The funeral of Krzysztof Penderecki 1933 -2020 - The passing of a world musical era - Kraków, Poland 29 March 2022
In the face of human mortality this melancholy event is yet the sublime creation of immortality through music …. the creative reverse of the human coin of war, his music a profound expression of suffering, the cruel displacement of populations and the senseless destruction that we are once again lamentably immersed within …. the inevitable human condition ....
Today the much delayed funeral of the great Polish composer takes place with a Holy Mass from the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Kraków together with ceremonies in the Basilica of St. Florian.
Polish National Radio 2 (Dwojka) has a special broadcast of his music from CET 09.30 this morning which you can access online:
and the State Funeral will be on Facebook :
As he joins the grand pantheon of Chopin, Szymanowski, Paderewski and Lutoslawski, the most fitting tribute I can pay to this Polish musical institution and fearless contemporary world composer is to post once again with the greatest sadness my detailed review and numerous photographs of the magnificent
|Krzysztof Penderecki 1933 - 2020|
All photographs by Bruno Fidrych
I continued with my own literary work heavily influenced by the structure and scope of contemporary classical music, the Nouvelle Vague cinema, Nouveau Roman literature and French Symbolist poetry.
The notation of more 'modern' classical music posed increasingly severe problems with serial music, aleatoric music and then further into electronic music. Penderecki evolved what is known as 'Graphical notation' as a solution for his own work, an example of which appears below.
|Sketches for the Credo by Krzysztof Penderecki|
Unfortunately I was unable to attend this Mass. However here are some fine photographs of the sacrament.
|Beneath the Black Madonna of Częstochowa|
Thursday, 22 November
|David Chesky (middle)|
This composition had a brilliant opening on trumpet and brass. Again there were indications of military aggression. Brass was in the ascendant. Many descending chromatic scales. Here was an impressively massed orchestral sound that verged on the brutal. I was reminded of the soundtrack to the Hitchcock film Psycho in parts and then other sections reminiscent of Tristan - that English horn! If we are to draw a message, it is clear that military violence dominates the artistic, melancholic individual contemplating human life. There were long solo sections on the bassoon in a highly varied sound palette. I found the heavy timpani 'punctuation' fortissimo rather wearing. I was unable to fathom the musical meaning of the sound of the tom toms. I felt this music to be intensely physical with a huge Wagnerian conclusion. However the chimes/timpani pianissimo close was tremendously effective.
Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall
'I was then attempting to make a reckoning of my two decades' worth of musical experience – a time of radical, avant-garde seeking. It was the summa of what I could say as an avant-garde artist. The Symphony collated what I was able to say as an avant-garde composer. Its four symmetrical movements - Arche I, Dynamis I, Dynamis II and Arche II - reflected on my desire to rebuild the world from scratch. True to the avant-garde logic, this grand destruction involved a longing for a new cosmogony, too' (Krzysztof Penderecki: 'Labirynt czasu', Warszawa 1997, p. 50).'
- I. Archi 1
- II. Dynamis 1
- III. Dynamis 2
- IV. Archi 2
The music is rhapsodic and 'capricious' but not in the slightest lyrical. There appear to be many references to war placed in a bizarre soundscape. The work is immensely challenging for the solo violinist. The writing strikes me emotionally, placing the violin as an individual powerless to resist the inhuman violent exterior forces of many types despite valiantly battling with them.
In many ways this work is a sinfonia concertante given the importance of the orchestral writing. Here we have a portrait of the solitary soul facing the harshest of realities - possibly death. Penderecki's father was on his deathbed when he composed the work. Overall a haunted, melancholic piece. Many descending scales and a heavy brass section. Melancholic yearning not optimistic joy. The work remains a tremendous technical and emotional challenge for any young violinist. Again blocks of sound predominate rather like the Roman Empire music I have spoken about before but perhaps this is simply the inexorable march of events and fate. I am not entirely comfortable with bellicose grandiosity. Is this an aspect of the Polish soul, the reason la gloire of Napoleon was found so appealing? Disconsolate resignation at the conclusion.
