Rochester, NY — The Eastman School of Music honors the legendary Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki in a weeklong festival (February 23-27), featuring him prominently in both roles for which he is internationally noted. “The School is thrilled to host the visit of this world-renowned figure, whose music,” says interim Composition Chair David Liptak, “is filled with vitality, adventure, and a sense of the monumental.” Penderecki, who still resides in his native Poland, received an honorary degree from Eastman in 1972.
During this festival, Penderecki will have a full schedule that includes a composition master class and symposium for students and faculty, and two free public concerts of his music. Both concerts reflect a fascinating chronological journey of some of Penderecki’s most interesting and important works:
- Tuesday, February 24, 8 p.m., Kilbourn Hall: This diverse chamber music program, chosen in collaboration with Penderecki, features Eastman faculty performers. The Rochester premiere of Violin Sonata #1 (1953) performed by Oleh Krysa, violin, and Tatiana Tchekina, piano, opens the concert, which also includes Cadenza for Solo Viola (1984) with violist George Taylor; Quartet for Clarinet and String Trio (1993) (Ken Grant, clarinet; Oleh Krysa, violin; George Taylor, viola; and Rosemary Elliott, cello); and the Rochester premiere of Sextet (2000) for clarinet, horn, piano, and strings (Kenneth Grant, clarinet; Dietrich Hemann, horn; Barry Snyder, piano; Charles Castleman, violin; John Graham, viola; and Stephen Doane, cello).
- Friday, February 27, 8 p.m., Eastman Theatre: This orchestral concert features the Eastman Philharmonia conducted by Brad Lubman and Penderecki himself. Lubman conducts the concert’s first half, which opens with the powerful 1959-61 Threnody “For the Victims of Hiroshima,” a 1961 UNESCO Award-winning work scored for a large string orchestra (52 strings). According to the composer, “the problem of the great Apocalypse (Auschwitz), that great war crime, has undoubtedly been in my subconscious mind since the war when, as a child, I saw the destruction of the ghetto in my small native town of Debica.” The progression of works on the program moves to the full orchestra for the 1966 De Natura Sonoris No. 1, more playful than his earlier works and utilizing some free jazz-inspired sounds of the time, and then to The Dream of Jacob (1974), which Lubman says “seems to cross the alleged boundaries between his works from the 1960s and more traditional means, while maintaining the mystical atmosphere of the biblical quote from which the piece gets its title.” Part of this work was used in the musical film score of The Shining. After intermission, the composer steps to the podium to conduct his monumental second violin concerto, Metamorphosen — performed by Mr. Krysa — which will comprise the concert’s entire second half. In 1999, this piece won a Grammy Award as “Best Classical Contemporary Composition” with a recording by Anne-Sophie Mutter for whom the work was written, with the composer conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.
Born in 1933, Penderecki began his musical career as an accomplished violinist, pianist, and composer, having graduated from the Krakow Conservatory at the age of 18. After a surprise win of the top three prizes — under three different pseudonyms — at the 1959 Warsaw Competition of Young Composers, Penderecki’s compositional rise, with its associated critical acclaim and numerous international awards, began to have worldwide influence. According to Liptak, Penderecki’s early music experimented with color, sound mass, cluster writing, and a new emphasis on texture that proved to be highly effective and profoundly influential upon other composers. His later works, including Adagio (Symphony #4) , Violin Sonata #2, and the Grammy Award-winning Cello Concerto (recorded by Mstislav Rostropovich), approach the writing of music with a broader, almost Romantic sweep. Much of his professional work has been as a conductor of his own orchestral music as well as the established repertory, and he is much in demand in that capacity.
Note to editors: A photo of Mr. Penderecki is available.