Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra Presents IN MEMORIAM: KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI AT 90 Concert

Celebrating the 90th anniversary of Penderecki's birth, the program featured renowned musicians and his iconic compositions.

By: Dec. 07, 2023
Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra Presents IN MEMORIAM: KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI AT 90 Concert
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Krzysztof Penderecki, one of the most prominent figures of Western contemporary music, has been described as the "Beethoven of our time". On November 26, 2023, the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra (GSO) presented an all-Krzysztof Penderecki program, under the baton of its Music Director Huang Yi, joined by the renowned violinist Julian Rachlin, violist Sarah McElravy, baritone Thomas Bauer and GSO's President and oboist Chen Qing. The concert was presented in honor of the 90th anniversary of Penderecki's birth.

Chen Qing describes Maestro Penderecki as "a man who had a long history with Chinese culture and Chinese audience, as two of the eight symphonies he composed in his lifetime were commissioned from China." His Symphony No.8, "Lieder der Vergänglichkeit" for soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone, chorus, and orchestra, was commissioned by the Beijing Music Festival. Symphony No. 6 (Chinese Poems), co-commissioned by the GSO and the Dresder Philharmonie, was the last symphony completed by the composer.

The memorial concert began with the Adagietto from Paradise Lost, arranged for English horn and String Orchestra. This version was first premiered in China on May 16, 2009, with Penderecki conducting the GSO at the Xinghai Concert Hall. Oboe virtuoso Chen Qing was the soloist for the Chinese premiere as well as this memorial concert.

Concerto for Violin and Viola was commissioned by violin and viola virtuoso Julian Rachlin. The narratives for the two solo instruments offer a rhapsodic dialog, beginning with the viola's lingering high harmonics. The violin responds with delicate pizzicatos. As the duet blends into a poignant aria, the music quickly transforms into an urgent plea. Rachlin was joined by his duo partner violist Sarah McElravy for this performance.

With its intimate chamber music character, Penderecki's Symphony No. 6 (Chinese Poems) is a unique masterpiece. After experiencing Chinese culture for many years, Penderecki decided to use Chinese poetry as the vehicle, embracing Chinese culture and tradition in his music. The composition is comprised of eight songs on Chinese ancient texts, including poems by Li-Bai, Thu-Fu, Ly-Y-Han, and Tschan-Jo-Su. Each song is connected by solo intermezzi played on the Chinese stringed instrument erhu. Performed by GSO's Honorary Music Director for Life Maestro Long Yu, and baritone Yuan Chenye, the world premiere took place at the Xinghai Concert Hall in Guangzhou, China on September 24, 2017.

The Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra had a profound friendship with Maestro Penderecki. From 2004 to 2015, Penderecki conducted seven times for the GSO's subscription concerts, as well as two concerts in GSO's tours in Shanghai. This memorial concert was programmed by Long Yu, to express his gratitude for Penderecki's mentorship and friendship. Huang Yi, the new Music Director of GSO conducted the concert, which further demonstrates the intention of inheriting the meaningful past for the next generation.



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