Kilar, composer of film scores for ‘Dracula’ and ‘Pianist’, hailed as hero

By Monika Scislowska, AP

WARSAW, Poland–Wojciech Kilar, a symphonic composer who gained fame writing film scores for “The Pianist” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” was hailed as a glorious figure in Polish and European music at his funeral on Saturday.

Poland’s First Lady Anna Komorowska and Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski joined musicians and hundreds of Kilar’s fans during the ceremonies at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Katowice, the composer’s hometown, during which his music was played. Kilar, 81, died of cancer on Sunday in Katowice. In a letter read out before the ceremonies, France’s culture and communication minister, Aurelie Philipetti, said that Europe’s culture has lost one of its glorious figures, whose work has contributed to the history of the world’s music. In 2013, Kilar was awarded France’s highest distinction, the Legion of Honor.

Bogdan Zdrojewski, Poland’s culture minister, said Kilar was a “gem in the crown of Poland’s and world’s music,” while Deputy Prime Minister Elzbieta Bienkowska remembered him as a “very good and kind person.”

In his letter for the ceremony, President Bronislaw Komorowski expressed regret that Kilar, a prolific and much loved composer, is now gone.

A modest man who avoided public attention, Kilar loved best to write symphonies and concertos, but he got the world’s attention with his dense and sensuous score for “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 erotic horror movie. After that, commissions came from Jane Campion for “Portrait of a Lady” and Roman Polanski for “The Pianist,” which won three Oscars but was not nominated for best score.

Kilar wrote music for more than 130 movies in Poland and abroad. Though never nominated for an Oscar, he won the best score composer award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 1992 for “Dracula.” The British Academy of Film and Television Arts honored him in 2003 for “The Pianist.”

In his classic compositions, he drew inspiration from Polish folk music and religious prayers and hymns, which he had learned in Latin as an altar boy.

A dark stone urn containing Kilar’s ashes was placed in the grave of his wife of over 40 years, Barbara, who died in 2007. The couple had no children.

Kilar was born on July 17, 1932, in Lviv, a former Polish city now in Ukraine, to a doctor and an actress. The family moved to Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, then to Katowice in the south, where Kilar continued the musical education that he had started in Rzeszow.

He studied piano, music theory and composition in Rzeszow, Krakow and Katowice before graduating in 1955 with top honors from the State Music Academy in Katowice.

He made Katowice — the heart of Poland’s industrial and coal mining region — his home, finding charm and peace in the area and its people.