Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020)

Krzysztof Penderecki, the eminent Polish composer whose creative trajectory from 1960s avant-gardism to more tonal and expressive music from the 1970s onward heralded a stylistic transition by many classical composers in the late-20th and early 21st centuries, has died at 86.

Penderecki first achieved international prominence in the ’60s with his “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” and “St. Luke Passion.” These and other early works showed the influence of serial techniques, then fashionable among Western composers but frowned upon by the more conservative cultural establishment of the old Soviet bloc. Unusually for a composer in a communist-ruled state, Penderecki wrote a large body of religious music. He nonetheless was lauded by Polish authorities with awards, travel permission and other forms of recognition.

While working in the West in the 1970s, Penderecki began to write works that were more traditional in form, tonality and instrumental technique. His “Christmas Symphony” (No. 2) of 1980, which extensively quotes “Silent Night,” provoked sometimes heated critical comment for its perceived conservatism. His subsequent works, while never quite deserving description as “neo-romantic,” were more firmly rooted in pre-serial Western traditions.

Penderecki’s music also frequently reflected social and political currents of his time – notably his “Polish Requiem,” introduced in 1984 and revised several times thereafter. The work’s genesis was a Lacrimosa, commissioned by Solidarity, the Polish workers’ movement whose protests at the Gdańsk shipyards were among the first to bring about the relaxation, and ultimate breakage, of communist control over Eastern European countries.

Penderecki’s most widely heard music was featured in several films: William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” and David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart.” He also wrote a cello concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich, violin concertos for Isaac Stern and Anne-Sophie Mutter, the widely acclaimed opera “The Devils of Loudun,” and a large body of orchestral and choral music. His Third String Quartet (“Leaves from an Unwritten Diary”) was introduced by the Shanghai Quartet at the University of Richmond in 2008.

An obituary by Daniel Lewis for The New York Times:

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In another obituary, Keith Potter, writing for The Guardian, surveys Penderecki’s most important works and the stylistic evolution that they represent:

Menuhin Competition postponed to 2021; Richmond Symphony calls off spring concerts

The Menuhin Competition for young violinists, scheduled for May in Richmond, has been postponed for one year. Organizers have rescheduled the competition to May 13-23, 2021.

“All of us involved in the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 regret the need to postpone the event, but recognize the imperative to avoid any large gatherings until the COVID-19 danger has lifted,” David Fisk, executive director of the Richmond Symphony, said in a prepared statement. “The city is ready, our partners are ready, and during the coming year, we’ll work to make next year’s competition even bigger and better than before.”

The 44 violinists who qualified for the competition will be invited to compete next year. The participation of contestants, as well as judges, guest artists and conductors engaged for 2020, is expected to be settled later in the spring.

Tickets already sold for festival events will be honored next year.

For information on donation of tickets, exchanges or refunds, go to

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The Richmond Symphony also has canceled or postponed its spring performances. Cancellations include April Masterworks, Rush Hour, Metro Collection and Youth Orchestra concerts, as well as Menuhin Competition events in May. The “Richmond’s Finest” concert with the Commonwealth Bluegrass Band has been rescheduled to June 14, the “Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back” concert has been rescheduled to June 19, and “Violins of Hope” and “Chesterfield Live! Big Tent Festival” have been postponed to dates to be announced.

Details: (804) 788-1212;

Virtual concertgoing (5)

Symphonic music from all over the map:

Enescu: “Romanian Rhapsody” No. 1
SWR Symphony Orchestra
Tito Muñoz conducting
(recorded 2019, Stuttgart):

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Mozart: Sinfonia concertante in E flat major, K. 364
Sergei Khachatrian, violin
Candida Thompson, viola
Amsterdam Sinfonietta
(recorded 2015, Amsterdam):

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Martinů: Symphony No. 4
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducting
(recorded 2016, Frankfurt):

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Rodrigo: “Concierto de Aranjuez”
Pepe Romero, guitar
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducting
(recorded 2013, Copenhagen):

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Respighi: “Vetrate di Chiesa” (“Church Windows”)
Orchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia
Vasily Petrenko conducting
(recorded 2011, Rome):

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Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Czech Philharmonic
Jiří Bělohlávek conducting
(recorded 2015, Prague):

