In memoriam Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki passed away in Kraków on March 29, 2020. After a significant delay caused by the Covid pandemic, the state burial took place on the second anniversary of his death.

Throughout the pandemic, the urn was kept in St. Florian’s Basilica in Kraków. At the beginning of the funeral ceremony, it was given a ceremonial farewell there with choral works by Krzysztof Penderecki, sung by the choir of the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic Kraków and the Polish Radio Choir under the direction of Alexander Humala and Maria Piotrowska-Bogalecka. In the funeral procession which was accompanied by many citizens of Kraków and which Polish Television broadcast live ( it was transferred to the Church of St. Peter and Paul and after the Requiem ceremonies buried in the National Pantheon underneath the church.

The head of the Catholic Church in Poland, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, celebrated the Requiem, in which spiritual works by the deceased were performed. In his homily, the Primate spoke of the artist’s sacred mission to contribute to a better world through his work, a task that Krzysztof Penderecki fulfilled in an outstanding manner. In addition to the composer’s family and many friends, high-ranking representatives from politics and society took part in the funeral mass, led by Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and his predecessor Aleksander Kwaśniewski. In his speech after the service, the Polish President paid tribute to Penderecki as an international artist who, despite difficult times, remained loyal to his country and decided to live in Poland and make a rich contribution to its culture.

“In his works you could hear everything that our nation has experienced, including pain and suffering,” Duda emphasized.

The greeting of the German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was prevented from traveling to Kraków by a Covid infection, was read out by the German Ambassador. Steinmeier paid tribute to the composer, who taught and worked in Germany, as a builder of bridges between East and West and especially between Poland and Germany. “As a free and extraordinarily creative person … he became an important link between the Polish and German nations.”

Elżbieta Penderecka summarized the thoughts of the mourners in an address of thanks. A composer must “bear of his time, of history, truth and beauty… Thanks to music, we can be better men. It helps us to remain human.”