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Polish composer, conductor Krzysztof Penderecki dies at 86

Polish composer and conductors Krzysztof Penderecki has passed away aged 86, Poland’s ministry of Culture informs.

“After a long and serious illness, Krzysztof Penderecki – one of the greatest Polish musicians, a world authority in the field of classical music died,” Poland’s Ministry of Culture said in a tweet.

Penderecki composed four operas, eight symphonies and other orchestral pieces, a variety of instrumental concertos, choral settings of mainly religious texts, as well as chamber and instrumental works.

Penderecki was born in Dębica, to Tadeusz Penderecki, a lawyer, and Zofia (née Wittgenstein). Penderecki’s grandfather, Robert Berger, was a highly talented painter and director of the local bank at the time of Penderecki’s birth. His grandmother was  Armenian from Isfahan, Iran. Penderecki used to go to the Armenian Church in Kraków with her.

Penderecki studied music at Jagiellonian University and the Academy of Music in Kraków. He began his career as a composer in 1959 during the Warsaw Autumn festival.

Penderecki composed several of his most important works in remembrance of catastrophes in the 20th century, most famously his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. His concerto for piano Resurrection, premiered at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 2002, was written as a reaction to the terror attacks of 11 September 2001.

Penderecki has won many prestigious awards, including the Commander’s Cross in 1964, the Prix Italia in 1967 and 1968, the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta in 1964, four Grammy Awards in 1987, 1998 (twice), and 2017, Wolf Prize in Arts in 1987 and the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 1992.

In 2008 Penderecki was awarded the Golden Medal of the Minister of Culture of Armenia. In 2009 he was honored with the Order of Merit of Armenia.

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