In Memory Of Krzysztof Penderecki

On March, 29th the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki died at the age of 86. Ilona Schmiel remembers his last visit to Zurich in January of this year.

«Krzysztof Penderecki was one of the most outstanding composers of our time. He found his own universal musical language that was understood and that touched.

Krzysztof Penderecki an seinem letzten Besuch in Zürich im Januar 2020 (Foto: tgz)
Ilona Schmiel, Elżbieta Penderecka, Paavo Järvi und Krzysztof Penderecki am Beethoven-Easter-Festival Warschau im April 2019 (Foto: zvg)
«Seine Musik hat alles, sie wird unvergessen bleiben», so Kamil Losiewicz (Foto: zvg)

The best example of this were the two concerts on January, 25th and 26th, 2020, in which we performed three late works by him in a portrait. Here, the wide spectrum of his immense talent and his everlasting curiosity for the confrontation with non-European cultures, for which he found his own expression, became apparent. The Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich was conducted by Penderecki's assistant Maciej Tworek, who stood in for the composer at short notice. But Krzysztof Penderecki insisted on travelling with his wife Elzbieta to attend rehearsals and concerts. He was warmly received and celebrated. These deeply touching moments on stage and the conversations about his next, upcoming composition will be remembered by all of us forever. Thanks for everything Krzysztof!

Our thoughts are now with his wife Elzbieta and his family and we are very grateful for the encounter with him.»

The orchestra also mourns. Among them the Polish musician couple Kitrasiewicz-Losiewicz: viola player Katarzyna Kitrasiewicz-Losiewicz and her husband, double bass player Kamil Losiewicz.

Katarzyna remembers: «Look, he's sitting up there on the balcony», she excitedly whispered to her desk neighbor when the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich performed at the Warsaw Beethoven Festival organized by Krzysztof Penderecki's wife Elzbieta a year ago.

«His music has everything, it will remain unforgotten,» says Kamil as well. Krzysztof Penderecki has been able to translate sound like hardly anyone else: «He has understood the instruments. Music in general.»

Katarzyna never forgets how much she was touched by his music for the victims of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, even as a very young woman. «Like a cry, she went out into the world and into the hearts of the people.» Just in these days Krzysztof Penderecki's compositions received a sad urgency.

Peter Kosak, the orchestra's deputy principal double bass player, holds the deceased compatriot in high esteem for his «outstanding, avant-garde early work», which the world will still remember in a hundred years' time. Krzysztof Penderecki had already been a great name in Poland in Peter's earliest childhood, and what he had achieved for the musical life of his country, especially as professor and later as rector of the Krakow Music Academy, could not be valued highly enough: «His international charisma, his contacts have filled the people in the country with pride even in difficult years.»

Ewa Grzywna-Groblewska, viola player in the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, remembers Krzysztof Penderecki as a humorous composer: «He always kept his distance to his own works,» she says. In Poland, many stories would circulate about how he is said to have reacted to certain passages during rehearsals. «What are you playing? Did I really write it like that», she quotes what he said years ago in front of the orchestra: «Well, I was still young at the time …», he then remarked. Ewa`s favourite piece is the ‹Cadenza› for viola solo: «It presents the viola sound very well.»

published: 29.03.2020