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, 2013.

Music by Krzysztof Penderecki.

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