- opening

Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Okko Kamu

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Kazuyoshi Akiyama

Duration: 10 minutes
Written: 1980
Premiered: February 1, 1981
by Woodstock Strings
Conductor: Patrick Burroughs
Woodstock, Canada
  • large string orchestra preferred, with first chairs as a string quartet
Epitaph for Strings was written in December 1980 to commemorate the death of my former professors: Nadia Boulanger and Boleslaw Woytowicz.
The composition is traditional in its design and language, and it calls for a string orchestra with a solo string quartet consisting of the principal players. The work is in one movement which breaks into contrasting sections. The prevailing mood of sadness is interrupted by an abrupt ending, which calls to mind the sudden news of their respective deaths.
Epitaph was composed under some unusual circumstances during my lecture-concert tour of Europe; trains, planes, railway stations, and hotel rooms became the shelters in which I wrote the score.
Since the piece was designed to be played by professional orchestras as well as youth orchestras, it is scored in such a way that the more difficult passages are written for the principal players (the soloists), while the ensemble writing remains simple. Furthermore, the writing can be likened to a painting wherein broad strokes articulating a deep and dark mood alternate with delicate lines of a much lighter shade. This antithesis symbolizes the contrast between the sombre image of death and the fragile image of childhood
Since its premiere in 1981, Epitaph has become one of my most often performed compositions; it has been played not only in virtually all major cities in Canada, but also in the United States, Asia, and Europe (including Paris and Berlin). It has also been performed by various youth orchestras and community orchestras.
The work was commissioned by the Woodstock Strings and the Winnipeg Youth Orchestra with assistance from the Ontario Arts Council.
“Epitaph for Stings, a work composed in 1980 by Peter Paul Koprowski … allowed the orchestra sound to glow with nuances and the comfortable warmth of an open fire.”
“A highlight of this half was a piece by Canadian composer Peter Paul Koprowski, entitled, Epitaph. The piece was composed in December 1980 to commemorate the death of his former teacher.
This is a very powerful piece of music. The prevailing mood is one of extreme anxiety, sadness and despair. Koprowski does an interesting thing with the orchestration, by setting a quartet of the principal string players up against the rest of the orchestra.
The result of this is that extremely harsh chords and dense orchestral textures alternate with the simpler, more pure sound of the string quartet. This gives the listener the impression of something menacing encroaching on an otherwise still environment.”
– The KINGSTON WHIG-STANDARD; October 8, 1999
“It must be stated that NACO is an excellent orchestra. The performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 had enormous cohesion and force. Epitaph, a work by Canadian Peter Paul Koprowski was equally filled with meaning and direction.”
– LA SOLEIL, 1999
“After the intermission, the orchestra, augmented by more strings, performed Koprowski’s Epitaph. Again the word to describe their playing is intense. The dissonant chords that engulfed the orchestra had a ferocity and a yearning quality that was soul-stirring.”
“On muted strings, a quartet of NACO first chairs made up the concertino for Peter Paul Koprowski’s anguished dialogue for string quartet and strings, Epitaph. The feeling of loss gives way to a central section (with well-controlled Bartok pizzicato in the double basses) of tense agitation and the brief amalgam of mournful emotions was well caught.”
– EDMONTON JOURNAL; October 21, 1999
“Peter Paul Koprowski has been recognized widely during the past ten years for his very careful and sensitive control of sound in musical composition. To hear a Koprowski score is to hear the contemporary idiom with all the complex harmonies and rhythms in the guise of the discreet sensuousness of earlier times. Koprowski has a well developed sense of what psychologist call “gestalt”. His works always have a strong sense of unity, of purpose, of control and expressiveness.”
– from program notes for Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, 1983