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Professor Adrian Thomas


Adrian Thomas Position: Emeritus Professor Email:

Before he joined Cardiff University in 1996, Adrian Thomas was on the staff of Queen's University, Belfast (1973-96, Hamilton Harty Professor of Music 1985-96). He spent 1983-84 at the University of California at San Diego and in 1983, 1986 and 1987 held composition fellowships at the Macdowell Colony in New Hampshire. In the 1980s he had several compositions broadcast by BBC Radio 3, including a commission for the BBC Singers, Black Rainbow (1989). In the late 1970s and early 1980s he also conducted concerts with the Ulster Orchestra and contemporary music ensembles such as Lontano. In 1990-93 he was on secondment to the BBC as Head of Music at Radio 3. In 2003-06 he held the Chair of Music at Gresham College, London, where he was subsequently elected a Fellow (2006-09). He has served on public committees and boards at the Arts Councils in Northern Ireland and Wales and on the Research Panel for the Performing Arts at the Arts and Humanities Research Board (2000-03). Since 2005 he has been on the board of the British Section of the ISCM.

Adrian Thomas is a specialist on Polish music and has given research papers, public talks and broadcasts in Europe, the USA and Australia. In 1993, while at the BBC, he initiated a nationwide radio music and arts festival, Polska!. He is the founder-director of the School of Music's Central European Music Research Centre (CEMRC). He has received awards from the Polish Composers' Union (1989), the Polish Government (Order of Merit for Polish Culture, 1996) and the Lutoslawski Society in Warsaw (2005). In 2000 he was awarded an AHRB Research Grant (£120K) for 'The Struggle for Music in Poland, 1945-56'. In 2009 he advised and contributed to a forthcoming BBC Television profile of Górecki. He served on the Honorary Committee of the 'Frederyk Chopin 2010' celebrations in the UK.

Adrian Thomas may be reached via



Polish Music since Szymanowski (Cambridge: CUP, 2005)

Górecki (Oxford: OUP, 1997; Polish trans., Kraków: PWM, 1998)

Bacewicz: Chamber and Orchestral Music (Los Angeles: USC, 1985)

Book Chapters, Journal Articles and Published Papers

'Boundaries and Definitions: The Compositional Realities of Polish Sonorism', Muzyka 1 (208) special issue: 'Sonoristic Legacies. Towards New Paradigms in Music Theory, Aesthetics and Composition' (2008), 7-14

'One Last Meeting: Lutoslawski, Szymanowski and the Fantasia', in Z. Skowron (ed.), Karol Szymanowski w perspektywie kultury muzycznej przeszlosci i terazniejszosci [Karol Szymanowski from the perspectives of musical culture past and present] (Kraków: Musica Iagiellonica, 2007), 309-26

' 'Intense Joy and Profound Rhythm': An Introduction to the Music of Henryk Mikolaj Górecki', Polish Music Journal, vol.6 no.2 (Winter 2003), Polish Music Journal Website

'In the Public Eye: Panufnik and his Music, 1948-54', in J. Paja-Stach (ed.), Andrzej Panufnik's Music and its Reception (Kraków: Jagiellonian University, 2003), 205-20

'File 750: Composers, Politics, and the Festival of Polish Music (1951)', Polish Music Journal, vol.5 no.1 (Summer 2002), Polish Music Journal Website

'Jeux vénitiens: Working Methods at the Start of Lutoslawski's Mature Period', in Z. Skowron (ed.), Lutoslawski Studies (Oxford: OUP, 2001), 211-43

Squaring the Triangle: Traditions and Tyrannies in 20th-Century Polish Music (London: SSEES, 2000)

'Mobilising our Man: Politics and Music in Poland during the Decade after the Second World War', in Wyndham Thomas (ed.), Composition-Performance-Reception: Studies in the Creative Process in Music (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998), 145-68

