Krzysztof Penderecki – My Window To The Avant-Garde

March 29 marks the first anniversary of the death of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (11/23/1933 – 03/29/2021)

How hearing one incredible work of Penderecki on the radio shaped my musical taste and influenced my private and musical life

To commemorate this, I will be presenting a special three-hour edition of Classical Discoveries on Wednesday, March 31 from 7:00am till 10:00am

I was about 14 years old while sitting at the dining table with my mother and listening to the New York radio Station WNCN, when at around 6:45 in the evening I heard incredible terrifying shrieks and fascinating sounds coming out of the radio speakers. Yes, it was Penderecki’s Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima – my window to the new world of Avant-Garde music.
Shortly thereafter, I purchased the LP on the RCA Victrola label. By looking at the record grooves, I could see that the work opened very loudly. I remember how scared and terrified I was hearing this for the first time. Penderecki’s music absolutely ruptured my 14-year-old brain and marked the beginning of my journey into the world of Avant-Garde music with its many other composers from John Cage to Karlheinz Stockhausen to name a few. I kept though going back though to Penderecki and particularly liked his Capriccio for violin and orchestra, St. Luke Passion, and Dies Irae to name a few.

After many years, I began to look back and started wondering why this music was so special to me. I came up with a very unusual thought. When I was growing up at home, rock music was off limits. I was not allowed to listen to it in the house or anywhere for that matter. My mother actually took pride in telling people it was prohibited in the house. It occurred to me that the music of the post World War 2 Avant-Garde might have been my own personal music of protest since my parents were not interested in that either. It provided me with a safe space where they could not interfere and since I was studying music it was a part of my musical education. And yes, I managed to listen to forbidden music that they did not approve of anyway. Later they could not understand why I was hosting an oldies show on WPRB for two summers after they heard about it from their lawyer.

My journey into Penderecki and other Polish music did not end up only with listening.

Later in my life, I met my dream partner who was looking for music of Alan Hovhaness. She loved Penderecki, Avant-Garde and many different types of music and yes she came from Poland. I think I impressed her with my knowledge of Polish music (including Grażyna Bacewicz) but it was my performance of Chopin that melted her heart and since she is very fussy about Chopin interpretations I was ecstatic to get her approval. One of our dates included a trip to New York where we heard a performance of Penderecki’s “A Polish Requiem”. At this time I knew that she was for me! How many women would go on a date to hear a work like this in New York and be excited about having a picture with the composer? I finally had someone who shared my interests not only in Polish music but also of course the music of Alan Hovhaness and many others.I remember our excitement at the performance of Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion in Philadelphia in April 2002 with the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia and other concerts featuring Polish music in Philadelphia.

His music along with the music of endless Polish composers has been presented on “Classical Discoveries” since it began in 1997. I have produced thirty specials totally devoted to Polish music, including a 2-hour special for Penderecki’s 80th birthday and his opera Ubu Rex. Unfortunately, Polish music, with few exceptions like Chopin, Lutoslawski, Szymanowski, Gorecki , Kilar and a few others is not well known here in the USA and I really hope that will change.

Here is a link to the playlists of Polish programs:

Hope you will be able to join me on WPRB, 103.3FM or on line at

You can find more information before the broadcast on my website. In addition, the sound files will be available for 2 weeks after the broadcast at:


About marvinrosen
Music is my middle name

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