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Konstanty Regamey

Konstanty Regamey


Regamey Konstanty, born on 28 January (15 January) 1907, in Kiev, died on 27 December 1982, in Lausanne, Swiss composer, pianist, critic, music writer and oriental philologist, the son of Konstanty Kazimierz Regamey. At the age of 5 he started to play the piano under the tutelage of his mother, later he took private lessons from R.Glier – from that period come his first preserved piano compositions: “Mazurkas”, “Barcarolle” and “Souvenir de jeunesse”. From 1920, he lived in Warsaw where he attended middle school, studied piano under J. Turczyński and theory of music under F. Szopski. At that time he composed “2 Preludes” and songs based on the texts of Russian symbolists.

In 1931 he completed his oriental philology and classical philology studies at the University of Warsaw. On 15 November 1932, he made his debut as a music critic, publishing an article about Szymanowski’s IV Symphonie concertante, later he wrote for “Zet” and “Prosto z mostu”. In the same year he began to study oriental philology and linguistics at Ecole des Hautes Etudes and at the Collège de France in Paris. In 1935 he was granted a doctoral degree in Indian philology and comparative grammar of Indo-European languages. In 1937 he presented his habilitation thesis and started to give lectures as a private docent. He was familiar with members of the intelligentsia and landed gentry with artistic interests; many times he met with K. Szymanowski, J. Iwaszkiewicz, B. Miciński, K.I. Gałczyński, J. Braun and J. Stempowski. In 1937 he married Anna Janina Kucharska, a student of Roman philology from Kraków. He was an active critic until the outbreak of WW II. In the years 1937-1939 he was the editor of the bimonthly publication “Muzyka Współczesna”, from 1938 until 1939 he was the chief editor of the monthly “Muzyka Polska”. In 1939 he took part in organizing the MTMW festival in Warsaw and Kraków.

During the occupation period he worked as a pianist in cafes. Thanks to his Swiss citizenship Regamey was not subjected to direct controls of the Gestapo. It allowed him to collaborate with the Armia Krajowa: in 1942 he was a messenger (under the pseudonym “Czesław Drogowski”). His flat was an asylum for those who were hiding, composers gave him their manuscripts for safe keeping (for example R. Palester and others). Regamey made his debut as a composer at the concerts organized by the underground. In 1942 he presented his “Persian Songs”, instrumented as suggested by K. Sikorski, who gave him a few composition lessons. On 6 June 1944 the “Quintet” was performed and the impressions of the audience were given many years later in W.Lutosławski’s memoirs.

After the defeat of the Warsaw Uprising, Regamey and his mother were sent to a concentration camp in Sztutowo near Gdańsk, later to a camp near Hamburg where he was released thanks to his Swiss citizenship. In November 1944 he arrived in Lausanne. In April 1945, Regamey began working at the university in Lausanne and in 1946 he assumed the position of Associate Professor of general linguistics at the university in Freiburg. In Lausanne he started as a Russian and oriental languages teacher, from 1949 he gave lectures on oriental and Slavic languages and civilization, in 1957 he became a Professor. In March 1947 he went to Kraków and was present at the premiere of an orchestral version of “Persian Songs”. Although he kept composing (“Q”, “Theme and Variations”), he devoted himself to research work in oriental philology and Sanskrit.

In the years 1949-50 he gave lectures in India and Egypt, he was a delegate to XXII International Congress of Orientalists in Istanbul. In the years 1954-1962 together with P. Meylan, the editor of the magazine “Feuilles Musicales”, he belonged to Société Linguistique in Paris. ”Five Etudes” had their premiere in 1955 during a festival in Donaueschingen. Due to their original tone and vocal virtuosity they are one of his most highly esteemed compositions. In 1956 he was one of the initiators of the UNESCO project on the Mutual Appreciation of Eastern and Western Cultural Values, he visited New Delhi where he met the Dalai Lama. In 1959 he started working on the opera “Don Robott”, which he did not complete. In 1962 Regamey went for a tour across the Soviet Union with the violinist Anne-Marie Gründer. After returning he composed “Five Poems of Jean Tardieu” for choir a capella which had their premiere at the International Festival of Contemporary Music “Warsaw Autumn” in 1964 and brought him spectacular success. In the years 1963-68 he was the chairman of Association des Musiciens Suisses and the department of the Swiss ISCM. In 1964 he created the Swiss Music Council and became its chairman. He remained in a close relationship with P. Sacher who many times conducted his premieres. In 1968 he visited Poland again as a guest at the Warsaw Autumn festival. In 1973 he composed the second opera “Mio, Mein Mio”, commissioned by the Hamburg opera. In 1969-1973 he was a member of the ISCM presidium. In 1970 he wrote the cantata “Alfa”, in 1976 the double concerto “Lila” dedicated to P. Sacher. In 1977 he finished his work at the universities in Freiburg and Lausanne and retired. In that year he visited Baranów where his 70th birthday was celebrated by the Polish Music Society.

In September 1978, he was nearly completely paralyzed and had to stay in a clinic in Lausanne. He continued working on the cantata “Visions” by dictating it to composer J. Balissat. Regamey, although in a wheelchair, took part in the festive premiere of “Visions” at the Lausanne cathedral. It was his last great artistic success. On 19 May 1983 a bust of the composer was unveiled at the university in Lausanne. Regamey’s wife died in Lausanne on 22 November 1991, and the composer’s archives were handed over to Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire. In 1987 in Warsaw a PCU symposium devoted to his work took place. Thanks to the initiative of the board of the Kraków branch of the Polish Composers’ Union and Pro Helvetia in the Spring of 1993 many concerts were organized in Poland to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Regamey’s death, later in the Spring of 1995 also in Kiev, Lviv and Drohobycz. In 1994 Barbara Halska established the Ensemble Regamey, which performed the “Quintet” during the 6th International Days of the Music of Krakow Composers. In 2002, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of composer’s death, the first Polish performance of his “Incantation Symphony” took place.