Krzysztof Penderecki has died at 86. The influential Polish composer reportedly passed away at home “after a long and serious illness.”
Penderecki’s career began as a teacher at the Academy Of Music In Kraków in 1959. He became known for his avant-garde compositions; one of his most famous and demanding, 1960’s Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima, was written for 52 string instruments. Other notable pieces include Polymorphia and Saint Luke’s Passion. He would eventually move away from the avant-garde and into choral compositions and other works.
He won four Grammy Awards over his long career: one in 2016 for Best Choral Performance, two in 1998 for Best Classical Contemporary Composition and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance With Orchestra; and one in 1987 for Best Contemporary Composition.
He was a favorite source of inspiration for movie directors. He rarely scored films himself — though he did compose for Andrzej Wajda’s 2007 Oscar-nominated Katyń — but his music was included in quite a few films, including placements in The Exorcist, The Shining, Children of Men and the works of David Lynch.
Penderecki also influenced many other musicians, among them Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, the Band’s Robbie Robertson, and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, as The New York Times points out. Greenwood cited him as a reference point for his scores for There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread. Alongside with Aphex Twin, Greenwood remixed Penderecki songs live in 2011.
What sad news to wake to. Penderecki was the greatest – a fiercely creative composer, and a gentle, warm-hearted man. My condolences to his family, and to Poland on this huge loss to the musical world. https://t.co/fRyy53aaEJ
— Jonny Greenwood (@JnnyG) March 29, 2020