Virtual concertgoing (4)

For our fourth installment, six choral masterpieces:

Jan Dismas Zelenka: “Missa Divi Xaverii”
Collegium Vocale 1704
Collegium 1704
Václav Luks conducting
(recorded 2014, Utrecht, Netherlands):

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Stravinsky: “Symphony of Psalms”
Netherlands Radio Choir
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic
Peter Dijkstra conducting
(recorded 2019, Utrecht, Netherlands):

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Brahms: “Ein deutsches Requiem” (“A German Requiem”)
Iwona Sobotka, soprano
Andrè Schuen, baritone
MDR Radio Chorus
MDR Symphony Orchestra
Risto Joost conducting
(recorded 2017, Dresden):

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Pēteris Vasks: “Dona nobis pacem”
Le Choeur l’Art Neuf & orchestra
Pierre Barrette conducting
(recorded 2017, Montreal):

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Haydn: “Missa in tempore belli” (“Mass in Time of War”)
Yeree Suh, soprano
Ulrike Mayer, alto
Uwe Gottswinter, tenor
Christof Hartkopf, bass
Regensburger Domspatzen
L’Orfeo Baroque Orchestra
Roland Büchner conducting
(recorded 2013, Regensburg, Germany):

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J.S. Bach: Magnificat in D major, BWV 243
Julia Doyle & Hana Blažíková, sopranos
Maarten Engeltjes, alto
Thomas Hobbs, tenor
Christian Immler, bass
Netherlands Bach Society
Jos van Veldhoven conducting
(recorded 2014, Naarden, Netherlands):

Virtual concertgoing (3)

In this installment, musical theater:

Mozart: “Die Zauberflöte” (“The Magic Flute”)
Paul Groves (Tamino)
Genia Kühmeier (Tamina)
Christian Gerhaher (Papageno)
Diana Damrau (Queen of the Night)
René Pape (Sarastro)
Burkhard Ulrich (Monstatos)
Irena Bespalovaite (Papagena)
Inga Kalna, Karine Deshayes & Ekaterina Gubanova (Three Ladies)
Vienna Boys Choir members (Three Boys)
Vienna State Opera Chorus
Vienna Philharmonic
Riccardo Muti conducting
Pierre Audi, stage director
(in German, English subtitles)
(recorded 2006, Salzburg Festival):

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Verdi: “Otello”
Gregory Kunde (Otello)
Ermonela Jaho (Desdemona)
George Petean (Iago)
Gemma Coma-Alabert (Emilia)
Alexey Dolgov (Cassio)
Vicenç Esteve (Roderigo)
Fernando Radó (Ludovico)
Isaac Galán (Montano)
Orchestra & Chorus of Teatro Real, Madrid
Renato Palumbo conducting
David Alden, stage director
(in Italian, English subtitles)
(recorded 2016):

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Rameau: “Les Boréades” (concert presentation)
Deborah Cachet (Alphise)
Caroline Weynants (Sémire/L’Amour/Polimnie)
Juan Sancho (Abaris)
Benedikt Kristjánsson (Calisis)
Benoît Arnould (Adamas)
Nicolas Brooymans (Borée)
Tomás Šelc (Borilée)
Lukáš Zeman (Apollon)
Collegium Vocale 1704
Collegium 1704
Václav Luks conducting
(in French, no subtitles)
(recorded 2018, Utrecht Festival):

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Prokofiev: “Romeo and Juliet”
Robert Bolle (Romeo)
Misty Copeland (Juliet)
Antonino Sutera (Mercutio)
Mick Zeni (Tybalt)
Marco Agostino (Benvolio)
Riccardo Massimi (Paris)
Alessandro Grillo (Lord Capulet)
Emanuela Montanari (Lady Capulet)
Luigi Saruggia (The Duke)
Chiara Borgia (Rosaline)
Monica Vaglietti (The Nurse)
Matthew Endicott (Friar Laurence)
Kenneth MacMillan, choreography
La Scala Ballet & Orchestra
Patrick Fournillier conducting
(recorded 2017, Milan):

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Gilbert & Sullivan: “The Mikado”
Robert Lloyd (The Mikado)
Richard Suart (Ko-Ko)
Anthony Gregory (Nanki-Poo)
Mary Bevan (Yum-Yum)
Graeme Danby (Pooh-Bah)
Yvonne Howard (Katisha)
George Humphreys (Pish-Tush)
Rachael Lloyd (Pitti-Sing)
English National Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Fergus Macleod conducting
Jonathan Miller, stage director
(in English, English subtitles)
(recorded 2015, London):


Shanghai Quartet’s second violinist resigns

The Shanghai Quartet, former quartet-in-residence at the University of Richmond and still a regular visitor to UR’s Modlin Arts Center, has accepted the immediate resignation of its second violinist, Yi-Wen Jiang.

