Krzysztof Penderecki, the influential Polish composer and conductor whose music was featured in “The Shining” and “Wild at Heart,” died Sunday at his home in Krakow, according to The New York Times. He was 86.
His death was confirmed by Andrzej Giza, director of the Ludwig van Beethoven Association, which was founded by Penderecki’s wife Elzbieta. The cause of death was not specified but a statement from Poland’s Ministry of Culture said he passed away “after a long and serious illness,” according to Reuters.
One of the most prolific and innovative composers of his era, Penderecki’s influence can be heard across multiple genres and generations. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood in particular has cited him as a profound influence on the group’s more avant work and his own soundtrack work.
Born in Dębica in 1933, Penderecki studied at the Academy of Music in Krakow and became an instructor there shortly after his graduation. Part of a wave of young avant garde composers that managed to thrive under the country’s rigidly controlled Communist government, his 1960 work “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” brought was his first work to be widely recognized outside of Poland, and was later featured in the action thriller “Children of Men” and David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: The Return.” Subsequent works that further established his reputation included ” (1960), “Polymorphia” (1961) and the “St. Luke Passion” (1966).
Whether written specifically for films or not, Penderecki’s work was well suited for films, and his music appeared in William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” and Lynch’s “Wild at Heart.” His other pivotal works included “Dies Irae (Auschwitz Oratorio)” and the album “Actions,” a collaboration with jazz trumpeter Don Cherry.
Greenwood spoke for years of Penderecki’s influence on his own music, and in a full-circle moment, and according to The Guardian, the two met after a concert in 2011; Greenwood spole of shaking Penderecki’s hand “like a sad fanboy.” The two later collaborated on a series of concerts that included both Penderecki’s “Polymorphia” and Greenwood’s “48 Responses to Polymorphia.”
“What sad news to wake to,” Greenwood tweeted. “Penderecki was the greatest—a fiercely creative composer, and a gentle, warm-hearted man. My condolences to his family, and to Poland on this huge loss to the musical world.”
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