Pope John Paul II, on his subversive pilgrimage to Gniezno in 1979, recalled the birth of the Polish Catholic Church there in 966 when King Mieszko I was baptized in the Latin rite. He spoke to those labouring under communism of the myriad tongues of the Pentecostal experience which rendered the division of Europe at Yalta contrived and divisive. ‘This Polish Pope, this Slav Pope, should at this precise moment manifest the unity of Christian Europe.’ The cast for the historic morality play that followed had been assembled. Pope John Paul II was the man at the tipping point, the man but for whom recent European history would have been considerably different.
In the tenth century the missionary Bishop Wojciech (Adalbert), exiled from Prague, sailed to Gdańsk to convert the pagan Prussians. They beheaded him in 997 for his pains. The Piast Prince Bolesław Chrobry, soon to become the first crowned King of Poland, was much in need of a saint and purchased his body for its weight in gold and brought it to Gniezno. Wojciech was swiftly canonized as the patron saint of Poland and transformed into the object of a cult. The town developed into the centre for the coronation of Polish kings. Scenes from Wojciech’s life are vividly depicted on the panels of two monumental bronze doors in the cathedral, one of the great Romanesque artworks of Europe. His relics lie before the high altar in a Baroque silver sarcophagus supported by six silver eagles.
Iwona Hossa – soprano I
Polish Radio Orchestra
I sometimes think with Penderecki I am listening to a highly sophisticated musical background to a film of invasion and deprivation, the laying waste of a country which happened in the case of Korea and which persists into the sabre-rattling present. Parallels with the Soviet and Nazi invasions of Poland cannot possibly be ignored. Wagnerian English Horn motifs, woodwinds and did I actually hear a brief quotation of God Save the Queen ? How perceptive of Penderecki! Almost 100,000 British and Commonwealth troops fought in Korea 65 years ago in a conflict as bloody as any seen before or since. Yet many veterans still consider it as the war Britain and the Commonwealth have forgotten. The dynamic conclusion was massive and monumental in this work. I have never heard an orchestral tutti to equal the opulent, unbuttoned splendor and sheer power of it. The mighty forces unleashed certainly pleased the Warsaw audience!
Warsaw Philharmonic – Concert Hall
Symphony No. 6 “Chinesische Lieder” (Chinese Songs)
Stephan Genz – baritone
Zen Hu – erhu
|An erhu from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston|
Sergey Smbatyan – conductor
The percussion section is enormous even with the use of large tam-tams. William Blake wrote a long poem entitled The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790) which I felt aptly described the huge dynamic contrasts in this work. Perhaps the work depicts both the birth and passion of Christ in one panoramic movement. A fine performance showing excellent understanding and control of these large complex forces by both the excellent orchestra (Sinfonia Varsovia) and their conductor Sergey Smbatyan.
Piano Concerto “Resurrection”
Mūza Rubackytė – piano
Cello Concerto No. 2 (1982)
Amit Peled (cello) Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra Michał Klauza – conductor
Penderecki avoids completely conventional concerto form here and presents his ideas in one movement rather than three. Rather there is an alternation between slow and fast sections. The brilliant cellist Amit Peled often adopted the lyrical lead, intensifying the tone of melancholy in a very committed fashion. the Warsaw Philharmonic maintained a strong sense of coordinated rhythmic momentum throughout the work. The musical contrasts in this work, the dark, rather gloomy nervous fluctuations by the superb cellist and the strong sense of integrated musical structure make it one of the most satisfying works of Penderecki.
“A sea of dreams did breathe on me…” Songs of reflection and nostalgia (2010)
I found the opening subtle, almost Javanese oriental percussion orchestration with bells and gongs reminiscent of a gamelan orchestra.
Under one unexplored tree | words: Bolesław Leśmian
This Angelus was suitably grandiose in conception and execution
Sky at night words: Leopold Staff
Silence words: Leopold Staff
I see a country in the distance words: Kazimierz Przerwa Tetmajer
The autumn wind roared| words: Tadeusz Miciński
Beautiful orchestration of renewal here. The dark night of the Polish soul….
The Angel of the Lord Angelus words: Kazimierz Przerwa Tetmajer