Music Is Not for Everyone: An Interview with Krzysztof Penderecki
small, Music Is Not for Everyone: An Interview with Krzysztof Penderecki, Krzysztof Penderecki, photo. by Bruno Fidrych , penderecki krzysztof fot bruno fidrych_6580693.jpg
"Listening to classical music is like reading philosophy books", says Krzysztof Penderecki. In the summer of 2015 he is recording his oratory works with the Warsaw Philharmonic, the National Orchestra, and the Choir of Poland.
It is hard to believe that this is your first time recording with the Warsaw Philharmonic National Orchestra. In the past they performed under your baton several times, the orchestra even recorded some of your pieces, but you never recorded them together.
Krzysztof Penderecki: It is peculiar indeed. I have recorded with orchestras all around the world and never with the National Orchestra. It just happened this way. Recently, under the direction of Antoni Wit, the orchestra has been recording quite a lot of my works, especially the oratory ones. I believe it is a good time to record now. I would like these vocal-instrumental pieces to be a memento of my own work. It is very important to me.
Are you discovering these pieces anew while working on them now? Can they surprise you in any way?
These pieces are always in my repertoire. However, every time you work with a different choir, a different orchestra, the music sounds different. I think it is a good thing that this recording takes on a different dimension.
There is no room for brave improvisation, but the piece can just be performed badly, without rhythm or emotion. I am trying to record it the way I hear it. Each conductor has their own way of doing this. I have my own sound imagination, but also my own timing.
For me, the most important element is the form, and it must be correct. I start a music piece with the form. Not the theme, but a graphic sketch of the whole piece, and only then do I fill in the blanks.
So you know from the start how the music will develop and end?
Yes. It reminds me of the situation when I bought land in Lutosławice. There were some trees here and there. Therefore, I first drew a sketch of the park with trees that I imagined would be there. It took some time to plant those trees, it is 30 hectares of land. 20 years, maybe more, and it is still an open book. But the form, landscape, architecture, it worked.
teatr wielki national opera in warsaw
Can we expect you to record more with the National Orchestra?
We are planning to perform all my songs a capella, choir only, and all my oratory pieces. It's several hours of music. But it is enjoyable work. I also know that I am doing it for the last time, I won’t be recording when I turn 90. But, on the other hand, you never know.
Do you think music can shape culture? Or is it maybe just decorative art?
As a matter of fact it has always been decorative, the most decorative of all nonetheless. In the time of the cutting-edge music of the 60s and 70s people were much more interested in it than they are now. But the trends are coming back. For music to exist there must be an appropriate audience. A concert of good contemporary music in a big city like Warsaw is always sold-out.
However, you cannot compare it with popular music, which gets to almost everybody. Listening to classical music is like reading philosophy books, not everybody has to do it. Music is not for everybody.
We have witnessed some collaborations between popular and classical music in recent years; last year Jonny Greenwood and Bryce Dessner, musicians mostly associated with rock music, performed at a concert in the Polish National Opera in Warsaw. Is that the right way to make classical music popular?
I believe that bringing classical and popular music together is a good thing. And by popular today I mean almost everything, even folk music. Music in the 50s isolated itself from popular music and then, slowly, step by step, I think it might have begun in films, it started coming back. They learn from us and, when it comes to reaching a larger audience, we learn from them.
And the new instruments? The influence that electronic music has on classical? Is that the right direction?
If used properly and wisely, everything is good. Everything has its right time as well. Electronic music started in the 50s and 60s, I was working in the Electronic Studio in Warsaw and I learned a lot there. My music has changed a lot because of the contact that I had with this, different, type of music.
Source: PAP, edit. AW
Translated by Paweł Trzaskowski, 23 June 2015