Krzysztof Eugeniusz Penderecki (Polish: [ˈkʂɨʂtɔf pɛndɛˈrɛt͡skʲi] ; 23 November 1933 – 29 March 2020) was a Polish composer and conductor. Among his best known works are Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima , Symphony No. 3, his St. Luke Passion , Polish Requiem , Anaklasis and Utrenja . Penderecki's oeuvre includes 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, Penderecki studied music at Jagiellonian University and the Academy of Music in Kraków. After graduating from the Academy, he became a teacher there and 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 composition style changed, with his first violin concerto focusing on the semitone and the tritone. His choral work Polish Requiem was written in the 1980s and expanded in 1993 and 2005.
Penderecki won many prestigious awards, including the Prix Italia in 1967 and 1968; the Wihuri Sibelius Prize of 1983; four Grammy Awards in 1987, 1998 (twice), and 2017; the Wolf Prize in Arts in 1987; and the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 1992.In 2012, Sean Michaels of The Guardian called him 'arguably Poland's greatest living composer'.
Penderecki was born on 23 November 1933 in Dębica, the son of Zofia and Tadeusz Penderecki, a lawyer. Penderecki's grandfather, Robert Berger, was a highly talented painter and director of the local bank at the time of Penderecki's birth; Robert's father Johann, a German Protestant, moved to Dębica from Breslau (now Wrocław) in the mid-19th century. Out of love for his wife, he subsequently converted to Catholicism.Penderecki's grandmother Stefania was an Armenian from Stanislau in Austria-Hungary (present-day Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine). Penderecki used to go to the Armenian Church in Kraków with her. He was the youngest of three siblings; his sister, Barbara, was married to a mining engineer, and his older brother, Janusz, was studying law and medicine at the time of his birth. Tadeusz was a violinist and also played piano.
In 1939, the Second World War broke out, and Penderecki's family moved out of their apartment as the Ministry of Food was to operate there. After the war, Penderecki began attending grammar school in 1946. He began studying the violin under Stanisław Darłak, Dębica's military bandmaster who organized an orchestra for the local music society after the war.Upon graduating from grammar school, Penderecki moved to Kraków in 1951, where he attended Jagiellonian University. He studied violin with Stanisław Tawroszewicz and music theory with Franciszek Skołyszewski. In 1954, Penderecki entered the Academy of Music in Kraków and, having finished his studies on violin after his first year, focused entirely on composition. Penderecki's main teacher there was Artur Malawski, a composer known for his choral and orchestral works, as well as chamber music and songs. After Malawski's death in 1957, Penderecki took further lessons with Stanisław Wiechowicz, a composer primarily known for his choral works. At the time, the 1956 overthrow of Stalinism in Poland lifted strict cultural censorship and opened the door to a wave of creativity.
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 was also 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 in 1960 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 extensive use of tone clusters. He originally titled the work 8' 37", but decided to dedicate it to the victims of Hiroshima.
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 rejected the familiar look of notes on a staff, instead representing music as morphing sounds.His intentions at this stage were quite Cagean: 'All I'm interested in is liberating sound beyond all tradition'.
Another noteworthy piece of this period is the Canon for 52 strings and 2 tapes. This is in a similar style to other pieces in the late 1950s in its use of sound masses, dramatically juxtaposed with traditional means although the use of standard techniques or idioms is often disguised or distorted. Indeed, the Canon brings to mind the choral tradition and indeed the composer has the players sing, albeit with the performance indication of bocca chiusa (with closed mouth) at various points; nevertheless, Penderecki uses the 52 'voices' of the string orchestra to play in massed glissandi and harmonics at times – this is then recorded by one of the tapes for playback later on in the piece. It was performed at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1962 and caused a riot although curiously the rioters were young music students and not older concertgoers.
