Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki

Turning History into Avant-garde

"I did not live in easy times," says Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki in this rare interview. Having witnessed Auschwitz and the Stalin-period in the 1950's, Penderecki explains: "I had to react with my music."

Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933) - one of the world's most renowned contemporary composers - visited Copenhagen for the premier of his avant-garde opera "The Devils of Loudun" at the Royal Danish Opera. Originally written at the end of the 1960's, the opera was an outright critic of the role of the church in society, and it caused a lot of turmoil in catholic countries such as Poland, Italy and the southern parts of Germany.

Art played a vital role during a period where half of Europe was suppressed by the Communist ideology, Penderecki explains. Young artists defined themselves as being against systems and authorities. Influenced by historic events such as World War II and the occupation of Poland, the young generation of the 1950's chose to look forward and tried to shape something new. The artists who joined the avant-garde movement inspired each other cross borders, listening to each other, recognizing each other - but no more than that. "Artists do not need so much to be connected with a group, we build a group." Penderecki says, and goes on to explain: "All the artists i remember from the past, they were really lonely. Me too." Furthermore, Penderecki explains that his famous compositions, which have been used for Hollywood-productions such as The Exorcist and The Shining, were not written for those films, but was in stead adopted by them. Originally these experimental scores were composed in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

Today though, the borders between avant-garde and mainstream music have become less clear, Penderecki says. Living in a free and open society, culture does not play the same role anymore, that it used to some decades ago. Thus Penderecki has rewritten "The Devils of Loudon" reducing the number of instruments played in the opera. "Which orchestra today is able to play a hundred voices?" Penderecki asks.

Krzysztof Penderecki was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner.

Camera: Martin Kogi
Camera opera: Daniel Bødker Sørensen
Produced by: Martin Kogi and Marc-Christoph Wagner
Music by: Krzysztof Penderecki
Copypright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2013

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    A World of Collage

    Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn juxtaposes pixelated images from the media. His works are not about technology, says the artist: “I try to give form to what I can’t accept: that someone else can decide for me what I should do, see or think.”

  • Karin Mamma Andersson

    Paintings as Weapons

    “It is the psyche of the artist that is the product, it sprung from your own well, it’s your own water,” says Sweden’s great painter Karin Mamma Andersson in this portrait. “The moment you dig into something, it becomes a sort of self-image.”

  • Daniel Richter

    On Vienna vs. Berlin

    “As ‘a working tourist’ in Vienna you see all these smells of the past and not all of them are disgusting.” Hear why German painter Daniel Richter prefers Vienna – where he works as professor at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien – over Berlin.

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    On Donald Trump

    Jonathan Safran Foer, star of American literature, offers interesting views on America’s new president and the consequences Trump will have on American culture. "The place for literature may be even more important than before," he says.

  • Dorte Mandrup

    Where Place Meets Sculpture

    Rising from the landscape in a place rich with materiality and history sits architect Dorte Mandrup’s new Wadden Sea Centre. Meet the renowned architect and see a building were “everything comes together.”

  • Bill Viola

    Cameras are Soul Keepers

    When video artist Bill Viola was 6 years old he fell into a lake, all the way to the bottom, to a place which seemed like paradise. "There's more than just the surface of life." Viola explains. "The real things are under the surface".

  • 5 Artists

    on Making Sculptures

    “All sculpture that I’m interested in knows that death is the inevitable conclusion.” Award-winning artist Antony Gormley sees art as the expression and generation of hope. Hear how he and five other artists work with sculpture.

  • Karl Ove Knausgård

    Literature Should be Ruthless

    Karl Ove Knausgård has enchanted the literary world with ‘My Struggle’, a novel of more than 3000 pages about his own life. Watch the star author discuss literature, writing and how his autobiographical style is closely connected to fiction.

  • Nick Cave

    The World is my Skin

    Have you ever wished that you could put on a suit which would open up the imagination and take you to the world of your dreams? In this video artist Nick Cave presents his wearable sculptures, the 'Soundsuits', made from discarded everyday materials.

  • Joan Jonas

    Advice to the Young

    “Love what you do. Because it’s not easy. It’s not easy to make art.” Watch as the iconic video and performance artist Joan Jonas advises her younger colleagues to enjoy what they’re doing as you never know how people will respond to your work.

  • Gerhard Richter

    In Art We Find Beauty and Comfort

    “I don’t really believe art has power. But it does have value. Those who take an interest in it find solace in art. It gives them huge comfort.” Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of our time, discusses beauty in the era of the internet.

  • Daniel Libeskind

    Tribute to New York

    “If you took the whole world and collapsed it into one little ball, you’d find it here, in this city.” Daniel Libeskind, world-renowned architect behind the new World Trade Center site, gives tribute to his city in this short and colourful video.