Felix Roderick Labunski
Felix Roderick Labunski was born in Ksawerynów, Poland, December 27, 1892, the grandson of a Polish landowner and son of a prominent civil engineer and excellent amateur musician. His mother, a gifted pianist, was influential in developing his musical tastes. Labunski began playing the piano as a child and undertook formal lessons at the age of eight. From that time on, his greatest pleasure was playing four-hand music with his brother Wiktor (1895-1974), who later established his own career as a prominent pianist, composer, and academic. Felix improvised easily and began to compose as soon as he began his piano lessons.
After graduation from a private high school in Moscow, Felix's father urged him to enter the Polytechnic Institute in St. Petersburg to study architecture. He studied architechture for four years but then was drafted into the army at the outbreak of World War I and again during the Russian Revolution. He continued composing during those years. In 1920 he played some of his piano pieces for Glazunov, who encouraged him to take up composition seriously. In 1921 he gave up the study of architecture to devote his time to music.
Dr. Labunski received a diploma from the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, and a Ph. D. from the Chicago Musical College. He studied with Lucian Marczewski and Witold Maliszewski at the Warsaw Conservatory from 1922 to 1924. He then went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger and Paul Dukas until 1934. In 1927, together with Czapski, Perkowski and Wiechowicz, he founded the Association of Young Polish Composers in Paris.
Labunski began teaching in Paris in 1930. His first major work to attract the attention of the music world was the Triptyque champetre , a suite for orchestra in three movements which won second prize in a competition held for Polish composers in 1931. He was director of classical music for Polish radio in Warsaw from 1934 until 1936, when he moved to the United States, settling in New York City. He gave private lessons there and also taught for a number of years at Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York. He moved to Cincinnati in 1945 and joined the faculty of the former Cincinnati College of Music. He also appeared as a pianist, mostly in his own compositions, and was active as a music critic. His musical style is faithful to the legacy of Romanticism as cultivated in Poland and Russia.
His works have been performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as well as the New York Philharmonic, and the orchestras of Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Dayton, Montreal, and San Francisco. He was honored in 1951 as "Composer of the Year" and, in 1975, received the Ohioana Citation Award, both from the Martha Kinney Cooper Ohioana Library Association in Columbus.
Dr. Labunski was co-founder and director the the "New Music" concerts of contemporary music at the College-Conservatory of Music. He retired from the College-Conservatory of Music in 1964 as professor emeritus of composition. In 1977, he was chosen to receive his third ASCAP Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Labunski's Canto di Aspirazione [display] was performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1964, by the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 1969 under the direction of Leopold Stokowski, and was recorded by the Louisville Orchestra and released on its First Edition series in 1972. Another of his works for full orchestra, Primavera, commissioned by conductor Thomas Schippers, was premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in April 1974. In addition to major orchestral works, Labunski composed cantatas, masses, madrigals and other choral works, chamber music, and numerous piano pieces. He was also active as a writer on Polish music and musicians, and as a lecturer. Felix Labunski died in Cincinnati April 28, 1979.
His son, Ed Henry Labunski, graduated from the Cincinnati College of Music in 1958 with a degree in Radio and Television. In addition to a successful career creating radio and TV commercials, Ed Henry wrote and recorded an album of country songs called Country and Eastern, including the song "Was Your Wife With Another Man Last Night?"