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Krzysztof Penderecki’s St Luke Passion at Royal Festival Hall

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Krzysztof Penderecki, photo: Bogdan Krężel / Przekrój / / Forum
Krzysztof Penderecki, photo: Bogdan Krężel / Przekrój / / Forum

One of the most prominent pieces of 20th-century Polish music will fill the Royal Festival Hall in London on 4th March 2017. Krzysztof Penderecki’s St Luke Passion will be conducted by Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski. 

Krzysztof Penderecki composed St Luke Passion in the years 1963-1965. It premiered on 30th March 1966, in honour of the 700th anniversary of the Münster Cathedral. The piece, dedicated to his wife Elżbieta, is written for a boys choir, three mixed choirs, three solo voices (soprano, baritone, bass), a narrator and a symphony orchestra. Penderecki uses the latin text of the Gospel of St. Luke, as well as elements of hymns, psalms and lamentations. St Luke Passion is approximately 80 minutes long and is divided into two parts and 27 sections. 

On 4th March 2017, the piece will be played in London during the newly founded festival Belief and Beyond Belief (16th January – 16th December 2017) organised by the Southbank Centre and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The festival 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. A spokesperson for the Southbank Centre wrote:

When Penderecki’s St Luke Passion was premiered in 1966, it left avant-garde critics lost for words. And it left audiences reeling with emotion and disbelief: that new music could speak with such feeling, such directness and such shattering power. ‘I have lived through very difficult times’, says Penderecki, and as the music fights, shouts and laments its way towards redemption, Penderecki’s massive choral retelling of the last days of Christ takes its place as one of the 20th century’s enduring masterpieces. Under Vladimir Jurowski, it’ll make a monumental centrepiece to our festival.

On the eve of the performance of Krzysztof Penderecki’s St Luke Passion at Southbank Centre, a panel discussion entitled THE PASSION: Faith as Inspiration in Polish and European Art will be held at the Polish Embassy in London. A select group of leading philosophers, historians and artistic directors will debate on how Polish artists have embraced religious values in the production of their works –  is Christian legacy still valid for contemporary European artists? The panel will include Prof. Gerard Kilroy, literary scholar from UCL, University of Oxford, Jesuit University Ignatianum in Kraków, Dr. Dariusz Karłowicz, philosopher and publicist, Dr. Alison Milbank, literary scholar from the University of Nottingham and Jude Kellly, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre.

Krzysztof Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion
Belief and Beyond Belief Festival,
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
4th March 2017, 7:00pm

  • Vladimir Jurowski - conductor
  • Omar Ebrahim - narrator
  • Elizabeth Atherton - soprano
  • Dietrich Henschel - baritone
  • Tomasz Konieczny - bass-baritone
  • Polish Radio Choir
  • Camerata Silesia
  • Warsaw Boys Choir at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music
  • London Philharmonic Orchestra

The Adam Mickiewicz Institute is a co-organiser of the event.

Source:, own materials; written by AJS, 1.02.17; translated and edited by NR, 3.02.2017

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