At the same time, he started composing music for theater and film. The first theater performance with Penderecki's music was Złoty kluczyk (Golden Little Key) by Yekaterina Borysowa directed by Władysław Jarema (premiered on May 12, 1957 in Krakow at the "Groteska" Puppet Theater). In 1959, at the Cartoon Film Studio in Bielsko-Biała, he composed the music for the first animated film, Bulandra i diabeł (Coal Miner Bulandra and Devil), directed by Jerzy Zitzman and Lechosław Marszałek. In 1959 he wrote the score for Jan Łomnicki's first short fiction film Nie ma końca wielkiej wojny (There is no End to the Great War, WFDiF Warszawa). In the following years, he created over twenty original musical settings for dramatic and over 40 puppet performances, and composed original music for at least eleven documentary and feature films as well as for twenty-five animated films for adults and children.
|1968:||"Miserere mei, Deus"|
|Saint Luke Passion||Chorus|
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, and 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 employed 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.
Penderecki continued to write pieces that explored the sacred in music. In the early 1970s he wrote a Dies irae, a Magnificat, and Canticum Canticorum Salomonis (Song of Songs) for chorus and orchestra.
Penderecki's preoccupation with sound culminated in De Natura Sonoris I (1966), 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, use of harmonics, and unusual instruments (the musical saw features in the second piece).
In 1968 Penderecki received the State Prize 1st class.During the jubilee of the People's Republic of Poland he received the Commander's Cross (1974) and Knight's Cross of Order of Polonia Restituta (1964).
Towards the end of the decade, Penderecki received a commission to write for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. The result was Kosmogonia, a piece of twenty minutes for 3 soloists (soprano, tenor, bass), mixed choir and orchestra. The Los Angeles Philharmonic premiered the piece on 24 October 1970 with Zubin Mehta as conductor and Robert Nagy as tenor. The piece uses texts from ancient writers Sophocles and Ovid in addition to contemporary statements from Soviet and American astronauts to musically explore the idea of the cosmos.
In the mid-1970s, while he was a professor at the Yale School of Music,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. This direction continued with the Symphony No. 2 (1980), which is harmonically and melodically quite straightforward; the symphony is sometimes referred to as the "Christmas Symphony" due to the opening phrase of the Christmas carol Silent Night appearing three times during the work.
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'.Penderecki wrote relatively little chamber music. However, compositions for smaller ensembles range in date from the start of his career to the end, reflecting the changes his style of writing has undergone.
In 1975 the Lyric Opera of Chicago asked him to write a work to commemorate the US Bicentennial in 1976; this became the opera Paradise Lost. Delays to the project however meant it did not see its premiere until 1978. The music continued to illustrate Penderecki's move away from avant-garde techniques: it is tonal music and the composer explained: 'This is not music by the angry young man I used to be'.
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). Later, he tended towards more traditionally conceived tonal constructs, as heard in works such as the Cello Concerto No. 2 and the Credo, which received the Grammy Award for best choral performance for the world-premiere recording made by the Oregon Bach Festival, which commissioned the piece. The same year, Penderecki was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Spain, one of the highest honours given in Spain to individuals, entities, organizations or others from around the world who make notable achievements in the sciences, arts, humanities, or public affairs. Invited by Walter Fink, he was the eleventh composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2001. He conducted the Credo on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Helmuth Rilling, 29 May 2003.Penderecki received an honorary doctorate from the Seoul National University, Korea, in 2005 and the University of Münster, Germany, in 2006. His notable students include Chester Biscardi and Walter Mays. 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.
In 2010, he worked on an opera based on Phèdre by Racine for 2014, which was never realized,and expressed his wish to write a 9th symphony. In 2014, he was engaged in the creation of a choral work to coincide with the Armenian genocide centennial. In 2018, he conducted Credo in Kyiv at the 29th Kyiv Music Fest, marking the centenary of Polish independence.
Penderecki had three children, first a daughter Beata with pianist Barbara Penderecka (née Graca; married 1954, then divorced).He then had a son Łukasz (b. 1966) and daughter Dominika (b. 1971) with his second wife, Elżbieta Penderecka (née Solecka), whom he married on 19 December 1965. He lived in the Kraków suburb of Wola Justowska. He was also a keen gardener and established a 15-hecatre arboretum near his manor house in Lusławice.
On 29 March 2020, Penderecki died in his home in Kraków, Poland after a long illness.
In 1979, a bronze bust by artist Marian Konieczny honouring Penderecki was unveiled in The Gallery of Composers' Portraits at the Pomeranian Philharmonic in Bydgoszcz.His monument is also located on the Celebrity Alley at the Scout Square (Skwer Harcerski) in Kielce.
