Penderecki gets docked

Penderecki gets docked


norman lebrecht

November 13, 2017

The Polish composer is receiving an honorary doctorate from Indiana University today.

On Wednesday he will conduct IU Jacobs School musicians in his St Luke’s Passion.



  • Jon H says:

    Practice microtones. I joke that such composers were the reason musicians had to be more careful with intonation, because for Penderecki, something say 50 cents sharp or flat would be the wrong note…
    The good thing is that intonation has improved in orchestras (say in the past 30 years), and there were critics who confused better intonation with playing “coldly” – but playing in tune really does sound better. So the new norm owes something to these modern composers who insisted on microtones.

  • buxtehude says:

    Sviatoslav Richter made a big effort to understand and appreciate all contemporary composers who came his way, it seems to have been almost a point of pride. The music of Penderecki though defeated him. Of his St Luke Passion: “We dined together in the shade of some vine leaves, and the man proved to be extraordinarily sympathetic and full of interesting plans concerning orthodox religious music. How sad that his music doesn’t speak to my soul…

    “I’ve now listened to this work three times, and I like it less each time. These obsessive cries are terribly theatrical. I see in them only affectation and empty rhetoric. We are a thousand leagues from the sincerity of the Glagolitic Mass.”

    From selections from his very interesting music-listening notebooks (Monsaingeon 1998/2001)

  • Richard Jones says:

    Penderecki conducted his 7th Symphony at the RNCM in Manchester a few years ago. Flew in for a 20 minute rehearsal, concert, fellowship presentation and a 45k cheque. Totally uninspiring and a complete waste of money.

    It’s a shame he can’t conduct much, but he’s a great composer.

    • Alex Davies says:

      Much as I admire Penderecki, this is shocking! I always assumed that when somebody was presented with an honorary fellowship, honorary doctorate, etc. the expectation would be that they would mark the occasion by giving the institution something in return, such as giving a lecture or a performance or even composing a new work for the occasion (e.g. Brahms at Breslau). Indeed, I believe that when Haydn was awarded his honorary DMus at Oxford it was a requirement that he conducted three concerts in Oxford, conducting the final concert wearing his DMus robe. Kraków to Manchester isn’t an onerous journey. I’d think that a free concert would be a reasonable quid pro quo for a fellowship of the RNCM.