Composers Datebook®

Symphonic Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933): Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (National Polish Radio Symphony; Antoni Wit, cond.) Naxos 8.554491 Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933): Symphony No. 1 (National Polish Radio Symphony; Antoni Wit, cond.) Naxos 8.554567


Composer's Datebook - July 19, 2021

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July 19, 2021

Synopsis

In 1961, a new and difficult work for strings announced the arrival of a composer with a new and difficult name for non-Polish speakers to pronounce: Krzysztof Penderecki.

Having lived as a young man under Nazi occupation and then under Poland’s repressive and ultra-conservative Communist regime, it’s not surprising, perhaps, that as a young composer Penderecki developed an ultra-modern, rebelliously experimental musical style. The success of his “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” made Penderecki famous worldwide. Subsequent choral works, operas, and more experimental orchestral works followed for the next dozen years or so.

By 1973, however, he accepted a commission for a symphony and on today’s date that year, Penderecki himself conducted the first performance of his First Symphony, with the London Symphony at Peterborough Cathedral in central England.  While his First Symphony remained in his aggressively experimental style, Penderecki would go on to write several more, each in much more conservative musical language, influenced by more traditional composers like Bruckner and Shostakovich.

"[My composing in this style],” explained Penderecki, “maybe goes a little back in time, but it goes back in order to go forward. Sometimes it's good to look back and to learn from the past."

Music Played in Today's Program

Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933): Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (National Polish Radio Symphony; Antoni Wit, cond.) Naxos 8.554491

Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933): Symphony No. 1 (National Polish Radio Symphony; Antoni Wit, cond.) Naxos 8.554567

On This Day

Births

  • 1906 - Norwegian composer Klaus Egge, in Gransherad, Telemark

  • 1913 - American composer and pianist Peggy Stuart-Coolidge in Swampscott, Mass.;

  • 1952 - English composer Dominic Muldowney, in Southhampton

  • 1965 - Scottish composer and percussionist Evelyn Glennie, in Aberdeen

Deaths

  • 1730 - French composer and flutist Jean-Baptiste Loeillet, age 49, in London

Premieres

  • 1924 - Webern: Six Bagatelles, Op. 9, for string quartet , in Donauschingen (Germany), by the Amar Quartet

  • 1973 - Penderecki: Symphony No. 1 in Peterborough Cathedral by the London Symphony, conducted by the composer

  • 1976 - Richard Wernick: "Visions of Terror and Wonder" for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado; This work won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1977

  • 1996 - John Williams "Summon the Heroes," a six-minute theme for the 1996 Summer Olympics, commissioned by the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee

Others

  • 1942 - Arturo Toscanini conducts the American premiere of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 ("Leningrad") on a NBC Symphony broadcast; The world premiere performance by the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra had occurred on March 1, 1942, in Kuybishe, the wartime seat of the Soviet government