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R.I.P. Krzysztof Penderecki, Favored Composer of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, Dies at 86

on March 29, 2020, 12:04pm

Krzysztof Penderecki, the legendary Polish composer and favorite of filmmakers such as David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, has died at the age of 86.

Andrzej Giza, the director of the Ludwig van Beethoven Association, an organization founded by Penderecki’s wife Elzbieta, confirmed that the composer died in his Krakow home this weekend to The New York Times.

Throughout his ambitious career, Penderecki composed four operas, eight symphonies, myriad other orchestral pieces, a variety of instrumental concertos, choral settings of mainly religious texts, in addition to chamber and instrumental works.

Although his best known works include Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, Symphony No. 3, St. Luke Passion, Polish Requiem, Anaklasis, and Utrenja, it’s perhaps his contributions to the film medium that  have iconized him in pop culture.

Penderecki’s avant-garde compositions have aided the tension and terror of a number of essential works, from William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, to Kubrick’s The Shining, to Lynch’s Wild at Heart, Inland Empire, and more recently on Twin Peaks: The Return.


In his life, Penderecki received countless 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, the Wolf Prize in Arts in 1987, and four Grammy Awards.

Not surprisingly, Penderecki was intensely influential, and the composer relished that fact. Over the years, he collaborated with both Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and Portishead singer Beth Gibbons.

Today, in light of the passing, Greenwood tweeted: “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.”