Norman Lebrecht, on his Slipped Disc blog, writes that the violinist was dismissed because of “some offensive remarks he made online.” Jiang has apologized for his comments:

Virtual concertgoing (2)

This time, six performances of solo and chamber works:

J.S. Bach: “Overture in the French Style” in B minor, BWV 831
András Schiff, piano
(recorded June 11, 2010 at Bachfest Leipzig):

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Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34
Nils Anders Mortensen, piano
Arvid Engegård & Liv Hilde Klokk, violins
Ida Bryhn, viola
Jan Clemens Carlsen, cello
(date & venue not listed):

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Bartók: “Contrasts”
Soovin Kim, violin
David Shifrin, clarinet
Gloria Chien, piano
(recorded July 2, 2019 at Chamber Music Northwest Festival, Portland, OR):

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Mendelssohn: Quartet in F minor, Op. 80
Shanghai Quartet
(recorded 2016 at Brevard College in North Carolina):

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Messiaen: “Quartet for the End of Time”
Israeli Chamber Project:
Daniel Baird, violin
Michal Korman, cello
Tibi Cziger, clarinet
Yael Kareth, piano
(recorded March 2017 at Elma Arts Center, Israel):

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Buxtehude: Toccata in D minor, BuxWV 155
Nathan Laube, organ
(recorded July 2, 2015 at Abbey Chapel, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA):


Virtual concertgoing (1)

No recording, audio or video, can really substitute for being there at a live performance. As things stand now, though, “socially distant” – and chronologically distant – videos are the best alternative we’ve got to attending live concerts and music-theater performances.

Starting today, I’ll be offering virtual programs, a selection of live performances posted on YouTube and the websites of performing ensembles and presenters.

I’ve enlisted a circle of knowledgeable friends to help mine for music-video gold. You’re welcome to join that circle. If you discover a performance worth sharing, please e-mail your suggestion(s) to

My/our criteria for selecting performances are primarily artistry, followed closely by the sonic and visual quality of productions, and then by ease of accessibility for streamed videos.

You’ll notice a preponderance of selections from Western European countries and from Japan; that’s because their state broadcasters and arts-video services regularly record and broadcast live classical-music performances. Ensembles and presenters in the US are comparatively late to the game.

How well these videos play depends on the capacity of your home electronica. If your computer or device is connected to quality desktop speakers or a freestanding audio-component system, naturally the sound will be better. If you’re limited to the speakers of a laptop or phone, you’ll probably get better sound by using headphones; most laptops have a headphone jack. Take care with headphone volume to prevent damage to your hearing.

To launch this series, I’ve chosen excellent performances six of the most widely appealing symphonic works. Chamber and choral works, opera and dance selections will follow in later installments.

Today’s selections:

Dvořák: Symphony No. 7 in D minor
Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert Blomstedt conducting
(recorded Sept. 23, 2018 at the Musikvereinsaal, Vienna)

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Vaughan Williams: “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis”
BBC Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Davis conducting
(recorded in Gloucester Cathedral, site of the work’s premiere in 1910)

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Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491
Lucas Debargue, piano
Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Alexey Utkin conducting
(recorded June 24, 2015 at the Tchaikovsky Competition, Moscow)

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Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducting
(recorded Aug. 22, 2019 at the BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London)

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Stravinsky: “Le sacre du printemps”
London Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle conducting
(recorded Sept. 24, 2017 at the Barbican Center, London)

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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (“Choral’)
Lauren Fagan, soprano
Hanna Hipp, mezzo soprano
Tuomas Katajala, tenor
Shenyang, bass-baritone
Oslo Philharmonic Choir
Oslo Philharmonic, Klaus Mäkelä conducting
(recorded Jan. 4, 2019 at the Oslo Concert Hall)

Cancellations and closures

Listings updated regularly

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has revised his ban on gatherings to groups of no more than 10. Like just about everything else, all public musical events are off for the forseeable future.

