Krzysztof Penderecki -70th birthday

This year, 2003, has been proclaimed the year of  Polish composer, Krzysztof  Penderecki.
It is rare that a composer wins laurels and gains worldwide fame during his lifetime.  Most often,  the work of great musical geniuses has become fully appreciated and performed on world stages posthumously.

Penderecki was already drawing the music world’s attention during his student days.   He graduated with honors from the Krakow Institute of Music in 1958  and was immediately showered with numerous offers of professorships and directorships. Music schools and universities such as Essen, Yale University, as well as Bordeaux and of course, the University of Krakow as well as others, conferred upon him honorary doctorates along with invitations to lecture and teach.

Penderecki’s creativity is based on incessant searching.  One could say that it has an evolutionary quality.  Earlier compositions feature totally new sounds created by groups of string and percussion instruments. Later works reveal a return to a more traditional musical sound such as that found in the works of the classical music masters.

The highlight of the jubilee celebration honoring Krzysztof Penderecki will be held in Krakow,  the 15th through 29th of September. The festival, named “Penderecki and the Great Classical Music” has drawn world class orchestras and internationally known performers .  Many orchestras, operas and philharmonic societies are planning performances based on Penderecki’s compositions in Poland, as well as in concert halls and operas throughout the world.
For over forty years, the compositions of Krzystof Penderecki  – concertos for various solo instruments, oratorios, operas and chamber music have taken an important place in the repertoires of the greatest orchestras, choirs, world famous philharmonic societies and opera companies.  In 1966, Penderecki’s musical style took a visible turn away from its avant-garde roots towards a style more accessible to the average music lover.  A clear example of this turning point is  “The Passion According to St. Luke.”
Penderecki’s music is written for large orchestras, mixed choirs and  solo voices, exemplified  by works such as “The Polish Requiem”  ( 1980  – 1983).  Much of his music is based on religious and spiritual  themes—“Hymn to St. Daniel (1997) or “…
to  St. Adalbert” (1998),  “The Seven Gates of Jerusalem” (1996) or “Credo”  (1998).  His latest work is “Concert for Piano and Orchestra”  (2001).

It would be impossible to list the immense number of this composer’s works  in this short article.  We will provide more information about the music of Krzysztof Penderecki  as the culmination of the jubilee celebration in his honor approaches this September.

Dr. Elzbieta Ulanowska
Translated by Sophia Wisniewska

Forum, 7-8/2003