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Wladyslaw Szpilman

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December 5, 1911 Sosnowiec - July 6, 2000 Warszawa

Polish composer and pianist of Jewish origin. First trained as a pianist at the Chopin School of Music in Warsaw. In 1931 he moved to Germany to continue his studies at the Academy of Arts in Berlin. After returning to Warsaw in 1933, he earned a growing reputation as a performer and composer of both classical and popular music.

In 1935 he became house pianist for Polish State Radio in Warsaw.


Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and when enemy bombardment forced the closing of Polish State Radio, Szpilman’s performance of Chopin’s C sharp minor Nocturne was the last live music broadcast.


Szpilman continued to concertize and write new music after Warsaw’s Jews were resettled in the ghetto in October 1940. He eventually escaped the ghetto and spent the remainder of the war hiding out, under increasingly harrowing conditions, on the "Aryan" side of the city. Szpilman’s account of his survival, Death of a City, appeared in Polish in 1946. Retitled The Pianist, the book has recently been published in English and several other languages.

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