Specific notices in the Richmond area and Virginia-DC region:

The Menuhin Competition for young violinists, which had been scheduled for May 14-24 in Richmond, has been postponed until May 13-23, 2021. Tickets already sold for festival events will be honored next year. For information on ticket donations, refunds or exchanges, go to

The Richmond Symphony has canceled or postponed this season’s remaining performances. Cancellations include the March 28 “Richmond’s Finest” concert with the Commonwealth Bluegrass Band and April Masterworks, Rush Hour and Metro Collection concerts, as well as Menuhin Competition events in May. The “Star Wars” concert has been rescheduled to June 19, and “Violins of Hope” has been postponed to a date to be announced. Details: (804) 788-1212;

Virginia Opera canceled performances of Verdi’s “Aïda,” which had been scheduled for March 20, 22 and 24 at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House and March 27 and 29 at the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Energy Center in Richmond, and of Derrick Wang’s “Scalia/Ginsberg,” which was scheduled for April 4 in Norfolk. Information: (866) 673-7282;

The Richmond Symphony has canceled the remainder of its subscription concerts this season. Information: (804) 788-1212;

The Richmond chapter, American Guild of Organists has postponed an April 24 recital by Clara Gerdes, part of its Repertoire Recital Series, until Nov. 13 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Information:

The Richmond Philharmonic postponed a concert scheduled for March 15 at Clover Hill High School in Midlothian. A new date has not been determined. Information: (804) 556-1039;

The Richmond Choral Society has postponed a concert scheduled for March 22 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. A new date has not been determined. Information: (804) 353-9582;

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia has canceled a program scheduled for March 31 at Perkinson Recital Hall at the University of Richmond. Information: (804) 304-6312;

Virginia Commonwealth University has canceled Singleton Arts Center concerts through April 15. Canceled ticketed events include a March 29 VCU Guitar Series concert by classical guitarist Nathan Mills and an April 4 Rennolds Chamber Concerts program by pianist Jon Nakamatsu. Information: (804) 828-1169;

The University of Richmond has canceled all Modlin Arts Center events through the rest of the season. Credits or donations on ticket purchases may be arranged through March 23; thereafter, refunds will be issued automatically. Information: (804) 289-8980;

The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart has canceled a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor that was scheduled for May 1. Information: (804) 359-5631;

Elsewhere: The Virginia Symphony Orchestra has postponed all concerts through April 15. . . . The Virginia Arts Festival has postponed or canceled all performances through May 4. . . . The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra has postponed its concert scheduled for March 26. . . . The Ferguson Arts Center at Christopher Newport University in Newport News has suspended performances until May 15. . . . The Feldman Chamber Music Society and Chamber Music Society of Williamsburg have postponed concerts by the Parker String Quartet, which were scheduled for March 23 at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk and March 24 at Williamsburg Library Theatre. . . . The University of Virginia in Charlottesville has suspended all performances at Old Cabell Hall until further notice. . . . The Charlottesville Symphony has canceled concerts that had been scheduled for March 21 at UVa and March 22 at Charlottesville High School. . . . The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville has postponed or canceled events through Aug. 2. . . . Charlottesville Opera has canceled its summer season. . . . Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs has canceled all events until May 22. . . . The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra has postponed all remaining concerts in its season, and plans to reschedule them to dates in June. . . . Opera Roanoke has canceled the rest of its season, including performances of André Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” that had been scheduled in May. . . . Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg has canceled all events through early August. . . . Wolf Trap in Vienna has canceled or postponed all performances and events through June 26. . . . George Mason University’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax has canceled all events through Aug. 8. . . . The Kennedy Center in Washington has canceled all performances and public events through May 22. . . . Washington Performing Arts has canceled all remaining events in the current season (through June 7). . . . The Library of Congress in Washington has postponed concerts and other public events through May 30. . . . The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD, outside DC, has canceled all events through April 3, and many other ticketed events through May 30.