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Krzysztof Penderecki

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Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki, Gdańsk, 2008

Krzysztof Eugeniusz Penderecki (; Polish: ; born 23 November 1933) is a Polish composer and conductor. The Guardian has called him Poland's greatest living composer.[1] Among his best known works are his Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, St. Luke Passion, Polish Requiem, Anaklasis, four operas, eight symphonies and other orchestral pieces, a variety of instrumental concertos, choral settings of mainly religious texts, as well as chamber and instrumental works.

Born in Dębica to a lawyer, Penderecki studied music at Jagiellonian University and the Academy of Music in Kraków. After graduating from the Academy of Music, Penderecki became a teacher at the academy and he began his career as a composer in 1959 during the Warsaw Autumn festival. His Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for string orchestra and the choral work St. Luke Passion, have received popular acclaim. His first opera, The Devils of Loudun, was not immediately successful. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Penderecki's composing style changed, with his first violin concerto focusing on the semitone and the tritone. His choral work Polish Requiem was written in the 1980s, with Penderecki expanding it in 1993 and 2005.

During his life, Penderecki has won several prestigious awards, including the Commander's Cross in 1964, the [2]


  • Life 1
    • 1933–58: Early years 1.1
    • 1958–70s: First compositions 1.2
    • The St. Luke Passion 1.3
    • 1970s–present 1.4
  • Legacy 2
  • Works 3
    • Use in film 3.1
  • Honors and awards 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


1933–58: Early years

Penderecki was born in

  • Official website (Polish)
  • "Penderecki's violin revolution in Poland" (Drowned In Sound, 2012)
  • Penderecki page at the Polish Music Center (last updated 2001)
  • Penderecki homepage maintained by Schott Music publishers (German/English)
  • Krzysztof Penderecki interview by Bruce Duffie (March 2000)
  • Interview with Krzysztof Penderecki by Galina Zhukova (2011), Журнал reMusik, Saint-Petersburg Contemporary Music Center.
  • "Krzysztof Penderecki: Turning history into avant-garde". Video interview by Louisiana Channel, Denmark, 2013.
  • A biography on IRCAM's website (French)
  • Krzysztof Penderecki,

External links

  • Bylander, Cindy (2004). Krzysztof Penderecki: a bio-bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger.  
  • Maciejewski, B. M. (1976). Twelve Polish Composers. London, England: Allegro Press.  
  • Robinson, Ray (1983). Krzysztof Penderecki: a guide to his works. Princeton, New Jersey: Prestige Publications.  
  • Schwinger, Wolfram; trans. William Mann (1989). Krzysztof Penderecki: His Life and Work – encounters, biography and musical commentary. London, England: Schott.  
  • Thomas, Adrian (1992). "Penderecki, Krzysztof". In Sadie, Stanley.  

Further reading

  1. ^ Michaels, Sean (23 January 2012). "Jonny Greenwood reveals details of Krzysztof Penderecki collaboration". The Guardian. 
  2. ^ "1992- Krzysztof Penderecki". 
  3. ^ a b Schwinger, p. 16.
  4. ^ Penderecki on 'aiming for the unreachable', Deutsche Welle
  5. ^ a b Krzysztof Penderecki engaged in creation of choral work on Armenian Genocide centennial, ARMENPRESS
  6. ^ Schwinger, pp. 16–17.
  7. ^ a b Schwinger, p. 17.
  8. ^ Schwinger, p. 18.
  9. ^ Schwinger, pp. 18–19.
  10. ^ a b Monastra, Peggy. "Krzysztof Penderecki's Polymorphia and Fluorescences". Moldenhauer Archives, Library of Congress. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Tomaszewski, Mieczyslaw (2000). "Orchestral Works Vol 1 Liner Notes". 
  12. ^ Dziennik Polski, rok XXIV, nr 172 (7599), p. 6.
  13. ^ Dziennik Polski, rok XXX, nr 175 (9456), p. 2.
  14. ^ Dziennik Polski, rok XX, nr 171 (6363), p. 6.
  15. ^ "Biography on Krakow 2000". Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  16. ^ Benefizkonzert zum 70. Geburtstag von Helmuth Rilling (in German).
  17. ^ Ouverture 2008 Rheingau Musik Festival, p. 17, 11 July 2008.
  18. ^ Irish Times, 8 September 2010.
  19. ^ "21059 Penderecki (1991 GR10)".  
  20. ^ Liner notes for The Exorcist: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Warner Bros. 16177-00-CD, 1998.
  21. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 1584. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 


See also

He is an Honorary Member of the following academies and music companies: Royal Academy of Music (London), Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Rome), Royal Swedish Academy of Music (Stockholm), Academy of Arts (London), Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires) and the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna.

