Zbigniew Preisner
Preisner in 2011
Zbigniew Antoni Kowalski

(1955-05-20) 20 May 1955 (age 68)
Years active1981 – present

Zbigniew Preisner (Polish: [ˈzbiɡɲɛf ˈprajsnɛr]; born 20 May 1955 as Zbigniew Antoni Kowalski)[1] is a Polish film score composer, best known for his work with film director Krzysztof Kieślowski. He is the recipient of the Gold Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis as well as the Knight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta. He is a member of the French Film Academy.[2]


Zbigniew Preisner was born in Bielsko-Biała, southern Poland, and studied history and philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Never having received formal music lessons, he taught himself music by listening and transcribing parts from records. His compositional style represents a distinctively sparse form of tonal neo-Romanticism. Paganini and Jean Sibelius are acknowledged influences.[3]


Preisner is best known for the music composed for the films directed by fellow Pole Krzysztof Kieślowski. His Song for the Unification of Europe, based on the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 13, is attributed to a character in Kieślowski's Three Colors: Blue and plays a dominating role in the story. His music for Three Colors: Red includes a setting of Polish and French versions of a poem by Wisława Szymborska, a Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet.[4]

After working with Kieślowski on Three Colors: Blue, Preisner was hired by the producer Francis Ford Coppola to write the score for The Secret Garden, directed by Polish director Agnieszka Holland. Although Preisner is most closely associated with Kieślowski, he has collaborated with several other directors, winning a César in 1996 for his work on Jean Becker's Élisa. He has won a number of other awards, including another César in 1994 for Three Colors: Red, and the Silver Bear from the 47th Berlin International Film Festival 1997 for The Island on Bird Street.[5] He was nominated for Golden Globe awards for his scores for Three Colors: Blue (1993) and At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991).

In 1998, Requiem for My Friend, Preisner's first large scale work not written for film, premiered. It was originally intended as a narrative work to be written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and directed by Kieślowski, but it became a memorial to Kieślowski after the director's death. The Lacrimosa from this Requiem appears in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. The Dies Irae from this Requiem appears in the film La Grande Bellezza, directed by Paolo Sorrentino[6] and in the second season of the television series The Crown.[7]

Preisner composed the theme music for the People's Century, a monumental 26-part documentary made jointly in 1994 by the BBC television network in United Kingdom and the PBS television network in the United States. He has also worked with director Thomas Vinterberg on the 2003 film It's All About Love. He provided orchestration for David Gilmour's 2006 album On An Island as well as additional orchestrations for the show at Gdańsk shipyards at which he also conducted the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra, this was documented on the album Live in Gdańsk (2008). Silence, Night and Dreams is Zbigniew Preisner's new recording project, a large-scale work for orchestra, choir and soloists, based on texts from the Book of Job. The premier recording, was released in 2007 with the lead singer of Madredeus, Teresa Salgueiro and boy soprano Thomas Cully from Libera.[8]

Van den Budenmayer

Van den Budenmayer is a fictitious 17th-century Dutch composer created by Preisner and director Krzysztof Kieślowski for attributions in screenplays.[3] Preisner said Van den Budenmayer is a pseudonym he and Kieślowski invented "because we both loved the Netherlands". Music "by" the Dutch composer plays a role in three Kieślowski films. The first is Dekalog (1988). The second is Three Colours: Blue (1993) in which a theme from his musique funebres is quoted in the Song for the Unification of Europe. Its E minor soprano solo prefigured in the earlier film The Double Life of Veronique (1991), where circumstances in the story prevent the solo from finishing. The third is Three Colours: Red (1994).[9][10]


Orchestral works

Music for solo instruments


Film scores


  1. ^ ":: Muzyka :: RMF FM". www.rmf.fm.
  2. ^ "Zbigniew Preisner - Biography". Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  3. ^ a b musicolog.com. "Zbigniew Preisner".
  4. ^ "Zbigniew Preisner". Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  5. ^ "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  6. ^ "The Great Beauty". Allmusic. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  7. ^ "The Crown". Tunefind. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  8. ^ emiclassics.com Silence, Night and Dreams release info
  9. ^ Greiving, Tim. "Under the Sign of Sadness: Zbigniew Preisner's Three Colors Scores". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2023-02-22.
  10. ^ Krzysztof Kieślowski (2003). "A Discussion on Working with Kieślowski". Trois Couleurs: Blanc (DVD extra). Burbank CA: Miramax. Event occurs at 15:12–17:32. ISBN 0-7888-4146-7. They had this private joke about – well it wasn't that private because they put it into the films – about a composer, Van Budenmayer. [sic] (Geoff Andrew) It was like a red little thread, as we say in French, you know, that we – a little something we can see in many films. (Irène Jacob) It was for Dekalog number nine, where the secondary character of Ola, a beautiful young woman who is about to have elective heart surgery tells the doctor that she sings the music of Van den Budenmayer. And in the next scene, you see the doctor listening to the album of this music, which, by the way, in the screenplay, was not Van den Budenmayer at all. It was Mahler, or something. In other words, this was after the script was written that they started to have fun with the fictive Van den Budenmayer, a Dutch composer. Well, after that they started getting letters of people asking, 'Who is Van den Budenmayer? How can I buy his music? Does it exist on cassette?' So what did they do? They brought him back in The Double Life of Véronique. (Annette Insdorf) I really like this piece. It's by a very interesting composer. He was discovered only recently...although he lived in Holland over two centuries ago. (film excerpt subtitles) And then he's mentioned in Blue; the character of Julie says to Olivier that she has this memento that was supposed to invoke Van den Budenmayer. (Insdorf) He told me: 'It's a memento.' Try weaving it back in. Van den Budenmayer? (film excerpt subtitles) White is the only one where Van den Budenmayer doesn't make a direct appearance, but he comes back forcefully in Red in a number of ways. (Insdorf) I'd like number 432. Van den Budenmayer. Did I pronounce it right? Yes. This one? (film excerpt subtitles) We even see a picture of him. Of course he didn't exist. It was just this little joke they had between them. (Andrew) At the New York Film Festival press conference, um, Kieślowski had a great time telling the story – and I was translating – of how he's now gotten letters from an encyclopedia, I think it is, telling him that he must cease and desist from using the music of Van den Budenmayer without paying royalties to the estate, or else they might be sued. He thinks this is utterly hilarious because there is no Van den Budenmayer, but they've been way too persuasive in suggesting that there is one. (Insdorf)