23 November 1933 – 29 March 2020


Krzysztof Penderecki was born in Dębica on 23 November, 1933. He studied composition privately with Franciszek Skołyszewski and then (1955-8) with Artur Malawski and Stanisław Wiechowicz at the State Higher School of Music in Kraków, where he also taught, being appointed its rector (i.e., president) in 1972 (in the 1980s the School was renamed “Academy of Music). Penderecki’s career had a very auspicious beginning. In 1959 he came suddenly to prominence when three of his works won first prizes in a national competition organized by the Polish Composers’ Union (he submitted them under different pseudonyms). His reputation quickly spread abroad, notably through perfomances of such works as Anaklasis (written for the 1960 Donaueschigen Festival) and Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. The latter piece, as well as the Passion according to St. Luke of 1963-5, found an unusually wide audience for contemporary works, and Penderecki soon received important commissions from diverse organizations in Europe and the USA. He has also appeared widely as a lecturer and in 1972 began to conduct his own compositions.

Penderecki has won numerous domestic and foreign prizes including the First Class State Award (1968, 1983), the Polish Composers’ Union Prize (1970), the Herder Prize (1977), the Sibelius Prize (1983), the Premio Lorenzo Magnifico (1985), the Israeli Karl Wolff Foundation Prize (1987), a Grammy Award (1988), a Grawemeyer Award (1992), and a UNESCO International Music Council Award (1993). He has honorary doctorates from universities in Rochester, Bordeaux, Leuven, Belgrade, Washington, Madrit, Poznań, Warsaw and Glasgow. He is an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in London, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Musikaliska Academien in Stockholm, Akademie der Kunste in Berlin, Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, Academie Internationale de Philosophie et de I’ Art in Bern, Academie Internationale des Sciences, Belles-lettres et Arts in Bordeaux, and the Royal Academy of Music in Dublin. In 1990 he received the Great Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, in 1993 the Order of Cultural Merit (Monaco), and in 1994 an Austrian honorary distinction For Achievements in Science and Arts. In 1993 he was decorated with the Commander’s Cross with the star of the Order of Polonia Restituta.

Penderecki’s teaching career developed in Germany, the U.S. and Poland. He taught composition at the Volkwang Hochschule fur Music, Essen (from 1966 to 1968); in 1973-78 he lectured at Yale University in New Haven. In 1982-87 he was rector of the Academy of Music in Kraków, in 1987-1990 he served as the artistic director of the Cracow Philharmonic. Since his conductor’s debut with the London Symphony Orchestra (1973), he has performed with prominent symphony orchestras in the United States and Europe, and he is chief guest conductor of the Norddeutscher Rundfunk Orchestra in Hamburg. Apart from his own works, his conducting repertoire covers the works of composers from various epochs, with a preference for 19th-century and early 20th-century compositions. In 1997 he published a book entitled “The Labyrinth of Time. Five Lectures at the End of the Century (Warsaw, “Presspublica”). In 1996 the performance of his piece Seven Gates of Jerusalem, commissioned by the city, commemorated the celebrations of “Jerusalem – 3000 Years.” in Israel.

List of Works

Orchestral Work

Emanations for 2 String Orchestras – 1958
Epitaphium Artur Malawski in Memoriam for string orchestra and kettle-drumns
Anaklasis for string orchestra and percussion groups – 1959-60
Di natura sonoris II for orchestra – 1971
Symphony No. 2 for orchestra – 1979-80
Passacaglia for orchestra – 1988
Adagio for orchestra – 1989
Sinfonietta per Archi – 1991
Sinfonietta No. 2 per clarinettto ed archi – 1994
Passacaglia per archi – 1996

Solo Instruments with Orchestra

Fonogrammi per flauto e orchestra da camera – 1961
Sonata per violoncello e orchestra – 1964
Capriccio per oboe e 11 archi – 1965
Capriccio per violino e orchestra – 1967
Concerto per violoncello e orchestra – 1966-72
Partita for harpsichord, electric guitar, bass guitar, double-bass and chamber orchestra – 1972
Violin Concerto – 1976
Concerto for violin and orchestra – 1977
Concerto per viola ed orchestra – 1983
Concerto for flauto ed orchestra da camera – 1992
Concerto per violino ed orchestra No. 2 – 1992-95
Concerto per clarinetto ed orchestra da camera – 1992-95

Solo and Chamber Music

3 Miniature per clarinetto e pianoforte – 1958
3 Miniatures for violin and piano – 1959
Quartetto per Archi – 1960
Quartetto per Archi – 1968
Capriccio per Siegfried Palm for violoncello solo – 1968
Der unterbrochene Gedanke for string quartet – 1988
String Trio – 1990
Entrata for brass instruments and timpani – 1994

Vocal-Instrumental Music

Cantata in honorem Almae Matris Universitatis Iagellonicae sescentos abhinc annos fundatae, for 2 mixed choirs and orchestra – 1964
Passio et Mors Domini Nostri Iesu Christi Secundum Lucam for solo voices (soprano, baritone, bass), speaking voice, boy’s choir, 3 mixed choirs and symphony orchestra – 1965
Dies Irae, Oratorium ob memoriam in perniciei castris i Oświęcim necatorum inexstinguibilem reddendam for solo voices (soprano, tenor, bass), mixed choir and orchestra for string trio, flute, 2 guitars and celesta – 1952
Cosmogony for solo voices (soprano, tenor, bass), mixed choir and orchestra – 1970
Utrenja, The Entombment of Christ for 2 mixed choirs, solo voices (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, 2 basses) and symphony orchestra – 1970
Canticum Canticorum Salomonis for 16-part vocal ensemble and orchestra – 1971
Utrenja II, “The Resurrection” for solo voices (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, 2 basses), boys’ choir, 2 mixed choirs and symphony orchestra – 1971
Magnificat for bass solo, 7-part men’s vocal ensemble, 48-part mixed choir, boys’ choir and orchestra – 1973-74
Te Deum for solo voices (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass), choir and orchestra – 1979
Polish Requiem for solo voices, choir and orchestra – 1980-84
Seven Gates of Jerusalem for 5 soloists, quartet, lector, 3 mixed choirs and orchestra – 1996

Operas and Stage Works

The Devils of Loudun, opera in 3 acts for solo voices (soprano, baritone, bass and others), mixed choir and symphony orchestra – 1969
Paradise Lost, Sacra rappresentazione in 2 acts for solo voices (lyric, baritone, soprano, bass, 4 tenors, 3 alto tenors, low bass, 2 baritones, mezzo-soprano, coloratura soprano), mixed choir, boys’ choir, orchestra, 2 actors, 5 dancers, and ballet ensemble – 1978
Die schwarze Maske [The Black Mask], opera based on a drama by Gerhart Haupmann – 1984-86
Ubu Rex opera buffa after Alfred Jarry – 1990

Choral Music

Stabat Mater for choir a cappella – 1962
Ecloga VIII for 6 male voices (2 altos, tenor, 2 baritones, bass) – 1972
Missa Brevis for unaccompanied mixed choir – 1964

Music for Tape

Psalmus 1961 for tape – 1961
Canon for 2 string orchestras and 2 tapes – 1962
Brigade of Death for tape – 1963

Manuscripts at USC


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