Krzysztof Penderecki

To the Bozar this evening to listen to Julian Rachlin interpreting Krzysztof Penderecki‘s second Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, accompanied by the Sinfonia Varsovia and then Beethoven’s seventh symphony, played by the same orchestra, and both under the venerable (78!) baton of none other than Penderecki himself. A little like William Golding in the literary context, Penderecki’s reputation among the general public outside of his native Poland probably remains chiefly down to an early, if innovatory, work (Lord of the Flies, in Golding’s case and Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima in Penderecki’s case). The chilling Threnody (you can hear it here) has been used in several films, most notably and effectively in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Tonight’s music demonstrated that Penderecki has long since moved on to richer and vaster canvases; in this case an elegiac, lyrical symphony of a single movement. You could see the musicians’ body language as they subsequently relaxed into the ubiquitously familiar territory of Beethoven.