Walter Buczynski | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Walter Buczynski

Walter (Joseph) Buczynski. Composer, pianist, teacher, b Toronto 17 Dec 1933; ARCT 1951, LRSM 1953. He studied piano with Earle Moss and composition with Godfrey Ridout.

Buczynski, Walter

Walter (Joseph) Buczynski. Composer, pianist, teacher, b Toronto 17 Dec 1933; ARCT 1951, LRSM 1953. He studied piano with Earle Moss and composition with Godfrey Ridout. He won second prizes in CAPAC competitions in 1951 and 1952 with a piano sonata and songs, and a first prize in 1954 with a piano trio. He studied in 1955 at Aspen with Darius Milhaud and Charles Jones, and won a Fromm Foundation Award with the Suite for Woodwind Quintet. Later teachers included, for piano, Rosina Lhévinne (New York, 1958-9) and Zbigniew Drzewiecki (Warsaw, 1959 and 1961, on grants from the Polish Government), and, for composition, Nadia Boulanger (Paris, 1960 and 1962, on Canada Council grants). From 1962-9 he taught piano and theory at the RCMT. He began teaching these subjects, and composition, at the University of Toronto in 1969. As a solo pianist he made a debut in 1955 with the TSO in Chopin's F Minor Concerto. During the 1960s and early 1970s he gave solo concerts in New York, Paris, Warsaw, and many Canadian cities, as well as CBC radio recitals, featuring his own and other contemporary Canadian works in addition to standard repertoire; he also made solo recordings. He was president 1974-5 of the Canadian League of Composers. In 1977 Buczynski decided to curtail his pianistic career in view of the increased demands of teaching and composing, and gave few concerts afterwards - exceptions being his all-Buczynski program in Toronto 23 Sep 1982, and recitals after 1990. Antonín Kubálek gave a recital of Buczynski's piano music 10 Apr 1979, later broadcast by the CBC, and the CBC and the University of Toronto Faculty of Music co-sponsored a 50th birthday concert of his works 18 Dec 1983.


Buczynski's music of the late 1960s and early 1970s often leaned on satire or whimsy. The Zeroing In series included multi-media elements - spatial movement, mime, and spoken phrases. The short chamber opera From the Buczynski Book of the Living, to the composer's own libretto, poked fun at both R. Murray Schafer'sFrom the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the droning sonorities of Stockhausen's Stimmung. While Quartet/74 continued somewhat in this vein, Buczynski has recognized Trio/74 and Lyric 1 as departures in the direction of greater lyricism, and of a less self-conscious relationship to the avant-garde. The Mass and other later works with texts (the String Quartet No. 3 with soprano, the Songs of War, the wedding cantata Resurrection II, the choral July Notebook) counter-balanced personal Catholic fervor with a naïve exuberance, exemplified in the scat-singing passages found in the latter two works. Similar juxtapositions of mood often mark his later purely instrumental pieces as well, for example the texturally adventurous Divertissement series.


An exceptionally prolific composer, Buczynski has been repeatedly commissioned by prominent Canadian artists such as Kubálek (Piano Concerto, Piano Sonata No. 3), William Aide (Suite One-Two-Three, Lyric 1), Joseph Macerollo ('Kind of Popular' Pieces, Divertissement No. 2, Litanies), and the Purcell String Quartet (Quartet No. 3, Quartet No. 4, Piano Quintet), and organizations such as NMC, ARRAYMUSIC, the Montreal International Music Competition, and the CBC.

Activities After 1990

Buczynski retired from the University of Toronto in 1999. He gave several piano recitals by 2004, often featuring his own works such as the 24 Preludes for Piano (The August Collection), and (with the soprano Lorna MacDonald) the song suite Part of Seven. Premieres of his compositions were given by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (Lyric VXI for strings), and the pianist Greg Oh. Buczynski's works were also introduced to Poland and Czechoslovakia. Macerollo recorded his Fantasy on Themes of the Past (Persuasion, CBC Musica Viva 1096, 2001); and Kubálek recorded The August Collection (Polkas, Etudes and Preludes, CBC Musica Viva 1059, 1999). Buczynski is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.

Selected Compositions

Dramatic Works
Mr. Rhinoceros and His Musicians, children's opera (Lilly Barnes). 1965. Sop, bar, narrator. Ms

Do Re Mi, children's opera (Lilly Barnes). 1967. Sop, tenor, bar, 2 actors, instr ensemble. Ms

From the Buczynski Book of the Living, chamber opera (Buczynski). 1972. Sop, tenor, clarinet, piano, percussion. Ms

Naked at the Opera, chamber opera (Tom Hendry). 1978. 2 soprano, 3 tenor, bar, bass, violin, viola, violoncello, accordion. Ms


Beztitula. 1964. Pf, orch. Ms

Four Arabesques and Dance. 1964. Fl, string orch. Ms

Three Thoughts for Orchestra. 1964. Ms

Triptych for Orchestra. 1964. Ms

Four Movements. 1969. Pf, string orch. Ms

Seven Miniatures for Orchestra. 1970. Ms. CBC SM-308 (CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra)

