You have probably already heard the sad news that Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki has died. Penderecki has set a number of biblical texts to music. Here are his settings of some Psalms:
Here is his Dream of Jacob:
Other works also have biblical connections, such as his Symphony No.7 themed around seven gates of Jerusalem.
Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion was commissioned to commemorate Münster Cathedral’s 700th anniversary. The work premiered there on March 30, 1966. Though it was first performed in a church, Penderecki’s Passion, unlike Bach’s, is considered concert music with no ties to religious observance. Also, the subject matter was meant to transcend a simple retelling of Christ’s last days on earth. Though Penderecki was a religious man and in part sought to emphasize the literal retelling of Luke’s Gospel narrative, he also aimed to symbolize the tragedy of humanity through Christ’s suffering. This perspective makes sense when looking at Penderecki’s other works, some of which focus on the horrors of Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
The St. Luke Passion covers slightly less ground than Bach’s Matthew narrative. Penderecki’s setting begins with Jesus on the Mount of Olives after the Last Supper and ends directly after Jesus’ death. The text is in Latin. The work fluctuates between moments of near tonality and complete atonal chaos. Much of the music, though not explicitly tonal, does have a harmonic center. The score makes use of graphical and traditional notation, which can be seen in the section on display. Here, Penderecki creates a haunting moment, where Jesus dies after committing his spirit to God. The score, from the Cook Music Library’s collection, is an early edition of this 1966 work.
More on his St. Luke’s Passion here. Of related interest, let me share a work by Penderecki’s living Polish contemporary, Zbigniew Preisner:
The work by composer Zbigniew Preisner, “Silence, Night, and Dreams,” is based on text from the Book of Job.
See the Resident Advisor interview with Penderecki here for more.