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Polish Music Giant
Succumbs To Long Illness
At 86

By on April 24, 2020

KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI (1933-2020)

By Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent

WARSAW–World culture sustained an irreparable loss recently with the death of Polish music giant Krzysztof Penderecki. A prolific composer, dynamic conductor and charismatic professor, who had educated several generations of music students, he died following a prolonged illness in his adopted hometown of Kraków at the age of 86. Up until his death, Penderecki was widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest living composers.

A master of large, often monumental musical forms, Penderecki’s speciality were oratorios, symphonies and operas. The oratorio ”Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Luke” (1966), his greatest religious-themed work, ranked among his best-known compositions. Other works honored the victims of Hiroshima, Auschwitz and Katyń.  He also produced numerous smaller sacred and secular works including choral pieces, concertos and chamber music.

Penderecki, whose creativity defined the Polish music scene in the latter half of the 20th century on into the 21st, without a doubt ranks among such Polish musical greats as Chopin, Moniuszko, Paderewski, Szymanowski, Lutosławski and Górecki. 

Although mainly regarded as a representative of high musical culture, Penderecki also contributed to popular mass entertainment and was the favorite composer of horror-film directors. His wild, terrifying and haunting music greatly enhanced such Hollywood movies as The Exorcist. Inland Empire, The Shining and Shutter Island.

A recipient of Poland’s highest distinction, the Order of the White Eagle, the Polish maestro had brilliantly conducted some of the world’s major symphony orchestras, He won a Grammy on four separate occasions as wełł as as many other prestigious prizes and held numerous honorary doctorates from European and American universities. Penderecki’s recent death marked the end of an entire era of contemporary music. May He Rest in Peace!

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