Composer Penderecki is witness to history of native Poland

Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:28pm EST
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By Ori Lewis

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Krzysztof Penderecki, one of the world's most celebrated living composers, says his music bears witness to the harrowing history of his native Poland in the 20th century.

Now 80 but showing no signs of slowing down, Penderecki is performing with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra this week in Israeli cities his Polish Requiem, a monumental composition with soloists and choir first performed 30 years ago.

"I am emotionally very much involved in this piece because it tells us the story of our history and the history of the last decades to which I was a witness," Penderecki told Reuters in an

interview between rehearsals in Tel Aviv.

"I have lived through very difficult times," said Penderecki, reflecting on the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War Two, the Holocaust and postwar communist oppression.

"When the Second World War started, I was only five but I still remember... Being a witness ... I wanted people to remember what happened in our country and elsewhere," he said.

Among the events commemorated in Polish Requiem are the Jewish uprising against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 (Dies Irae) and the Soviet massacre of some 22,000 Poles in Katyn Forest in 1940 (Libera me, Domine).

Penderecki embarked on the Requiem in 1980 with the brief, lyrical "Lacrimosa" section commissioned for the unveiling of a monument at the Gdansk shipyard to the Solidarity trade union, which helped topple Poland's communist regime nine years later.   Continued...

Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki listens to a question during a news conference at the Prince of Asturias Awards foundation in Oviedo October 25, 2001. REUTERS/Alonso Gonzalez