Krzysztof Penderecki, Influential Composer, Dead at 86

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Krzysztof Penderecki in 2018 (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Krzysztof Penderecki in 2018 (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto through Getty Images)

Krzysztof Penderecki, the influential Polish composer and conductor, has died, The New York Times reports. Penderecki died at his dwelling in Krakow. His demise was confirmed by Andrzej Giza, the director of the Ludwig van Beethoven Association—a company based by Penderecki’s spouse Elzbieta. He was 86.

Penderecki was born in Dębica in 1933. He studied on the Academy of Music in Krakow and have become an teacher there shortly after graduating. As one in a gaggle of younger avant garde Polish composers, he discovered worldwide acclaim together with his 1960 composition Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1960). The recording of the work was launched by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1969 and would later be prominently featured in Children of Men. The threnody served because the centerpiece of the eighth episode of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return.

In addition to different acclaimed works like Dies Irae (Auschwitz Oratorio) (1967), Penderecki collaborated with jazz legend Don Cherry on the album Actions (1971) and made a number of iconic contributions to movies. His music prominently appeared in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and Lynch’s Wild at Heart.

Penderecki’s affect will be heard prominently within the compositions of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood—the threnody’s affect will be heard in Greenwood’s There Will Be Blood composition “Popcorn Superhet Receiver.” Greenwood was emphatic about his love of Penderecki in interviews, and prior to their collaboration, the long-lasting composer started listening to Radiohead. “I told my granddaughter, and she knew immediately who they were,” the composer said in 2012. “She is 11, and she and my children gave me some discs to hear their music. I like it very much; it is very soft, very musical.”

Though he was reportedly died of a “long and serious illness” (in line with Poland’s Ministry of Culture), Penderecki remained lively within the music till 2019. He served because the composer on Symphony of Sorrowful Songs—a collaborative album with Henryk Górecki, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

“What sad news to wake to,” Greenwood tweeted. “Penderecki was the greatest—a fiercely creative composer, and a gentle, warm-hearted man. My condolences to his family, and to Poland on this huge loss to the musical world.”