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World-renowned Polish composer to guest conduct with BPO

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

For the first time ever, eminent classical composer Krysztof Penderecki of Poland will be performing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Saturday and Sunday. The concert is titled "Poland's Maestro." WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley had a chance to meet with him to discuss his work.     

Krzysztof Penderecki accepted an invitation from the BPO's Music Director JoAnn Falletta, who met him a couple of years ago in Poland. This weekend, he will appear with the BPO as a guest conductor, featuring his own Concerto for Violin and Cello.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo Chamber Players rehearsed the work of Maestro Penderecki inside the Albright-Knox Art Gallery for a performance held this week.

We met with Maestro Penderecki at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery we he was attending a rehearsal with the Buffalo Chamber Players. The ensemble featured his work Thursday night where he appeared as an honored guest. This weekend he will serve as guest conductor with the BPO.     

It was difficult to draw Penderecki out of his reserved manner, but it was his wife of 51 years, Elizbieta Penderecki, who politely bickered with him, encouraging to explain more about his work. He joked that she’s always ‘criticizing’ him.

“Maybe you want to say something?” Penderecki asked his wife. She responded “No, no, no.” 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Maestro Penderecki poses for a photo with his wife of 51-years, Elizbieta Penderecki.

Penderecki is working on a few new pieces and tells WBFO News while in Buffalo he might even complete some of that work while he’s visiting.   

Age is not a factor for this maestro. Penderecki just celebrated his 83rd birthday on November 23. He recalled how his father gave him his first violin at the age of six. Penderecki's father was a lawyer and violinist.

“And then I started to play the violin, after three months, already I was writing for me,” said Penderecki. This was very natural me. This was the beginning of my whole life because my whole life is full of music.   

Penderecki also reminisced about how his grandfather would pay him to play the violin to encourage his training.

“He was paying me for each additional minutes of something,” recalled Penderecki.

Considered one of the most vibrant and profound composers of our time, Penderecki's work has spanned five decades. He’s won Grammys and Emmys. His work features deep meaning with historic themes, including the Holocaust. 

“I grew up in a small city where the majority was Jews and the Germans killed my friends,” Penderecki reflected.

The composer also reflected on his dark piece called “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima,” telling us how musicians complained to him that it was "destroying their instruments." 

“This was a scandal actually. The musicians didn’t want to play this music,” Penderecki recalled.

Penderecki's pieces can also be heard in horror movies like "The Shinning" and "The Exorcist."  He explained how he gave permission for his pieces to be used in those famous movies.

“I am one of the composers who really cares about what happened in the last hundred years,” Penderecki said.