A main-belt asteroid – 21059 Penderecki is named in his honor.
Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is noted for his admiration of the Polish composer's work. He visited Penderecki in 2012 and wrote a work, 48 Responses to Polymorphia, for strings which was conducted by Penderecki himself in various performances throughout Europe.
Penderecki's compositions include operas, symphonies, choral works, as well as chamber and instrumental music.
Krzysztof Penderecki composed between 1959 and 1968 original music for at least eleven documentary and feature films as well as for twenty-five animated films for adults and children.
Some of Penderecki's music has been adapted for film soundtracks. The Exorcist (1973) features his String Quartet and Kanon For Orchestra and Tape; fragments of the Cello Concerto and The Devils of Loudun . Writing about The Exorcist, the film critic for The New Republic wrote that 'even the music is faultless, most of it by Krzysztof Penderecki, who at last is where he belongs'.Stanley Kubrick's 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 films Wild at Heart (1990), Inland Empire (2006), and the TV series Twin Peaks (2017). 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 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 Academy Award nominated film Katyń , while Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island (2010) featured his Symphony No. 3 and Fluorescences.
Some of Penderecki's oeuvre inspired Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead to release an album, which thereafter appeared in his score for There Will Be Blood , a 2007 Paul Thomas Anderson film.
Penderecki was an honorary doctor and honorary professor of several universities: Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., 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).
He was 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), the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna, Academy of Arts in Berlin, Académie Internationale de Philosophie et de l’Art in Bern, and the Académie Nationale des Sciences, Belles-lettres et Arts in Bordeaux.In 2009, he became an honorary citizen of the city of Bydgoszcz.
Wojciech Kilar was a Polish classical and film music composer. His film scores have won many honors including the best score award for the music to Ziemia obiecana in 1975, followed by the Prix Louis Delluc in 1980 for the music to Le Roi et l'Oiseau / The King and the Mockingbird, and an award at the Cork International Film Festival for the music to From A Far Country (1981) about the life of Pope John Paul II.
Anne-Sophie Mutter is a German violinist. She was supported early in her career by Herbert von Karajan, and has had several works composed especially for her, by Sebastian Currier, Henri Dutilleux, Sofia Gubaidulina, Witold Lutosławski, Norbert Moret, Krzysztof Penderecki, André Previn, Wolfgang Rihm, John Williams and others.
Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, also translated as Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, is a musical composition for 52 string instruments composed in 1960 by Krzysztof Penderecki. Dedicated to the residents of Hiroshima killed and injured by the first-ever wartime usage of an atomic weapon, the composition won the Tribune Internationale des Compositeurs UNESCO prize in 1961.
Antoni Wit is a Polish conductor, composer, lawyer and professor at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music. Between 2002–2013, he served as the artistic director of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw.
The Academy of Music in Kraków is a conservatory located in central Kraków, Poland. It is the alma mater of the renowned Polish contemporary composer Krzysztof Penderecki, who was also its Rector for 15 years. The Academy is the only one in Poland to have two winners of the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw as well as a few further prize-winners among its alumni.
Polish Requiem, also A Polish Requiem, is a large-scale requiem mass for soloists, mixed choir and orchestra by the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. The Lacrimosa, dedicated to the trade union leader Lech Wałęsa, was written for the unveiling of a statue at the Gdańsk Shipyard to commemorate those killed in the Polish anti-government riots in 1970. He expanded the work into a requiem, writing other parts to honour different patriotic events over the next four years. The Polish Requiem was first performed in Stuttgart on 28 September 1984. Penderecki revised and expanded the work in 1993, and expanded it again in 2005 with the additional movement, Ciaccona. It is called Polish Requiem because its parts are dedicated to heroes and victims of Polish history. One of the better-known works by Penderecki, the mass largely follows the liturgical Latin of the requiem format with the addition of Święty Boże, the Polish translation of the Trisagion.
