Written separately, the two parts of Krzysztof Penderecki's Utrenja (The Entombment, 1970, dedicated to the renowned American conductor Eugene Ormandy, and Resurrection, 1971) form a triptych with his St Luke's Passion that deals with the events of the Paschal Triduum. Utrenja, which was inspired by the Orthodox liturgy of the Holy Saturday with its focus on the lamentation of Christ's death and of the Easter Sunday morning service commemorating the Resurrection, uses an Old Church Slavonic liturgical text, yet does so much more liberally than did St Luke's Passion.
Like Passion, so was The Entombment commissioned by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Its first performance in Altenberg near Cologne on 8th April 1970, by soloists from various countries (Stefania Woytowicz, Krystyna Szczepańska, Louis Devos, Bernard Ładysz and Boris Carmeli), German choirs and a German orchestra under Andrzej Markowski, was followed by the Polish premiere in Cracow's St Catherine church on 26th June 1971. The Entombment is intended for three male voices - tenor, bass and basso profondo - corresponding, respectively, to the roles of the chaplain, the deacon and the lector, and two female voices, soprano and mezzosoprano, with purely musical roles. These are supported by two choirs and a symphony orchestra. The duration as per the score is ca. fifty minutes.
After the performance of The Entombment the management of the Westdeutsche Rundfunk commissioned Penderecki to write the second part of Utrenja, setting the deadline for May 1971. The score was ready by 1st May (!), and Resurrection had its premiere on 28th May in the same Münster cathedral in which Passion had been performed five years earlier. The musicians included the soloists from the year before, the radio choirs from Cologne and Hamburg, and the Westdeutsche Rundfunk orchestra under Andrzej Markowski. The performance of Resurrection was preceded by a year younger Entombment at that concert, and ever since the two parts of Utrenja have been performed together.
The Polish premiere of the complete Utrenja took place in Cracow on 16th September 1971 with Jerzy Katlewicz conducting. Like Passion, both parts of Utrenja stirred up a lot of excitement. While the audience was enthusiastic, the critics' opinions were mixed: some wrote about Penderecki's final parting with avant-garde, his conformism and his pandering to the listeners to score an easy success, whereas others considered Utrenja another great work by a great composer. In any case, Penderecki marched from success to success.
Prepared by the Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, January 2002.