Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, born in 1933, was introduced to music at a young age by his father, a violin-playing lawyer. The boy studied piano and violin and was admitted to the Krakow Conservatory at 18. Three years later, he began studying composition at the Krakow State Academy of Music, finishing his studies in 1958.
In 1959, he wrote three compositions that won first prizes in a competition for young Polish composers. His works began to garner recognition from that point on, especially the 1960 work, “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima,” written for 52 string instruments. (A “threnody” is a song of lamentation or mourning.) The work sounds like electronic music and among its effects are air raid-like sounds and instructions to tap the instrument with the bow or with the fingers.
Another major work is the “St. Luke Passion,” written between 1963 and 1966. Although it has a Baroque format, the work contains a wide variety of styles, including experimental sounds. Both the “Passion” and the “Threnody” were performed worldwide after they were composed.
Penderecki has composed other types of works, including opera. His first was “The Devils of Loudon,” composed in 1968. This work and his other earlier works have been used as “sound effects” in sci-fi and horror films, including “The Exorcist” and “The Shining.”
Penderecki was for a time a visiting professor at Yale University (beginning in 1972), and around this time his style began to change from his previous astringent, anguished works toward more tonal works. Penderecki holds honorary memberships in many prestigious conservatories and has received several honorary doctorates