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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, who died on Sunday at his home in Krakow following a long illness. He was eighty-six.

Krzysztof Penderecki (Adam Kumiszcza photo)

“The death of Krzysztof Penderecki is a great loss for the music world,” wrote Riccardo Muti today from his home in Ravenna. “In the late 1970s with the Philharmonia Orchestra, I conducted his Symphony no. 1—a piece of extreme modernity—in London and in other European cities. In 2007, I was fortunate to meet him in person in Ravenna while he was conducting the Luigi Cherubini Orchestra in a concert dedicated entirely to his music. Later in 2016, he returned to conduct the ensemble at the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, where he led some of his compositions and Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Penderecki was a great musician—open to the contemporary music world—who was passionate to work with the young generation. He was an extraordinary human being and a person of great kindness. His passing is a great mourning to the music world.”

Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s most recent performances of the composer’s music—The Awakening of Jacob—to open the 127th season of subscription concerts on September 23 and 26, 2017.

In 2000, the composer himself was in Chicago to lead the Orchestra and Chorus in performances of his Seven Gates of Jerusalem, a work commissioned for the 3,000th anniversary of Jerusalem and premiered there in 1997. In a preview article in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein wrote, that the forces required to perform the work “are much larger than in any of Penderecki’s previous works. The symphony calls for five vocal soloists and a speaker, three choruses, a large onstage orchestra (including four percussion groups) and a smaller ensemble of woodwinds and brass stationed at the rear of the hall.” The complete program was as follows:

March 16, 17, and 18, 2000
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D 485
PENDERECKI Seven Gates of Jerusalem
Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor
Bozena Harasimowicz-Haas, soprano
Izabella Klosíinska, soprano
Jadwiga Rappé, alto
Jorma Silvasti, tenor
Romauld Tesarowicz, bass
Alberto Mizrahi, speaker
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

“An air of hammering declamation permeated Seven Gates,” wrote Wynne Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times. “The chorus announced its presence with stern, massed song in the work’s opening bars. Several of the movements had a steady, pacing rhythm that moved forward with the implacable force of an invading army. There were a few moments of respite. . . . The fifth movement, the exultant ‘Laude, Ierusalem Dominum (Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem)’ came closest to breaking away from big, somber gestures. Rhythms were more animated, percussion and individual instruments galloped and surged with nervous energy.”

The Orchestra performed music by Penderecki on a number of other occasions, as follows (all performances in Orchestra Hall):

Krzysztof Penderecki (Bruno Fidrych photo)

December 30, 1970; January 1 and 2, 1971
PENDERECKI Polymorphia
Aldo Ceccato, conductor

December 6 and 7, 1973
PENDERECKI Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra
Michael Gielen, conductor
Wanda Wilkomirska, violin

November 21, 22, and 23, 2002
PENDERECKI Symphony No. 4
Lorin Maazel, conductor

March 17, 19, and 22, 2011
PENDERECKI Concerto grosso for Three Cellos and Orchestra
Charles Dutoit, conductor
Katinka Kleijn, cello
Kenneth Olsen, cello
John Sharp, cello

Numerous tributes have been posted online at the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among several others.

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Yo-Yo Ma in August 2010 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Yo-Yo Ma in August 2010 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

On December 14, 2009, cellist Yo-Yo Ma was appointed the Chicago Symphony’s first Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, “to deepen the Orchestra’s engagement with the Chicago community and to nurture the legacy of the CSO while supporting a new generation of musicians.”

One of Ma’s most important projects—launched in January 2011, during Riccardo Muti’s first season as music director—was the Citizen Musician initiative, encouraging people of all ages, interests, skill levels, and backgrounds to generously use and promote the power of music to make meaningful contributions to their communities. Over the course of the initiative and with Ma’s leadership, Citizen Musician activities engaged tens of thousands of people in schools, hospitals, churches, youth detention centers and prisons, universities, and conservatories in Chicago and around the world.

December 13, 14, and 15, 1979

December 13, 14, and 15, 1979

In collaboration with the staff of the Association’s Negaunee Music Institute, Ma also has worked extensively with the musicians of the Civic Orchestra, developing a variety of artistic challenges, including residencies at Chicago Public Schools, in-depth explorations of core orchestral repertoire (including Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, Strauss’s Don Quixote, and Tchaikovsky’s symphonies), and performances of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos in community venues across the city. He has been an advocate for the value of arts education in the lives of students, and his involvement, on behalf of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was influential in the swift development of the district’s first Arts Education Plan, approved by the Chicago Board of Education in October 2012.

Yo-Yo Ma made his debut with the Orchestra on December 13, 1979, at Orchestra Hall in Kabelevsky’s Cello Concerto with Leonard Slatkin conducting; he first appeared at the Ravinia Festival on July 1, 1982, in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major with Charles Dutoit conducting. With the Orchestra, he has recorded Bloch’s Schelomo, Brahms’s Double Concerto (twice), and Williams’s Suite from Memoirs of a Geisha. Ma has been one of Orchestra Hall’s most frequent guest artists, performing not only as a soloist with the Orchestra but also as a chamber musician in a wide variety of ensembles.

This article also appears here.

Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Wishing a very happy sixtieth birthday to Yo-Yo Ma, a great friend and frequent collaborator with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra!

Yo-Yo Ma made his debut with the Orchestra on December 13, 1979, at Orchestra Hall in Kabelevsky’s Cello Concerto with Leonard Slatkin conducting; and he first appeared at the Ravinia Festival on July 1, 1982, in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major with Charles Dutoit conducting. With the Orchestra, he has recorded Bloch’s Schelomo (with Miguel Harth-Bedoya) Brahms’s Double Concerto (twice: with Isaac Stern and Claudio Abbado, and later with Itzhak Perlman and Daniel Barenboim), and Williams’s Suite from Memoirs of a Geisha with the composer conducting. Ma has been one of Orchestra Hall’s most frequent guest artists, performing not only as a soloist with the Orchestra but also as a chamber musician in a wide variety of ensembles.

Happy, happy birthday!

Yo-Yo Ma performing Schumann's Cello Concerto with Riccardo Muti and the Orchestra on May 14, 2011 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Yo-Yo Ma performing Schumann’s Cello Concerto with Riccardo Muti and the Orchestra on May 14, 2011 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

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