An internationally known composer and conductor, Krzysztof Penderecki is best known for his 1965 composition "St. Luke's Passion." His style reflects the changes in music from the '60s to the present day. He has played with and conducted several orchestras and has won numerous awards for his composition and conducting.
Born in Debica, Poland, in 1933, Krzysztof Penderecki graduated from the Krakow High School of Music and quickly became an accomplished composer in Poland. He won all three prizes at the 1959 contest sponsored by the Polish Composer's Association. Penderecki's early works, such as "Emanations," "Strophes" and "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima," reflect his early avant-garde style, in which he combined sound with social issues of the time.
With inspiration from the Orthodox liturgy, Penderecki composed several religious choral works. The most famous, "St. Luke's Passion," was completed in 1965 and in 1966 was played by Penderecki at Minster Cathedral. This was followed by "Utrenia" in 1971, a work that recounts the events that took place after the Crucifixion, and "Magnificat" in 1974. During the time he was making a name for himself as an excellent composer, he held several prestigious positions. From 1972 to 1979 he was music director at the Krakow High School of Music and taught at Yale University from 1973 to 1978. After his debut in the liturgical field of music, he began to restructure his music, changing his style to reflect contemporary neo-Romanticism. In 1977 he wrote Violin Concerto for Isaac Stern. His "Te Deum," written in 1980, was dedicated to Pope John Paul II.
Aside from being a noted composer, Krzysztof Penderecki also established himself as a musical dramatist during the late '60s and '70s.His first opera was The Devils of Loudon, followed by the 1978 premiere in Chicago of Paradise Lost. The Black Mask, his third opera received rousing acclaim at the Salzburg Festival in 1986. During the '80s, his compositions began to reflect both sounds of his first period and romantic gestures of the second. His works during this period included "Cello Concerto No. 2" and the "Viola Concerto." The "Polish Requiem," written in 1984, reflects the his view of his native land in their struggle for freedom. Since 1988, he has produced a number of symphonies and concertos, including "The Flute Concerto," written for Jean-Pierre Rampal. "Per Slava," a noted chamber work, was written for Mstislav Rostropovich. Two of his works, "Violin Concerto No. 2" and "Symphony No. 3," premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1996.
Like many other composers of the 20th century, was also known for his conducting. He has conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and orchestras in France, England, Italy, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland. In America he has performed with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Along with his tours, recitals and composing music, he holds two permanent positions: the guest conductor of the NDR Orchestra in Hamburg and the music director of the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico.
For his compositions and conducting talents, Krzysztof Penderecki has been awarded with the UNESCO Award, the Great Art Award of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Prix Italia, the Prix Artur Honegger, the Sibelius Prize, the Premio Lorenzo Magnifico and the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. He received two Emmy nominations for the broadcasts from the Casals Festival. Several universities have honored him with honorary doctorates. ~ Kim Summers