Krzysztof Penderecki obituary
The reasons for Penderecki’s increasing popularity during this time [1950s] clearly lay in the fact that his reliance on sound itself, rather than on melody or harmony as such – an approach that came to be called “sonorism” – was allied to a highly expressive manner that quickly resonated with listeners beyond the avant garde, promising to create a new public for contemporary music.
The works that Penderecki now began to write – deploying sound masses including unusual instrumental and vocal techniques, and combining conventional and more graphic methods of notation – extended this coupling of experimental sound-world and immediacy of expression to develop a texture-based language of assertive individuality.
In the St Luke Passion, the use of chant, recitative and chorales, not to mention the BACH motif (using German note-names, B flat-A-C-B natural) and occasional major triads, helped to make it famous as an instinctively dramatic reworking of a genre familiar from the baroque period. The work was also very timely since, despite emerging from communist Poland, it expressed a spirit of post-second world war reconciliation. Penderecki’s Passion became regarded as a kind of avant-garde counterpart to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, premiered only four years before it.