Penderecki is honorary doctor and honorary professor of several universities: University of Glasgow, Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw, Seoul National University, Universities of Rochester, Bordeaux, Leuven, Belgrade, Madrid, Poznan and St. Olaf College (Northfield, Minnesota), Duquesne University, Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, University of Pittsburgh (PA), University of St. Petersburg, Beijing Conservatory, Yale University and Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster (Westphalia) (2006 Faculty of Arts).

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Deutsch WorldHeritage.

Honors and awards

Some of Penderecki's music has been adapted for film soundtracks. The Exorcist (1973) features Polymorphia as well as his String Quartet and Kanon For Orchestra and Tape; fragments of the Cello Concerto and The Devils of Loudun are also used in the film. Writing about The Exorcist, the film critic for The New Republic wrote "even the music is faultless, most of it by Krzysztof Penderecki, who at last is where he belongs."[20] The Shining (1980) features six pieces of Penderecki's music: Utrenja II: Ewangelia, Utrenja II: Kanon Paschy, The Awakening of Jacob, De Natura Sonoris No. 1, De Natura Sonoris No. 2 and Polymorphia. David Lynch has used Penderecki's music in the soundtracks of the movies Wild at Heart (1990) and Inland Empire (2006). In the film Fearless (1993) by Peter Weir, the piece Polymorphia was once again used for an intense plane crash scene seen from the point of view of the passenger played by Jeff Bridges. Penderecki's piece, Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, was also used during one of the final sequences in the film Children of Men (2006). Penderecki composed music for Andrzej Wajda's 2007 film Katyń, while Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island (2010) featured his Symphony No. 3 and Fluorescences.

Use in film

Penderecki's compositions include operas, symphonies, choral works, as well as chamber and instrumental music.

Penderecki conducting Sinfonia Varsovia during the rehearsal, Rudolfinum, Prague Autumn International Music Festival, 2008


A main-belt asteroid21059 Penderecki is named in Penderecki's honor.[19]

Bust of Krzysztof Penderecki in Celebrity Alley in Kielce


Penderecki has three children, a daughter from his first marriage, and a son and daughter with his current wife, Elżbieta Penderecka (née Solecka), whom he married in 1965.He lives in the Kraków suburb of Wola Justowska. He is working on an opera based on Phèdre by Racine for 2014 and wishes to write a 9th symphony.[18]

He is currently engaged in the creation of a choral work to coincide with the Armenian Genocide centennial.[5]

In 2001, Penderecki's Credo received the Walter Fink, he was the eleventh composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2001. Penderecki received an honorary doctorate from the Seoul National University, Korea in 2005, as well as from the University of Münster, Germany in 2006. His notable students include Chester Biscardi and Walter Mays.

In 1980, Penderecki was commissioned by Solidarity to compose a piece to accompany the unveiling of a statue at the Gdańsk shipyards to commemorate those killed in anti-government riots there in 1970. Penderecki responded with Lacrimosa, which he later expanded into one of the best known works of his later period, the Polish Requiem (1980–84, 1993, 2005). Again the harmonies are rich, although there are moments which recall his work in the 1960s. In recent years, he has tended towards more traditionally conceived tonal constructs, as heard in works such as the Cello Concerto No. 2 and the Credo. He conducted Credo on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Helmuth Rilling, 29 May 2003.[16] In celebration of his 75th birthday he conducted three of his works at the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2008, among them Ciaccona from the Polish Requiem.[17]

Penderecki explained this shift by stating that he had come to feel that the experimentation of the avant-garde had gone too far from the expressive, non-formal qualities of Western music: 'The avant-garde gave one an illusion of universalism. The musical world of Stockhausen, Nono, Boulez and Cage was for us, the young – hemmed in by the aesthetics of socialist realism, then the official canon in our country – a liberation...I was quick to realise however, that this novelty, this experimentation and formal speculation, is more destructive than constructive; I realised the Utopian quality of its Promethean tone'. Penderecki concluded that he was 'saved from the avant-garde snare of formalism by a return to tradition'.[11]

Around the mid-1970s, while he was a professor at the Yale School of Music,[15] Penderecki's style began to change. The Violin Concerto No. 1 largely leaves behind the dense tone clusters with which he had been associated, and instead focuses on two melodic intervals: the semitone and the tritone. Some commentators compared this new direction to Anton Bruckner. This direction continued with the Symphony No. 2, Christmas (1980), which is harmonically and melodically quite straightforward. It makes frequent use of the tune of the Christmas carol Silent Night.


