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Interview with Krzysztof Penderecki_reMusik.org № 3-110907


The XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition took place from the 15th through the 30th of June 2011 in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The participation of Krzysztof Penderecki on the jury and his agreement to compose a new work, entitled “Violoncello totale,” for the cello competitors significantly increased the credibility of the competition in the European art scene. As a correspondent for reMusik.org, I was able to speak with the composer about the process of creation, musical thought and about the “total cello.”

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									 Журнал «reMusik»

Saint-Petersburg Contemporary Music Center

Thursday, September 22, 2011 • Interview: № 3-110907 - 2011.                             | Organization | Publication | Recourse Center | Journal | News |

  Krzysztof Penderecki:
  “Great music is always
  music of meaning”
                                                          I think that the rational and the
                                                    emotional are equally important and that
                                                    they compliment each other. You cannot
                                                    just improvise and count on the inspiration
                                                    of the moment, which in the process of
                                                    working either appears or does not. Though,
                                                    when this inspiration has already appeared,
                                                    when a thought or idea has come, you then
                                                    are forced to examine it thoroughly and
                                                    work it out completely.
                                                                                                             Not only because of this, but also
                                                         What role does the performer play             because the cello is a universal instrument.
                                                    for you? Are they co-authors or do they            It is much more universal that the violin. Its
                                                    work for the composer, a role, which is            body is larger and therefore allows for a
                                                    limited to the most accurate reproduction          bigger volume of sounds. It is also good that
                                                    of the author’s text.                                                whole
                                                                                                       you can use the whol body of the cello in a
Galina Zhukova                                                                                         work. For example, already in my early
                                                          Without question, the performance            compositions, such as Capriccio per
                                                    should not be an exact reproduction.               Siegfried Palm for solo cello (1968), I used
                                                    Performance should be playing and not              what was called the “total” cello.
                                                    torture. I always require from the performer       Composers use not only the standard
     The XIV International Tchaikovsky              that they bring something of themselves to                                              tapping,
                                                                                                       approach to the instrument, but also ta
Competition took place from the 15th                the piece. Surely, every new performance           noises and using different parts of the
through the 30th of June 2011 in Moscow             differs     from the       previous,   right?      instrument, which are normally not played.
and St. Petersburg. The participation of            Correspondingly, every performer must take         My prescribed extraction of absolutely
Krzysztof Penderecki on the jury and his            at least one step forward. An even better          different sounds is sometimes random.
agreement to compose a new work, entitled           performer, by his interpretation, is required      Much in this case depends on the
“Violoncello totale,” for the cello                 to strengthen the expressive qualities of the      construction of the instrument, for example
competitors significantly increased the             composition’s form. Besides that, I would                  playing
                                                                                                       when playin on the bridge is required.
credibility of the competition in the               really like to perceive and assess the way         Sometimes it turns out that you get
European art scene. As a correspondent for          that he hears my music.                            completely unexpected sounds. These
reMusik.org, I was able to speak with the                                                              unforeseen things are very important
composer about the process of creation,                  The piece that you wrote for the              because it is this very unpredictable quality
musical thought and about the “total cello.”        Tchaikovsky Competition, which was                 that leaves a field of boundaries for the
                                                    required of all performers, is called “The         artist, expanding the scope of what is
     Mr. Penderecki, people often cite              Total Cello.” The cello is an instrument,          possible in his interpretation.
your music as having “mathematical                  which is closer in timbre and expressive
emotions.” Does this mean that the                  properties to the human voice. Is this the              What performing qualities and
primacy of rationality over emotionalism            reason that you love to write for the              technical abilities must a cellist have in
in composed music is inevitable?                    instrument?                                        order to adequately convey the ideas
                                                                                                       inherent in your composition?

