Krzysztof Penderecki, PENDERECKI: St Luke Passion

Todd Burns

By Todd Burns

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A modern take on a Baroque standard.

Coming after the dissonant tone clusters of "Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima," Krzysztof Penderecki's 1966 composition, the St. Luke Passion, must have come as a shock. Even leaving aside its overtly religious subject matter (a form that had been all but abandoned in post-WWII Communist Poland), St. Luke Passion is positively Baroque in its structure. Of course, as Poland's leading avant-garde composer, Penderecki couldn't help but tweak the format. In Penderecki's vision of the Passion, he asks the chorus to make all sorts of noises (whistles, groans, shouts), while the orchestra builds indistinct clouds of sound around them. Bach composed the most famous St. Luke Passion and Penderecki duly pays tribute to the master by using the BACH motif in the opening theme.