A Work for Dance. 1970. Cl, percussion, string orch. Ms

Zeroing In No. 2 'Distractions and Then'. 1971. Full orch. Ms

Zeroing In No. 4 'Innards and Outards'. 1972. Sop, piano, orch. Ms

Three against Many. 1973. Fl, clarinet, bassoon, orch. Ms

Zeroing In No. 3. 1973. Str quartet, orch. Ms

Ars Romantica. 1976. Chamb orch. Ms

Lyric for Piano and Orchestra. 1976. Ms

Rhapsody for two horns and string orchestra. 1976. Ms

Three Serenades. 1976. orch. Ms

Legends for String Orchestra. 1976. Ms

Psalm 51. 1977. Sop, alto, tenor bass, SATB, string orch, organ, percussion. Ms

Concerto. 1979. Pf, orch. Ms

Concerto. 1980. Vn, orch. Ms

Fantasy on Themes From the Past. 1980 (rev 1984). Acc, string orch. Ms

Prayer and Dance, 1982. Cl, string quartet, string orch. Ms

Symphony No. 1. 1986. Full orch. Ms

Lyric V. 1988. Ob, string orch. Ms

Lyric VII. 1991. Va, orch. Ms

4 learning pieces for string orch (1964-5). All Ms


Trio, Opus 4. 1954. Vn, violoncello, piano. Ms

Divertimento for Four Solo Instruments, Opus 15. 1957. Vn, violoncello, clarinet, bassoon. Ms. 1968. CBC SM-74/RCI 338 (Vancouver Symphony Chamb Players)

Elegy for Violin and Piano 'In Memoriam Kathleen Parlow.' 1963. Ms

Six Miniatures for String Quartet. 1963. Ms

Four Corners of Gregory. 1966. Guit. Ms

Milósc/Love (J. Beecroft). 1967. Sop, fl, piano. Ms

Trio/67. 1967. Mand, clarinet, violoncello (cb). Ms

Duo. 1974. Db, piano. Ms

Quartet /74. 1974. Fl, clarinet, violoncello, harpsichord. Ms

Sextet. 1974. Fl, clarinet, violin, violoncello, 2 percussion. Ms

Trio/74. 1974. Hp, bass clarinet, double-bass. Ms

Two Pieces for Woodwind Quintet. 1975. Ms

Olympics '76. 1976. Brass quintet. Ms. Music Gallery Editions MGE-34 (Composers Brass Group)

3 Serenades for chamber ensemble. 1976. Ms

The Tales of Nanabozho (D. Reid). 1976. Ww quintet, narrator. Ms

The First Symphony. 1977. Ms

Missa brevis. 1977. SATB, string quartet, brass quartet. Ms

Sonate Belsize. 1977. Solo accordion. Ms

Capricorn Suite. 1978. Guit. Ms

Resurrection II (Buczynski). 1980. Bar, clarinet, violin, viola, violoncello, accordion, percussion. Ms

... Winds... 1982. Fl (alto fl), violoncello, celesta, harpsichord, percussion. Ms

Cradle Song, Vocalise and Elegy (Blake, Donne). 1983. Bar, violin, piano. Ms

Piano Quintet. 1984. Pf, string quartet. Ms

Divertissement No.1. 1985, rev for orch 1987. Guit ensemble (orch). Ms

Gemini Quartet. 1986. Ob, violin, viola, violoncello. Ms

Divertissement No. 2. 1987. Hp, accordion, vibraphone. Ms

String Quartet No. 3 (Bible, Rilke). 1987. Sop, string quartet. Ms

Divertissement No. 3: Impressions and Memories. 1989. Perc quintet. Ms

Also 3 works for voice and piano (1954, 1955, 1966), three sonatas for violin and piano, violoncello and piano, and violin and violoncello (1979, 1982, 1983) and other works for various instr groupings. All manuscript


Aria and Toccata. 1963. Ms. CBC SM-162. See Discography.

Amorphus. 1964. Ms. CBC SM-162. See Discography.

Suite pour le piano 'One; Two; Three'. 1964. Ms. Marie Currie Sklodowska Presents CGA-654369. See Discography.

Ten Piano Pieces for Children. 1965. Ms. ('Happy' and 'Solitude') Dom S-69002 (Mould)

Sonata for piano 'Dzieki'. 1967. Ms. CBC SM-162. See Discography.

Eight Epigrams for Young Pianists (contains pieces from Seven Pieces for Piano, 1965). 1967. B & H 1969. ('Canon') Dom S-69002 (Mould).

Burlesque. 1970. 1 perf: piano, speaker, tape. Ms. CBC SM-270. See Discography

Three Piano Pieces. FH 1970

Zeroing In. 1971. 1 perf: piano, speaker, tape. Ms. CBC SM-270. See Discography.

Zeroing In No. 5 'Dictionary of Mannerisms.' 1972. Ms. Marie Currie Sklodowska Presents CGA-654369 (Book II). See Discography.

Twenty-Seven Pieces for a Twenty-Seven Minute Show. 1973. Ms. CBC SM270. See Discography.

Zeroing In - Zeroing Out. 1977. Pf, prepared tape. Ms

Monogram. 1978. Ms. Centrediscs CMC-0382 (Kubálek)

Lyric II. 1984. Ms. 1984. RCI 586 (Hung-Kuan Chen)

August Collection. 1987. 24 preludes. Ms

Mosaics. 1988. Ms

Piano Sonata No. 3 'Textures." 1991. Ms

Other works for piano and organ. All manuscript.

Voice and Choir

Mass with Outside Prayers. 1976. SATB, woodwind quintet. Ms

A Song Cycle: Songs of War (R. Aldington, W.H. Auden, et al). 1983. Ten, bar, piano. Ms

Three Choral Pieces (O. Wilde, A. Dobson, E. Waller). 1983. SATB. Ms

Flowers and Bouquets. 1987. SSAA. Ms

Remembrances of Latin Texts. 1988. SATB (boys' and men's choir). Ms

July Notebook (Buczynski). 1989. SATB. Ms

Further Reading

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