With the fall of communism Polish culture and society began a process of profound transformation, marked by the return of democracy and redevelopment of civil society. After 1989, the heavy government controls ended, and the radical economic changes were introduced. The influx of new aesthetic and social ideas was accompanied by the Western market forces. However, unlike any other temporal marker in the development of Polish culture from the past, the year 1989 did not introduce any specific literary events or artistic manifestations. For a generation of accomplished writers the objectives and their moral quests remained the same as in the preceding period. The first decade of freedom brought mainly state reforms in the financing of cultural institutions and patronage; forcing self-sustainability in an often uncharted territory. Literature, film, visual arts, theater and mass media remained focused on their active participation in public life.
Polymorphia is a composition for 48 string instruments composed by the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki in 1961. The piece was commissioned by the North German Radio Hamburg. It premiered on 16 April 1962 by the radio orchestra and was conducted by Andrzej Markowski. Polymorphia is dedicated to Hermann Moeck, the first of Penderecki’s editors in the West.
Paweł Przytocki, is a Polish conductor of classical music.
Abel Korzeniowski is a Polish composer of film and theatre scores.
Piotr Orzechowski, also known by his stage name Pianohooligan, is a Polish jazz pianist and composer. He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Valencia and a winner of the Montreux Jazz Piano Competition and Jazz Hoeilaart, hailed by the critics as "the most creative and uncompromising young Polish jazz artist."
Marek Stachowski was a Polish composer. He received many awards and won many competitions for composers, including 1st prize at the K. Szymanowski Competition in 1974.
Krzysztof Knittel is a Polish composer of symphonic, chamber, stage and electroacoustic works.
Maciej Zielinski is the award-winning Polish composer, arranger and music producer, known for his contemporary classical and film scores, songs and original television music. His contemporary classical music has been awarded at 8 composers’ contests, including two international competitions and it was performed at many international festivals, including the Warsaw Autumn Festival and ISCM World Music Days. He has written scores for popular Polish movies and for independent US productions. In 2019 he received "Best Score" award at the "New Filmmakers LA Awards" in Los Angeles and nomination for "Crystal Pine Award" at the International Sound and Film Music Festival in Croatia. In 2016, 2017, and 2020 he received nominations for the Polish Film Academy Award - "Eagle" in "Best Music" category. In 2012 he was nominated for "Fryderyk" – the Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry in the category "Composer of the Year". His music has been released on nearly 30 albums.
Łukasz Pawlikowski is a Polish cellist. He studied playing under Arto Noras, Jeroen Reuling, Witold Herman and Dorota Imiełowska. By the age of six he appears at the Kraków Poetry Salon. He is connected with the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre. Pawlikowski debuted in 2006 with the Beethoven Academy Orchestra in the Tempel Synagogue. Since then, he has collaborated with artists such as Anna Polony, Anna Dymna, Zofia Kucówna, Elżbieta Stefańska, Mariola Cieniawa, Jerzy Trela, Jerzy Stuhr and Kevin Kenner. Under direction of Krzysztof Penderecki he studied interpretation of his music. He performed as a soloist in Poland, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia.
The Dream of Jacob, also referred to as The Awakening of Jacob, is a composition by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. It is scored for large orchestra and was finished in 1974.
The Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra is a composition by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. It is one of the five caprices that he composed and one of the two that he composed for a soloist with an orchestra, together with the Capriccio for Oboe and Eleven Instruments.
Credo is a large-scale sacred composition for soloists, children's choir, mixed choir and orchestra by Krzysztof Penderecki, completed in 1998. It was commissioned by Helmuth Rilling for the Oregon Bach Festival, where it was first performed on 11 July 1998. Penderecki expanded the liturgical text by hymns and Bible verses in Latin, Polish and German. A recording won the 2000 Grammy Award for best choral performance.
Jakub Polaczyk, is a Polish composer and pianist based in New York City. Winner of the American Prize in Composition 2020 and Iron Composer 2013. Graduated from the Academy of Music in Kraków, Jagiellonian University and Carnegie Mellon University. He studied in Poland with: Marcel Chyrzyński, Krzysztof Penderecki, Marek Chołoniewski (pl), in Belgium with Jan Van Landeghem (nl) and in the USA with Reza Vali. Currently teaching at The New York Conservatory of Music. Since 2018 Polaczyk has been the New Music Director of the International Chopin & Friends Festival in NYC.
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