Krzysztof Penderecki

'At home in Poland, I have a big park full of trees. Trees are my big hobby and in that park, I planted every tree imaginable that will survive in our climate. I often go there, just to be still among the trees and to watch them. What especially fascinates me is how they change with the seasons, colour-wise and also in terms of the sound that the wind makes when it blows through their branches. There is a different sound to the wind blowing through a tree in autumn than in summer, when the leaves are lush and abundant.' - Krzysztof Penderecki, talking to Tess Crebbin in 2004

Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020). Photo © 2004 Oliver Oppitz
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020). Photo © 2004 Oliver Oppitz


Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki was born in Dębica on 23 November 1933. He studied music in Kraków, at the Jagiellonian University and at the Academy of Music, where he then began teaching.

His composing career began at the 1959 Warsaw Autumn contemporary music festival.

His Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima and St Luke Passion are known internationally.

His early works were based on tone clusters, but his style changed in the mid-1970s, using simpler constructions, with Penderecki commenting that he 'was saved from the avant-garde snare of formalism by a return to tradition'. Important works from this period were the Lacrimosa, which he expanded into his Polish Requiem, and his Credo.

Penderecki died on 29 March 2020, aged eighty-six, at his home in Lusławice, east of Kraków, following a long and serious illness.


A selection of articles about Krzysztof Penderecki

Classical music news. Appointments - New (and existing) jobs for members of the international classical music community

CD Spotlight. A Connection with Mahler - Music by Penderecki, recommended by Geoff Pearce. 'The Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Sopot, conducted by Wojciech Rajski, is magnificent.'

Ensemble. When I'm Sixty-Four - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the Spoleto Festival

Classical music news. In Memoriam Krzysztof Penderecki - Polish Cultural Institute New York presents a worldwide programme honouring the life and legacy of the Polish composer

CD Spotlight. Approachable Music - The complete violin and piano music of Lutosławski and Penderecki, strongly recommended by Geoff Pearce. 'The performances by violinist Michael Foyle and pianist Maksim Štšura are responsive, intelligent and very polished and I, for one, found this disc a delight.'

Classical music news - March 2020 Obituaries - Our summary of those the classical music world lost last month

CD Spotlight. Convulsive Energy - Choral and vocal music by Penderecki, recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... the momentum of Penderecki's creations is marvelously executed.'

CD Spotlight. Schoenbergian Gospel? - Concertos by Krzysztof Penderecki, recommended by Ron Bierman. '... an exceptionally worthwhile release.'

Ensemble. Joy for the Soul - Giuseppe Pennisi visits Sagra Musicale Umbra

An Invaluable Book - Gergely Hubai's 'Torn Music: Rejected film scores, a selected history', recommended by Patric Standford

CD Spotlight. Clear Tonal Focus - Music for cello and piano by Krzysztof Meyer, recommended by Patric Standford. '... fine playing ...'

Europamusicale Poland - Tess Crebbin talks to Penderecki and co

Krzysztof Penderecki - Europamusicale performer spotlight

CD Spotlight - Humanitarian anxiety. 'It is hard to imagine more idiomatically persuasive performances.' Penderecki orchestral works, with Peter Dale