Son of Grzegorz Fitelberg, Jerzy was born in Warsaw. He first studied music with his father. At a young age, his father had him play percussion in the orchestra of the National Theatre, Warsaw to gain experience. He subsequently studied in Moscow.
In 1927 he re-orchestrated Arthur Sullivan's music for "The Mikado" for Erik Charell's re-staging as an operetta-revue in Berlin's Grosses Schauspielhaus. (Review in the Times (London) September 2, 1927)
His first violin concerto made a major impression on the 1929 International Society for Contemporary Music concert. Music critic Henry Prunieres remarked "The violin concerto...[was] delicate, sensitive with a fine feeling for orchestral resource." His works were heard at subsequent ISCM concerts of 1931, 1937, 1946 and 1951.
Escaping the Nazis, he first traveled to Paris in 1933. There his music was published by Editions Max Eschig. His String Quartet no. 4 won the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Award administered by the Library of Congress. The work had its premiere on April 9, 1937 at the Library of Congress.
He then emigrated to New York City, arriving on May 15, 1940. Among the first works he composed in his new city were those reminiscent of Poland. In 1945, his fifth string quartet was awarded with a prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
He died in New York.
Fitelberg said that his compositional style was similar to "the energy and high voltage music of Stravinsky, a focus on linear and harmonic complexity as in Hindemith, and colors of contemporary French music (such as Milhaud), as well as styles of satire.
Jerzy Fitelberg's manuscripts are housed in the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
List of works
- Henny Penny
- Symphony no. 1
- Symphony no. 2
- Epitaph (1943)
- Nocturne (1944)
- Polish Pictures
- Symphony for Strings
- Concert piece (1937)
- Concert Overture (wind orchestra)
- Concerto for piano, no. 1
- Concerto for piano, no. 2 (revised 1950)
- Concerto for violoncello (1932)
- Der schlechtgefesselte Prometheus, (suite from a ballet)
- Suite no. 1
- Suite no. 2
- Concerto for strings (1923)
- Violin concerto, no. 1 (1928)
- Violin concerto, no. 2 (1938)
- The Golden Horn (1942)
- Concertino (trombone, piano, strings)
- Three Polish Folksongs
- Quintetto (flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, trombone) (1929)
- Sonatine for 2 violins (1935)
- Sonata, 2 violins, 2 pianos (1938)
- String quartet no. 1
- String quartet no. 2 (1931)
- String quartet no. 3
- String quartet no. 4
- String quartet no. 5 (1945)
- Serenade (Viola, piano), 1943
- Serenade (violin, double bass)
- Seven Caprices for viola and piano (1944)
- Capriccio (flute, oboe, B♭ clarinet, bass clarinet, trombone or bassoon) (1948)
- Concerta da camera (violin, piano)
- Duo (violin, cello) (1948)
- Sonata (solo violoncello) (1948)
- Sonata no. 1 for piano (1933)
- Suite for organ (1949)
- 3 Mazurkas (piano) (1932)
- What is Benjamin?: a musical tale for children to read and to play on the piano (1950)
- Poland Fights On (1943)
- Pre-war Poland (1945)
- Fitelberg, Jerzy. "Aspects of instrumentation today." Modern Music vol. 9, no. 31 (Nov.-Dec. 1931), p. 28-30.
- Fitelberg, Jerzy. "News from overseas." Modern Music vol. 23, no. 1 (Winter 1946), p. 42-44.
- Fitelberg, Jerzy. "Forecast and review." Modern Music vol. 9, no. 4 (May – Jun. 1932), p. 184-87.
- Cadenbach, Rainer. "Jerzy Fitelberg" in Franz Schrekers Schüler in Berlin: biographische Beiträge und Dokumente. Schriften aus dem Archiv der Universität der Künste Berlin, Band 8. Berlin: Universität der Künste Berlin, 2005, p. 25-28.
- Jerzy Fitelberg papers, 1921-1952 Music Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
- "Jerzy Fitelberg, 48, A Polish Composer," New York Times (April 27, 1951), p. 23.
- Cadenbach, p. 25.
- Cadenbach, p. 25-26.
- Henry Prunieres, "The Festival of Contemporary Music," New York Times (Jul. 31, 1932), p. X4.
- Cadenbach, p. 27.
- "Jerzy Fitelberg" in New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 on Ancestry.com.
- Cadenbach, p. 28.
- "Record for Jerzy Fitelberg," Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 on Ancestry.com.
- Cadenbach, p. 26.