Krzysztof Penderecki, an outstanding composer, ambassador of Polish music in the world and Honorary President of the Polish Composers' Union passed away on 29 March 2020 in Krakow, at the age of 86.
Krzysztof Penderecki is a phenomenon in the history of music, not only in Poland, but worldwide. In the music of the 20th century, no one has ever made a career like him. And no one has done it so fast! Maybe only Igor Stravinsky could be compared. And similar to Stravinsky's are the meanders of Penderecki's creative path. He was successful from the very beginning. When the Second Competition for Young Composers of the Polish Composers' Union was decided in 1959, after deciphering the emblems of anonymous scores, it turned out that the winner of the first, second and third prizes is the 28-year-old assistant at the Composition Department of the State High School of Music in Krakow – Krzysztof Penderecki! The awarded works were Strophes for soprano, reciting voice and 10 instruments, Emanations for two string orchestras and Psalms of David for mixed choir, string instruments and percussion.
The Strophes' score, performed at the "Warsaw Autumn" Festival the same year, was taken by the German publisher Herman Moeck after the concert. Soon the work was performed all over Europe, and Penderecki received a commission from the famous Donaueschingen Festival. In 1960 he wrote 8'37" (that was the composition's duration), for which a year later he received an award at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. This work is now called Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima and broadcast by radio stations around the world, while Penderecki becomes the leading representative of the musical avant-garde of that time. He confirms this position with extraordinary Fluorescences, performed for the first time in 1962 in Donaueschingen. In addition to the instruments of the great symphony orchestra, Penderecki introduced here a hanging sheet of metal to imitate thunder, whistles, pieces of glass and metal rubbed with a file, rattles, electric bell, saw, typewriter and alarm siren. Traditional instruments also sound unusual, because the sounds are extracted from them in a completely unconventional way.
Penderecki already knows the whole music world. At least it seems so ... until the premiere of St. Luke Passion in 1966 in Münster. It was a break with avant-garde radicalism. Penderecki wrote a work accessible to an ordinary music lover, with understandable content, construction and emotions. He said: "I don't care about how the Passion will be defined, whether it is traditional or avant-garde. For me it's just authentic. And that's enough. " Penderecki was himself in every work and was not bothered by the critics. And he was more and more criticised. Suffice it to say that his opera – sacra rappresentazione Lost Paradise, written in 1978, was considered as a pastiche of Wagner's music. It was not a compliment for Penderecki. However, he remained faithful to himself and wrote the music he wanted to write. He stayed himself ...