Polish classical composer Krzysztof Penderecki dies, aged 86

Celebrated classical composer Krzysztof Penderecki died Sunday, aged 86, in his home city of Krakow, Polish media reported, citing his wife. He had been battling a long illness. 

The Polish composer and conductor was a classical trailblazer, often using atonal techniques in his works, though his compositions grew more traditional throughout his career. He worked with all the major symphony orchestras in Europe and the United States and was still actively performing.

Many orchestras shared their condolences on Twitter, including the Singapore Symphony:

Penderecki’s best-known pieces include Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, written in 1960 to commemorate the victims of the first-ever used atomic bomb, and the highly avantgarde St. Luke’s Passion from 1966.

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“I was aiming for something that seemed unreachable,” he told DW in an interview in 2013. ” A young composer, who had previously only written pieces that were ten minutes long, dared to create a work which was over an hour long — much in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach.”

Penderecki was also known for his film scores, having composed the soundtracks to such movies such as William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining andDavid Lynch’s Wild at Heart. 

He won numerous global awards for his work including four Grammys, most recently in 2017.

From Hiroshima to Gdansk

Penderecki was born on November 23, 1933 in Debica, near Krakow. He received music lessons as a child and later studied composition at the Academy of Music in Kraków.

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Recognition first came in 1959, when the three pieces he submitted to a young composers’ competition in Warsaw swept the prizes. His Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima the following year brought him international acclaim.

In 1980, he was commissioned by Poland’s Solidarity trade union, which fought against the communist rule, to write a piece commemorating the anti-government protests in the Gdansk shipyard in 1970. He late expanded the work into one of his best-known later pieces, Polish Requiem.

cmb/mm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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