • Jadwiga, Queen of Poland, opera in 3 acts (1814)
  • The Reward, or the Revival of the Polish Kingdom, melodrama in 2 acts (1815)
  • Superstition, or Krakovians and Mountaineers, or The new Krakovians, opera in 3 acts (1816)
  • Jan Kochanowski at Czarny Las, opera comique in 2 acts (1817)
  • Czaromysl the Slav Prince, opera in 1 act (1818)
  • Terpsichore's New Colony on the Vistula, ballet (1818)
  • The Castle of Czorsztyn, or Bojomir and Wanda, opera in 2 acts (1819) Libretto: Józef Wawrzyniec Krasiński z Radziejowic (recording by Polska Orkiestra Sinfonia Iuventus – conducted Michał Niedziałek, with soloists Aleksandra Orłowska-Jabłońska, Hubert Stolarski, Jadwiga Niebelska, Tomasz Raff, Witold Żołądkiewicz Dux Records)
  • Kalmora, or The Paternal Right of the Americans, melodrama in 2 acts (1820) libretto by Kazimierz Brodziński
  • Mars and Flora, ballet in 1 act (1820)
  • The Foresters of Kozienice, opera in 1 act (1821)
  • The Three Graces, ballet (1822)
  • Cecylia Piaseczynska, opera in 2 acts (1829)

    Orchestral works

  • Grand Battle Symphony, Op. 15
  • Grand Fugue on the Song "Poland has not perished yet", arranged for piano (1821)
  • Potpourri, or Variations on National Themes, for piano and orchestra (1822)
  • Clarinet Concerto in B-flat major, arranged for clarinet and piano (1950)

    Chamber music

  • Fantaisie en quatuor
  • Trio, for clarinet, violin and cello
  • Reverie over Wanda's tomb, for violin and piano (1820)
  • Nocturne, for horn, bassoon and viola, Op. 16 (1823)
  • Paysage Musical, for horn and bassoon, Op. 18 (1823)
  • Cavatina, for trumpet or trombone and piano (1953)

    Piano music

  • A Dreadful Dream (1820)
  • Le reveil de J.J. Rousseau au printemps (1821)
  • Nine variations (1821)
  • Fantaisie for alto (1821)
  • Fantaisie, Op. 10 (1823)
  • Six Variations (1823)

    Vocal works


  • Six Masses, including "Country Mass" (1821)
  • Oratorio, for 4 voices, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, double bass, timpani and organ


  • Cantata on the Anniversary of Napoleon's Coronation (1810)
  • Elegy on the Death of Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1819)
  • Cantata on the Unveiling of the Copernicus Monument (1830)


  • The Song of Warsaw (1831)
  • The Song of the Lithuanian Legionaries (1831)