The iconic Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, best known for his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, has died at the age of 86.

Penderecki Krzysztof Penderecki (1933 – 2020)

Penderecki was born in Dębica, Poland, in 1933. His father was an amateur violinist, while his maternal grandmother was Armenian, and took the young Penderecki with her to an Armenian church, which – along with the klezmer music of the Jewish community Penderecki heard as a child in Dębica – would have an influence on his later compositions.

Penderecki studied composition privately with Franciszek Skołyszewski, and then with Artur Malawski and Stanisław Wiechowicz – a prominent composer of choral music – at the Academy of Music in Kraków. The beginning of his career coincided with a ‘thaw’ in communist Poland following the death of Stalin in 1953, and Penderecki shot to fame in Europe’s avant-garde circles when in 1959 three of his scores ( Strophes, Emanationsand Psalms of David), submitted anonymously, took out the three top prizes in the Competition of Young Composers of the Polish Composers’ Union. The best-known work of this early period – and indeed, his most famous work today – is his Threnody for the Victims...