"Seven Gates of Jerusalem" had been commissioned by the town of Jerusalem to mark 3000 years of the Holy City. It was first performed in Jerusalem on 9th January 1997.
Written in 1996, Krzysztof Penderecki's Seven Gates of Jerusalem had been commissioned by the town of Jerusalem to mark 3000 years of the Holy City. It was first performed in Jerusalem on 9th January 1997 by an international group of soloists, Munich, Stuttgart and Leipzig radio choirs and two orchestras: the Munich Bavarian Radio Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra under Lorin Maazel. The Polish premiere took place at the Warsaw National Philharmonic on 14th March 1997, featuring Izabela Kłosińska (soprano), Bożena Harasimowicz (soprano), Ewa Podleś (mezzosoprano), Wiesław Ochman (tenor) and Romuald Tesarowicz (bass), with Gustaw Holoubek as the lector and the National Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra under Kazimierz Kord.
Originally intended as a symphony, Penderecki's Seven Gates of Jerusalem has the features of an oratorio, although the composer himself does not call it so. The seven parts of this vocal-and-instrumental work correspond to the seven gates of Jerusalem, but no direct references to the specific gates are made. The music sets the Old Testament fragments announcing the coming of Messiah.
"The texts I have selected are a Christian interpretation of the Old Testament. I did not go beyond it even though I was very tempted to reach out for the Apocalypse of St John. I found what I needed in the Book of Daniel, which is considered the Old Testament equivalent of the Apocalypse. I focused mostly on the Psalms of David, of which I selected in particular the references to Jerusalem. It was basically my revisiting of the Psalms which I had composed as a student. The Psalms I have used in the 'Seven Gates of Jerusalem' are the Vulgate version. The Vulgate is also the source of other texts except Ezechiel's prophecy in part six, which will always be read in the language of the audience: Hebrew, the original language, in Jerusalem, Polish in Poland. So my work includes the Psalms of David as well as excerpts from the books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezechiel and Jeremiah" - says Krzysztof Penderecki. (Marek Zwyrzykowski's interview with Krzysztof Penderecki, "Studio" No. 3/1997)
Penderecki sees his Seven Gates Of Jerusalem as a continuation of St Luke's Passion, Utrenja, Magnificat, Te Deum and the Polish Requiem. There are also some affinities between the Gates and the Symphony No. 3, Penderecki's last work before the Gates.
Prepared by the Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, February 2002.