Penderecki continued to write pieces that explored the sacred in music. In the early 1970s he wrote a Dies Irae, a version of the Magnificat, and Canticum Canticorum Salomonis, a song of songs for chorus and orchestra.[11]

The large-scale St. Luke Passion (1963–66) brought Penderecki further popular acclaim, not least because it was devoutly religious, yet written in an avant-garde musical language, composed within Communist Eastern Europe. Western audiences saw it as a snub to the Soviet authorities. Various different musical styles can be seen in the piece. The experimental textures, such as were seen in the Threnody, are balanced by the work's Baroque form and the occasional use of more traditional harmonic and melodic writing. Penderecki makes use of serialism in this piece, and one of the tone rows he uses includes the BACH motif, which acts as a bridge between the conventional and more experimental elements. The Stabat Mater section toward the end of the piece concludes on a simple chord of D major, and this gesture is repeated at the very end of the work, which finishes on a triumphant E major chord. These are the only tonal harmonies in the work, and both come as a surprise to the listener; Penderecki's use of tonal triads such as these remains a controversial aspect of the work.

Year Song title Work Instrumentation
1968: "Miserere mei, Deus"
Saint Luke Passion Chorus

The St. Luke Passion

In 1968 Penderecki received State Prize 1st class.[12] Due to the jubilee of People's Republic of Poland he received Commander's Cross (1974)[13] and Knight's Cross of Order of Polonia Restituta (1964).[14]

Fluorescences followed a year later; it increases the orchestral density with more wind and brass, and an enormous percussion section of 32 instruments for six players including a Mexican güiro, typewriters, gongs and other unusual instruments. The piece was composed for the Donaueschingen Festival of contemporary music of 1962, and its performance was regarded as provocative and controversial. Even the score appeared revolutionary; the form of graphic notation that Penderecki had developed eschewed the familiar look of notes on a staff, instead representing music as morphing sounds.[10] His intentions at this stage were quite Cagean: "All I'm interested in is liberating sound beyond all tradition."[11] This preoccupation with sound culminated in De Natura Sonoris I, which frequently calls upon the orchestra to use non-standard playing techniques to produce original sounds and colours. A sequel, De Natura Sonoris II, was composed in 1971: with its more limited orchestra, it incorporates more elements of post-Romanticism than its predecessor. This foreshadowed Penderecki's renunciation of the avant-garde in the mid-1970s, although both pieces feature dramatic glissandos, dense clusters, and a use of harmonics, and unusual instruments (the musical saw features in the second piece).

On graduating from the Academy of Music in Kraków in 1958, Penderecki took up a teaching post at the Academy. His early works show the influence of Anton Webern and Pierre Boulez (Penderecki has also been influenced by Igor Stravinsky). Penderecki's international recognition began in 1959 at the Warsaw Autumn with the premieres of the works Strophen, Psalms of David, and Emanations, but the piece that truly brought him to international attention was Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (see threnody and atomic bombing of Hiroshima), written for 52 string instruments. In it, he makes use of extended instrumental techniques (for example, playing behind the bridge, bowing on the tailpiece). There are many novel textures in the work, which makes great use of tone clusters. He originally titled the work 8' 37", but decided to dedicate it to the victims of Hiroshima.

1958–70s: First compositions

[10] in Poland lifted strict Communist cultural censorship and opened the door to a wave of creativity.Stalinism At the time, the 1956 overthrow of [9], a composer primarily known for his choral works.Stanisław Wiechowicz, a composer known for his choral works and orchestral works, as well as chamber music and songs. After Malawski's death in 1957, Penderecki took further lessons with Artur Malawski and, having finished his studies on violin after his first year, focused enterely on composition. Penderecki's main teacher there was Academy of Music in Kraków In 1954, Penderecki entered the [8].Franciszek Skołyszewski and music theory with Stanisław Tawroszewicz He studied violin with [7].Jagiellonian University Upon graduating from grammar school, Penderecki moved to Kraków in 1951, where he attended [7]

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