'Witold Lutoslawski: Musique funèbre', in F. Meyer (ed.), Settling New Scores: Music Manuscripts from the Paul Sacher Foundation (Mainz: Schott, 1998), 265-7

'Autocytat w muzyce Grazyny Bacewicz' [Self-Quotation in the Music of Grazyna Bacewicz], in M. Gasiorowska (ed.), O Grazynie Bacewicz (Poznan: Brevis, 1998), 88-117

'Pivotal Bacewicz: Some Aspects of the Nature and Function of her Lyrical Impulse', in M. Szoka (ed.), Rodzenstwo Bacewiczów [The Bacewicz family] (Lodz: Music Academy, 1996), 101-16

'Your Song is Mine', The Musical Times, 1830 (August, 1995), 403-10

'Beyond the Dance', in J. Samson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Chopin (Cambridge: CUP, 1992), 145-59


* UK Premiere
** World Premiere

Black Rainbow for eight-part chorus (BBC commission) (1989); **BBC Singers, conducted by John Poole, Sonorities Festival, Belfast, 21 April 1989

Rau for string octet (St Ives Festival commission) (1985); **IMS Prussia Cove Ensemble, St Ives, 13 September 1985

Elegy for violin and piano (1983); **Paul Barritt and William Howard, Sonorities Festival, Belfast, 24 April 1983

Intrada for orchestra (1981); **Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes, Belfast, 13 November 1981

in wild quiet for septet (1980); **Lontano, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez, MusICA, London, 23 November 1980

Other Output

entries in MGG (2002), The Oxford Companion to Music (2002), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Second Edition (2001) and The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992)

'The Ecstasy Effect', BBC R3 Proms feature on Szymanowski's opera King Roger (19 July 1998)
'The Hidden Composer - Witold Lutoslawski and Polish Radio' (exhibition at BBC Festival 'Breaking Chains', Barbican Centre, London, January 1997)

CD notes for ASV, Chandos, Elektra-Nonesuch, EMI, Hyperion, Naïve Classique and Warner Classics, programme notes for LSO, Ulster Orchestra, BBC NOW, BBC Proms and reviews for Music and Letters, Slavonica, etc.


Adrian Thomas is completing a monograph on Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto for the series 'Landmarks in Music since 1950' (Ashgate) and is continuing his research on socialist realism in post-war Polish music. He is also preparing articles on concert repertoire in post-war Poland and on the genesis of Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra.

Research Papers and Public Lectures


'Chopin as Symbol', pre-festival talk on Chopin and Polish music, St Magnus Festival, Orkney, 19 June 2010

pre-concert talk on Szymanowski, Piotr Anderszewski (piano) and Belcea Quartet, Wigmore Hall, London, 5 May 2010

'Lutoslawski and Literature', Lutoslawski Colloquium, Cornell University NY, 7-8 April 2010

'Echoes of Poland', pre-concert talk on Chopin's mazurkas, Cédric Tiberghien (piano), Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 19 January 2010

'Pig-sticking, Hunger and Shadow-lines: Contextualising Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto', Durham University, 3 November 2009; Edinburgh University, 13 November 2008

'Locating Polish music', keynote address, 'Polish Music since 1945', Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, 2 May 2009

'Górecki at 75', Gresham College, London, 4 December 2008

'Witold Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto: Texts and Contexts', Institute of Musicology, Warsaw University, 7 November 2007

'Boundaries and Definitions: The Compositional Realities of Polish Sonorism', in symposium 'Sonoristic Legacies: Towards New Paradigms in Music Theory, Aesthetics and Composition', 18th IMS Symposium, Zürich, 11 July 2007

'Concepts of Identity in Polish Music since 1956', 'Poland 2006', Trondheim University, 20 October 2006

'Millions of Hands - But Where's the Music?', 'Music and History' Conference, CRASSH, Cambridge University, 18 March 2005

'Marginal Tincturing? Lutoslawski, Folk Music and the Concerto for Orchestra (1950-54)', Symposium of the International Musicological Society, Melbourne, 14 July 2004