Personalities | Krzysztof Penderecki | Modern Era | Opera

b. 1933, Polish

Violin virtuoso Penderecki attended the Kraków Academy until 1959, when he entered a composers’ competition several times and collected a first prize and two second prizes. Initially attracted to the avant-garde movement, Penderecki found international fame with Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1960), written for 52 stringed instruments. This used tone clusters to convey the effects of a nuclear explosion, and it called upon the musicians to create interesting textures by playing on the wrong side of the bridge or bowing the tailpiece. Around the mid-1970s, however, Penderecki began imbuing his work with more traditional, melodic styles, and started to indulge in vocal writing, composing the first of his four operas: The Devils of Loudun (1969), Paradise Lost (1978), Die schwarze Maske (‘The Black Mask’, 1986) and Ubu Rex (‘King Rex’, 1991).

Typically, Penderecki’s operas pose specific challenges to the singers, who must project over dense orchestrations and squawk, scream or spit while instruments are played with glissandi and vibrato. This makes for an interesting aural-visual experience, and one that has attracted a considerable following worldwide.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Personalities | Hans Pfitzner | Modern Era | Opera


An extensive music information resource, bringing together the talents and expertise of a wide range of editors and musicologists, including Stanley Sadie, Charles Wilson, Paul Du Noyer, Tony Byworth, Bob Allen, Howard Mandel, Cliff Douse, William Schafer, John Wilson...


Classical, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Country and more. Flame Tree has been making encyclopaedias and guides about music for over 20 years. Now Flame Tree Pro brings together a huge canon of carefully curated information on genres, styles, artists and instruments. It's a perfect tool for study, and entertaining too, a great companion to our music books.

Rock, A Life Story

Rock, A Life Story

The ultimate story of a life of rock music, from the 1950s to the present day.

David Bowie

David Bowie

Fantastic new, unofficial biography covers his life, music, art and movies, with a sweep of incredible photographs.