The ashes of Poland’s award-winning composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki were laid to rest during a state funeral Tuesday (March 29) after a two-year delay brought on by the pandemic. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Penderecki’s widow Elzbieta Penderecka and their daughter and son, musicians, artists and throngs of ordinary Polish citizens attended the burial in the southern city of Krakow.
Penderecki died in Krakow March 29, 2020, at the age of 86, but COVID-19 restrictions led to a lengthy postponement for the renowned composer’s funeral. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier cancelled his attendance at the service after testing positive for COVID-19. Penderecki worked and taught in Germany for many years.
Penderecki’s cream-colored alabaster urn was interred among some of Poland’s greatest authors and scientists at the National Pantheon at Krakow’s St. Peter and Paul Church, following Mass during which his music was performed. The head of Poland’s Catholic Church, Archbishop Wojciech Polak said in his homily that the entire world of music is bidding farewell to a man who believed that music should make life better. Polak said this has particular resonance today when people are dying in Ukraine.
In his address, Duda praised Penderecki as a world-class artist who chose to live in Poland and richly contribute to its culture. Penderecki was one of the world’s most popular contemporary classical music composers whose works featured in Hollywood films like The Shining and Shutter Island.
He was best known for his orchestral and choir compositions like “St. Luke Passion” and “Seven Gates of Jerusalem,” although his range was much broader. Rock fans know him from his work with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. A violinist and a committed educator, he built a music center across the road from his home in Luslawice, in southern Poland where young virtuosos are given the opportunity to perform and learn with world-famous masters.