The Music Room > Composer Discussion

Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933)

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Maciek:

(pic by Nutada (own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Judging by the number of threads dedicated to him on the old forum - one of the most popular contemporary composers on GMG. But a controversial figure nontheless. The sudden stylistic turns he took in his career. The tendency he has to make each next work even longer. His slightly pompous demeanor. Etc.

Personally, I tend to like his work less and less as his style "develops". His early, avantgarde stuff is right up my alley. But he starts to get boring for me around the end of the 70s, when he is well into his neo-romantic turn (still, I have to admit I love Paradise Lost!).

My favorite pieces:
Dimensions of Time and Silence (1959-61), String Quartet No. 1 (1960), Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (1960) for 52 string instruments, Polymorphia (1961) for 48 string instruments, Fluorescences (1961-62) for orchestra, St. Luke's Passion (1965), Dies Irae (1967), String Quartet No. 2 (1968), The Devils of Loudun (Die Teufel von Loudun, 1968-69), Utrenja (1969-71), Cello Concerto No. 1 (1972), The Dream of Jacob (1974), Paradise Lost (1978).

I think the symphonies are something I'm missing out on - I only know the first two but I'm not especially fond of them.

Of the later works (such as the Polish Requiem or the Seven Gates of Jerusalem) I only like snatches or (even more often) I don't like them at all.

Here are some links to threads dedicated to Penderecki on the old forum:
The Devils of Loudun on DVD
Penderecki: The Devils of Loudun (only 1 post here)
Penderecki's Devils!
Penderecki's Threnody
Canticum Canticorum Salomonis- great little piece of music!
Penderecki's symphonies on Naxos
Penderecki- 6th symphony
Penderecki Matrix 5 EMI Classics
Penderecki interview

Awaiting your comments, favorite recordings, etc.!

Maciek

Archaic Torso of Apollo:
While I generally agree that the earlier, modernistic stuff is superior & more distinctive, there are plenty of neo-romantic Penderecki pieces I like.

The Sextet comes at the top of the list - really colorful, dramatic & fun piece of chamber music. I also like the Clarinet Quartet, which sounds like a Shostakovich quartet with the clarinet replacing one of the violins. They're both available on a wonderful Naxos disc.

I also like the 3rd Symphony - I think it could become a serious crowd pleaser if given the chance.

I wish he would write more for small ensembles, though. Orchestra + big chorus tends to bring out the bombast in him. And speaking of chorus, I also like a disc of his unaccompanied choral music made by some Finnish choir (I forget the name). The music is wonderfully atmospheric, & the disc as a whole allows you to trace all his stylistic turns from c. 1960 to the 1990s.

Symphonien:
So far the only disk I have is the EMI Matrix 5 one, but I absolutely love it! All the pieces there are great, but I especially like the Threnody, Canticum Canticorum Salomonis and the Dream of Jacob. And also the Capriccio for violin and orchestra. There's a short segment in the middle there which sounds exactly like that corny electronic sci-fi music, where the violin glissandos in the high register. Very amusing...

I think what makes Penderecki interesting is not just the interesting effects he achieves through the orchestra, but the atmosphere he creates through the silence/soft parts in between the more violent sections. They seem all the more startling in contrast. But of course, his extended techniques are amazing; I'm particularly fond of the sound produced near the end of Threnody where he has the instruments bow their tailpieces. The first time I heard it, I was shocked and amazed to hear this sound being produced by string instruments!

Archaic Torso of Apollo:

--- Quote from: Symphonien on April 12, 2007, 11:33:38 PM ---So far the only disk I have is the EMI Matrix 5 one, but I absolutely love it! All the pieces there are great, but I especially like the Threnody, Canticum Canticorum Salomonis and the Dream of Jacob.
--- End quote ---

I love The Dream of Jacob! It's a gem. It reminds me of Ligeti's orchestral pieces from the 1960s, but with an added narrative element.

Maciek:

--- Quote from: Spitvalve on April 12, 2007, 10:19:15 PM ---The Sextet comes at the top of the list - really colorful, dramatic & fun piece of chamber music.

--- End quote ---

I've seen the Sextet recommended quite a few times on the old forum, so I probably need to check that out, thanks!


--- Quote ---I also like the Clarinet Quartet
--- End quote ---

I know the Quartet but I'm not madly in love with it. ;) A few nice passages but as a whole it doesn't really work for me.


--- Quote ---I also like the 3rd Symphony - I think it could become a serious crowd pleaser if given the chance.
--- End quote ---

Perhaps that's where I should start...


--- Quote ---And speaking of chorus, I also like a disc of his unaccompanied choral music made by some Finnish choir (I forget the name). The music is wonderfully atmospheric, & the disc as a whole allows you to trace all his stylistic turns from c. 1960 to the 1990s.

--- End quote ---

Yes, his writing for choir is very good. I didn't separately list some of the pieces that make up the Passion but I like them all very much. One later piece I didn't mention that I do enjoy very much is the Song of Cherubim (1986) for choir.

Dream of Jacob is one of my favorites! It's on the list in my first post. Proof that he could still write great pieces of moderate length in the 70s. ;D

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