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KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI
Photo: Marek Beblot

KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI was born in Debica (130 km east of Krakow) on November 23, 1933. His father, a lawyer and enthusiastic violin player, brought his son into immediate contact with music. Penderecki was given violin and piano lessons at an early age and was admitted to the Krakow Conservatory at the age of 18, studying at the same time philosophy, art history and literary history at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and, from 1954, composition at the Krakow State Academy of Music, first with Artur Malewski, and then with Stanislaw Wiechowicz. After graduating in 1958 he took up a teaching post there himself. In 1959 three works by Penderecki - Strophes, Emanations and Psalms of David - won first prizes in the 2nd Warsaw Competition of Young Polish Composers. Only one year later, in 1960, his piece Anaklasis, for 42 stringed instruments, was premièred at the Donaueschingen Festival by the Südwestfunk Orchestra under the direction of Hans Rosbaud, and was celebrated by the critics. With these works and others following in rapid succession - such as Dimensions of Time and Silence, Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (UNESCO Award 1961), Polymorphia and Fluorescences, the String Quartet No. 1, Dies Irae in memory of the victims of Auschwitz (Prix Italia 1968), and Stabat Mater for three mixed choruses a cappella, which later became part of the St. Luke Passion, first performed in 1966 in Münster Cathedral - Penderecki laid the foundations for his international reputation as a composer. For the St. Luke Passion, Penderecki was awarded the Great Arts Award of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1966 and the Prix Italia in 1967. In the same year, he was also awarded the Sibelius Gold Medal.


From 1966 to 1968, Penderecki taught at the Essen Folkwang Hochschule. During this time he began intensive work on his first opera, The Devils of Loudon (based on a book by Aldous Huxley, dramatized by John Whiting, and translated by Erich Fried), which, after its première at the Hamburg Staatsoper in 1969, was successfully performed in theatres throughout the world as were the three following operas - Paradise Lost (from the play by John Milton; première 1978 in Chicago), Die Schwarze Maske (from the play by Gerhart Hauptmann; première 1986 at the Salzburg Festival), and Ubu Rex (from the play Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry; première 1991 in Munich at the Bayerische Staatsoper). In 1968 he received a scholarship from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) in Berlin. In 1970 he was awarded the Prize of the Union of Polish Composers. Since 1972 he has been rector of the Krakow State Academy of Music; from 1973 to 1978 - professor at Yale University. In these years, on extended concert tours all over the world, Penderecki also rapidly acquired an international reputation as a conductor of both his own compositions and works of other composers.


The many additional prizes awarded Penderecki for his other 5 symphonies, small-scale orchestral compositions, solo concertos (two violin concertos, an alto concerto, two violoncello concertos, a flute concerto, some of them in versions for other solo instruments), chamber music works, and numerous vocal works, include the Prix Arthur Honegger in 1977 (for Magnificat), the Sibelius Prize of the Wihouri Foundation and the National Prize of Poland in 1983, the Premio Lorenzo Magnifico in 1985, and the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 1992 (for Adagio Symphony No. 4). In 1998 he was honored with the Composition Award of the Promotion Association of the European Industry and Trade, conferred upon him on September 10 on the occasion of the Penderecki Festival in Krakow. In 1999 he received the Music Award of the City of Duisburg. In January 2000 - the Cannes Classical Award as "Living Composer of the Year", in 2001 he received the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, and in 2002 the Romano Guardini Prize of the Catholic Academy in Bavaria. In 2004, Penderecki was awarded the Praemium Imperiale, and in 2006 he became a Member of both the Three Star Order in Latvia and the Order of the White Eagle in Poland, which represent the highest honors of these countries.


Penderecki has received honorary doctorates and professorships from numerous universities, such as Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., the University of Glasgow, the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, the universities of Rochester, Bordeaux, Leuwen, Belgrade, Madrid, and Poznan, as well as honorary memberships from the Royal Academy of Music (London), the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Rome), the Kungliga Musikaliska Akademien (Stockholm), the Akademie der Künste (Berlin) and the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires). In 1998 the Beijing Conservatoire appointed him as honorary professor, and in 1999 Duquesne University, Pittsburgh (PA), conferred upon him an honorary doctorate.


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