© Санкт-Петербургский центр современной академической музыки                                                                       www.remusik. or g
 Журнал «reMusik»

Saint-Petersburg Contemporary Music Center

Thursday, September 22, 2011 • Interview: № 3-110907 - 2011.                                | Organization | Publication | Recourse Center | Journal | News |

      In this piece, written for the                found new possibilities in the frames of              of performers. Considering the fact that I
competition, I use the aforementioned               sonorous layers. In the aftermath of that, it         wrote a new work, I was invited on the jury,
elements, which I was already using in the          was the contents of the actual text that              but only on the last round. I only listened to
1960’s. Because of this, the piece carries the      began to inspire me. Later, how the contents          the final and my voice “hung” much lower
title “The Total Cello.” These elements             are realized in a particular language, and            in the general system of scoring (more
enrich the cello and give it another                correspondingly, the sound itself of this                                    thirds),
                                                                                                          exactly, less that two thirds) than the voice
dimension. It is as if the instrument               language stuck me with a few suggestions.             of those jury members who heard all three
transforms from a strictly stringed                 It was becoming like a new additional layer.          rounds. Any other way wouldn’t have been
instrument to a universal one. As regards           I had already been thinking about structure           fair.
the performing techniques directly involved         based on the multidimensional and
with this work, it’s difficult to say. The only     intonational richness of the particular                    We at the St. Petersburg Center for
thing is that if a performer hasn’t, in             language.                                             Contemporary music, in the conclusion of
general, played contemporary music, then                  I have written my vocal works on texts          our conversation, would like to take the
he might run into a few problems while              from many different languages and they all            opportunity to ask if you will be in St.
reading through the score.                          sound musically different. For example, in            Petersburg any time soon and if so, what
                                                    “Kaddish” (2009), there is really an                  works can we expect to hear in the near
     What in your opinion would be the              Arаmean text, correspondingly, with its own           future.
bearer of musical meaning in European               particular intonation. It turns out to be really
contemporary classical music? Is it                 interesting, a sort of game with the                        Yes, there are some plans. Valerie
possible to identify some common                    language. Certainly, I always want to                 Gergiev is planning to present my opera
structural unit of meaning in the musical           convey the contents, which is carried by the          “The Devils of Luden” in St. Petersburg.
language of the 20th century?                       language. At the same time, these contents            This will probably take place already in
                                                    must be in some way already transformed.              your new theater (however, I don’t know
       You see, all great music is music of         After all, the artist doesn’t have to portray         when they will finish building it – in three
meaning.                                            nature exactly as it is in reality, but only in a     or four years). I can already say, though,
      Illogical music is always a bit               modified way.                                         that I am working on the new score of the
“disheveled.” However, there are works in                                                                 opera. When a new score is being written,
which composers didn’t at all want there to               You often say that music that sounds            something always changes. I’m going to add
be logic. For me these works are not                around us interrupts our concentration                two or three more scenes so that the result
interesting because it already borders on           and because of that you prefer not the                will be a slightly different work. The
dilettantism. These kinds of compositions           listen   to    the    works     of    your            libretto was and will stay in the original
were quite common in the 60’s, when we              contemporaries and not to attend                      German. The language cannot be changed,
had the so-called “Secondary Dada” period.          concerts. For what reasons did you agree              because, like I say, vocal music is written
Anything was possible then - any type of            to participate in the cello jury of the               “to the language,” to the defined intonation.
noise. Rustles assumed a certain “identity,”        Tchaikovsky competition?                              If the text is unsuccessfully “planted,” it
which I regularized a bit by throwing out                                                                 won’t be understandable. In general,
the unnecessary and optional.                             That, about which I spoke, refers to my         musical intonation is an intangible thing.
                                                    participation in the jury of composition
     In your work with poetic texts in              competitions. I don’t feel that I have the               More about Krzysztof Penderecki:
different languages (from the Slavic                strength to assess in a short period of time          www.remusik.org/penderecki
Church languages to Armenian), do you               such a volume of new music. It can
feel that the language of the literary              sometimes be up to 70, 100 or even 200
source is something complete, like a way            scores. It’s impossible to “digest” all of this.
of understanding the world? Does this               There is a risk to really make a big mistake
affect the intonational features of your            and offend someone. Besides that, I almost
vocal music in every case?                          always have at these competitions a
                                                    particular opinion, which strongly differs
     Yes, certainly, in every case, works are       from the opinion of my colleagues. Also, in
produced differently. There was a period            connection with this, I really consider that it
when I was more interested in the coloration        would be better to completely say goodbye
of the human voice. At the time, I was              to competitions. At the given moment, it’s a
occupied by a search in the realm of                different     situation.   After    all,    the
coloration of instrumental timbres and              Tchaikovsky competition is a competition

© Санкт-Петербургский центр современной академической музыки                                                                          www.remusik. or g

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