Jerzy Maksymiuk

Conductor, composer and pianist, born in Grodno in 1936.

He holds diplomas in piano (Jerzy Lefeld’s class) composition (Piotr Perkowski’s class) and conducting (Bogusław Madey’s class) from the Warsaw Conservatory.

He is a laureate of several music competitions. He won the first prize in the National Ignacy Jan Paderewski Piano Competition in Bydgoszcz and the first prize in the National Improvisation Competition in Katowice (1962). He also took prizes in the Artur Malawski composition competition in Cracow and the Grzegorz Fitelberga composition competition in Katowice.

From 1970 to 1972 he was a conductor at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw, where he led a number of premiere performances at the Chamber Scene, including "The Little Prince" by Zbigniew Bargielski, "Romeo and Juliette" by Bernadetta Matuszczak "Polish Ballets" for the music by Witold Lutosławski and his own piece "Metaphrases" (1971). In 1972 he assumed leadership of a band formed by the Warsaw Chamber Opera musicians, which gained international acclaim under the name of the Polish Chamber Orchestra.

In 1973 Jerzy Maksymiuk began cooperation with the Polish Radio Grand Symphony Orchestra, with which he toured the United States. From 1975 to 1977 he was the Orchestra's chief conductor and artistic director.

Recognition gained during the Polish Chamber Orchestra's first tour abroad in 1977, particularly in the UK, resulted in a recording contract signed with EMI and a number of performances with British orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1979 he made an appearance with the Polish Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York and in 1981 they made a worldwide tour, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Germany.

Jerzy Maksymiuk's remarkable conducting career peaked with this orchestra as according to a number of critics he led it to unparalleled heights of perfection. He individualized its sound, broke with traditional phrasing and also shocked listeners with speeds reaching the limits of musicians' possibilities. His renditions of the 18th century piece "Tamburetta" by Adam Jarzębski and of Rossini's "Sonatas" made history. The Polish Chamber Orchestra gained international fame.

From 1983 to 1993 Jerzy Maksymiuk was the chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow and the band under his leadership was recognized as one of top British classical music ensembles. In 1990 ha made a debut at the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall in London, where he made a total of more than 20 appearances. He also made tours in Poland with BBC SSO, including two appearances at the Warsaw Autumn Festival. Meanwhile he started cooperation with the English National Opera, conducting the premiere performances of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (1991) and Strauss's "The Revenge of the Bat" (1993).

Jerzy Maksymiuk is a great promoter of contemporary music. For many years he was a member of the Warsaw Autumn Festival's repertoire committee. He inspired a number of pieces written for the Polish Chamber Orchestra and during his leadership of the BBC SSO he made sure that each performance started with a piece by a contemporary Scottish composer.

To mark his achievements with the BBC SSO the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow awarded him with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters. He was also presented with the prestigious Gold Medal from the Elgar Society for promoting Edward Elgar’s music worldwide. He also appeared as a guest conductor with such ensembles as the Israel Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

He made over 100 recordings for such labels as EMI (13), Hyperion and Naxos. A number of them received prestigious awards, including the Wiener Floeten Uhr for Mozart's recording with the Polish Chamber Orchestra (1982), the Gramophone Award - twice, for the recordings of James Macmillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie (EMI, 1992) and Nikolai Medtner's Piano Concertos (Hyperion,1995, with Nikolai Demidenko as the soloist). In Poland his recordings won several Fryderyk awards, including the recording of Witold Lutosławski's works made with Sinfonia Varsovia, Janusz Olejniczak (piano) and Olga Pasiecznik (soprano).

Jerzy Maksymiuk is also a composer (symphonic music, chamber and ballet pieces, songs and film scores). His recent compositions include Arbor vitae (oratorio, 2003), Red Moon (2004), Whispers and A Cry of Dreams (for cello and chamber orchestra, 2005), Four Colors (concerto for two violins and chamber orchestra, 2006), Vivaldi in Boston (for Baroque orchestra, 2011), Leaves Somewhere Falling (for chamber orchestra, 2011), Heart Lamentation, Kielce in memoriam (for orchestra and a female voice, 2012).

Jerzy Maksymiuk made a debut as a film music composer when he was still a student. He has written scores for about 200 documentaries and feature films, including Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass directed by Wojciech Has. His latest achievement in this field is a score for the silent film Mania  starring Pola Negri (85 minutes of music performed live during screenings).

Jerzy Maksymiuk has received a number of medals, including Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and the Gloria Artis Gold Medal. He also won the Superwiktor lifetime achievement award for outstanding television personalities. Mr Maksymiuk is the Honorary Citizen of Białystok.