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Penderecki's St Luke Passion Gets a Standing Ovation
"Pasja wg św. Łukasza" Krzysztofa Pendereckiego, 4 marca 2017 o godzinie 19:30 w Royal Festival, Londyn, fot. Simon Jay Price
Krzysztof Penderecki’s St Luke Passion, 4th March 2017, Royal Festival Hall in London, photo: Simon Jay Price

London Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of  Krzysztof Penderecki’s St Luke Passion conducted by Vladimir Jurowski received a standing ovation from the audience gathered at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra was led by its first conductor Vladimir Jurowski, with solos performed by Omar Ebrahim (narrator), Elizabeth Atherton (soprano), Dietrich Henschel (baritone) and Tomasz Konieczny (bass-baritone), supported by the Polish Radio Choir, Camerata Silesia Ensemble of Singers, as well as the Warsaw Boys Choir.

Krzysztof Penderecki had described Jurowski as ‘an incredibly fresh conductor, entirely different from me.’ After the concert at Royal Festival Hall he said:

This is the best performance of my piece I have heard in many years.

Sharing the story of the piece, the composer also showed the British audience a bit about the development of avant-garde classical music in Poland under the communist regime, as well as his artistic development in the 1950s. St Luke Passion is considered one of the most prominent pieces of contemporary sacred art, which, according to numerous experts, has made a lasting impact on the history of 20th-century music as a whole.

Krzysztof Penderecki composed St Luke Passion in honour of the 700th anniversary of the Münster Cathedral. It premiered on 30th March 1966, conducted by Henryk Czyż. The 4th March 2017 concert was organised by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute’s programme Polska Music, which actively supports organises performances of classical music by renowned Polish composers worldwide, including music by Karol Szymanowski, Witold Lutosławski, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Andrzej Panufnik.

The concert was part of the Belief and Beyond Belief Festival at the Southbank Centre, which explores what it means to be human. Throughout 2017, it will explore the music, art, culture, science, philosophy, ritual and traditions that have been inspired by the many facets of religion. The concert in London took place just days before the announcement of the Niepodległa (editor’s translation: Independent) cultural programme in honour of the centenary of Poland’s Independence in 2018. In an interview with the Polish Press Agency (PAP), Krzysztof Olendzki, director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, explained:

Penderecki is an artist who is part of the ‘independence generation’ – people who were born in the inter-war period in a free Poland (…). They were able to create a unique space of freedom, which still held up under the communist regime in Poland.

Olendzki believes that the Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio was one of those ‘spaces,’ a place where Penderecki himself spent his time in the 1950s and 60s – ‘It was a global phenomenon that created new, absolutely unique sound.’

The previous performance of St Luke Passion at the Canterbury Cathedral during the Polska! Year in 2009 was also met with great enthusiasm. The Independent wrote:

It is so theatrical, it could be an opera – if not for the fact that it stimulates the imagination so well, it is already a finished work.

Sources: PAP; compiled by BŚ, 4 Mar 2017; translated by NR

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