Penderecki między sacrum a profanum


  • Mieczysław Tomaszewski Akademia Muzyczna, Kraków


Słowa kluczowe:

Krzysztof Penderecki, współczesna muzyka europejska, muzyka XX wieku


Krzysztof Penderecki summed up his aesthetic and philosophical attitude stating wittily: „I am tempted by both the sacrum and the profanum, God and the devil, the sublime and its violation”. Amongst over a hundred compositions he has created over the last half-century a considerable majority are of profanic nature. Some of them, of significant importance, became known world-wide, e.g. Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima. His sacred compositions, albeit not so numerous, also won general acclaim and recognition from professionals and public, almost equal to profanic ones. They gained their well-deserved place in the canon of the 20th-century sacred music, as well as in the history of the modern Europe, as organically linked to the time and place of the earth. St. Luke’s Passion, Paradise Lost and Polish Requiem – even those three compositions resonated with exceptional intensity not only due to the value of the sacred music, but also as an expression of the composer’s involvement in the higher matters, above technicalities in which the art of the time was largely and programmatically engrossed. Their additional and peculiar value lied in the fact that they formed a series of compositions, by which Krzysztof Penderecki – as the first composer of the communist-regimented countries – broke the ban on composing the higher music on sacred themes. At the same time, he was brave enough to renounce his sonoristic, up to that time, way of expression – which brought him fame and success among the western avantgarde – as not sufficient enough to realise his own visions in the sphere of sacred art. Therefore he created his compositions with full commitment, with full awareness of his mission: „My art – as he confessed – with its deep Christian roots, aims at re-building the metaphysical space of human being, shattered by the cataclysms of the 20th century. To restore the sacred dimension of reality is one way of saving man“.

The sacred compositions of Krzysztof Penderecki outstand the contemporary European music – due to their unique features. Their distinct ecumenical character can be revealed even in the very selection of genres: Catholic Stabat Mater, Magnificat, Te Deum, Polish Requiem, Credo, Veni Creator, Hymn to St. Adalbert and Missa brevis, Catholic and Evangelical Passion, Orthodox – both Matins, as well as Song Cherubins and Hymn to St. Danilov, the Old-Testamental Psalms of David and Canticum canticorum i.e. Sir ha sirim, based not only on psalms – Seven Gates of Jerusalem, the Hebrew Kaddish. Yet the universal, by nature, sacrum is often tinted with Polish intonations. These are usually Polish religious songs, sometimes plainly patriotic, which are incorporated into compositions based on Latin lyrics: Boże, coś Polskę [God Thou Hast Poland] (in Te Deum), Święty Boże /The Trisagion/ (in Passion and in Polish Requiem), Ludu mój ludu /People of My People/ and Któryś cierpiał za nas rany /You who s u f f e r e d wounds for us/ (in Credo).

The sacred music of Krzysztof Penderecki in a single way tune up, into one, coherent, and completed whole, the elements of music tradition and modernity. According to the composer, huge emotions triggered out by everlasting issues, when bringing lofty ideas – in grand-scale music forms – must be founded on tradition. Krzysztof Penderecki has always been convinced that “n o artistic creativity can survive w i t h o u t r o o t s ”. The psychological structure of the composer has also encompassed a closing thought, a moral, a humanistic message. All his compositions aim at the final reflection. In this sense, the creator of Passion, Dies irae, Polish Requiem, as well as The Devils of Loudun, The Black Mask or Song of Passing (Symphony No. 8) and Song of Reverie and Nostalgia – can be ranked amongst the music moralist.

Penderecki’s compositions are permeated with existential awareness of the existence of death in modern civilisation and an acute feeling of the deep crisis of culture. As a creator, by nature and in effect of the experiences of his time, “the time of Apocalypse and hope”, he could not stay aloof, living behind the curtain of alibi offered by the idea of artistic autotelism. On the contrary, he belongs to the group of fully involved composers. Those to whom a work of art is a reaction to history, life and the world. The art which takes place within the area of values and takes their side. In his public declaration he explicitly stated his viewpoint: “One more time, in man’s history, it has been proved that every attempt to turn away from God, especially a bold wish to equal Him, invariably ends with a pathetic fall. His antidote has always been “the double rootedness of art – in the earth and in the air”.






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