Tributes pour in for Krzysztof Penderecki

Tributes pour in for Krzysztof Penderecki


norman lebrecht

March 29, 2020

Conductor Kent Nagano:  The passing of Krzysztof Penderecki is a deeply moving loss for all who love music and life and he will universally be mourned. An entire generation grew up with his music and his works provided vital important musical and social impulses, especially during the mid 1960-70’s as composer, performer, professor and humanist his creative vision remained an essential part of the musical landscape until his untimely passing. 

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter: The premiere of his “Recordare” in September 1984 in Stuttgart was a life changing experience for me. A new era began. His violin concert “Metamorphosis“ became my life line during the terminal illness and death of my husband in 1995.

I had the great fortune to premiere many of his works in the last 25 years. Every piece he wrote for me since has challenged and moved me deeply. His earth shattering musical language, his mastery of form filled with his deep soul shining through every note of his compositions makes his oeuvre a present to the world.

And getting to know this wonderful man who passionately collected and cultivated trees will forever remain my life’s treasure.

“The Polish Requiem“, “Lukas Passion“, “7 Gates of Jerusalem“ and “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima“ – to name a few – are monumental memorials to mankind. Let us honour his genius by keeping him alive for eternity in our hearts and concert halls.

Pianist Rostislav Krimer: I can not describe how sad it is and how irraplaceble is this wonderful, wise person and enormous composer. I am so so greatful to play together, to speak together, to have Maestro in Belarus twice so Minsk could hear his music and see him as well as our students to meet him. We planned his visit again and had wondeful plans ahead.

I was blessed to play his piano concerto number of times and work with Maestro on it. I remember every moment, every second which will stay with me for all times. I will always remember a God-service in the church in Warsaw on his 85th Jubileum, where I was blessed to be. It will stay forever as a goodbye memory. Thank you dear Krzysztof for everything, for blessing us with your life and music.

Record producer David Starobin: The death today of Krzysztof Penderecki brings back memories of my high school years, and the powerful impact such pieces as his “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” and his “St. Luke Passion” made on me and so many others. The encounter with his music shaped a generation of younger composers.




  • msc says:

    A great composer whose work was seems to me to have been sadly neglected in most of the world. Given that it is Lent, I will be listening to his St. Luke Passion today.

    • John Holmes says:

      That whole generation of composers who came to maturity after WWII is now gone: Boulez, Stockhausen, Berio, Xenakis, Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Cage, Kagel and now Penderecki. Sad

  • YB Schragadove says:

    I remember hearing some amazing music in Kubrick’s film “The Shining”, and was determined to learn who the composer was and what pieces I had heard that made such on impact on me, and this was my introduction to Penderecki: Utrenja, The Dream of Jacob, De Natura Sonoris No. 1 and 2, Kanon, and Polymorphia.

  • Karl says:

    I remember Penderecki was in Montreal to lead the OSM Chorus in the Canadian premiere of his Psalm 3. I got to hear his Second Symphony conducted by him at SPAC a decade ago. It’s an underrated piece. I was lucky to hear his horn concerto played live by an OSM horn player at the University several years ago. Another underrated piece.

  • Nancy Shear says:

    Like his compatriots Lutoslawski and Panufnik, Penderecki was not only a great composer but a superb conductor. It is a double musical loss.

  • Michael Anderson says:

    Those of us musicians who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s held the great composer Krzysztof Penderecki in the very high esteem reserved in the twentieth century for a few very special composers like Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg. We eagerly listened to and studied his groundbreaking works such as the Threnody to Victims of Hiroshima.

    I was already thrilled to be a member of the Oregon Bach Festival orchestra in the 1980s as a clarinetist and orchestra manager. So when Helmuth Rilling and Royce Saltzman initiated a long and fruitful collaboration with Penderecki in 1988, with the composer conducting his Polish Requiem, it felt like I was allowed to visit a very special part of musical heaven.

    Over the years with OBF, I played many works with Penderecki as composer, conductor, or both, and worked with him as an administrator. I remember asking him about the tempo of the long clarinet solo in Credo, and his self-effacing answer “Oh, don’t ask me—composers are often the worst at setting tempos in their music. Just play what you think is right.” I loved hearing from him about his deep interest and love of trees and how he cultivated them in an arboretum on his estate. I laughed with the whole orchestra and chorus when he instructed us to play an energetic section of music “con Viagra!” Once, during the Festival in the 90s, I was having dinner in a nice local restaurant with my friend and colleague Todd Kuhns, and at the end of the dinner I asked for the check. The waiter told me that the bill was already paid by the gentleman across the restaurant. Smiling and waving at us across the way was our esteemed guest conductor Krzysztof Penderecki
    R. I. P. Krzysztof Penderecki. You are a great composer and a great human being. We are lucky to have known you. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

    Michael Anderson
    OBF Principal Clarinet, 1988 – 2007
    Director of Artistic Administration