“We remember”: The Trauma of the Holocaust in Krzysztof Penderecki’s Work
Extreme topics concerning the Holocaust could be found in many musical works of the 20th and 21st centuries. They are characterized by a similar typology. Turning towards the victims and looking for a way to express “the inexpressible”, the authors of such works give testimony to inhumane times. Analyzing such works may be difficult, shocking, sometimes moving, yet also enriching, as it allows us to experience a form of collective mourning for the millions of Holocaust victims.
Musicologists perceive Krzysztof Penderecki as an artist who is socially engaged, and one who bears testimony to the times he lives in. A work of art allows us to open ourselves to issues and experiences that would be otherwise inaccessible to us. Many works by Penderecki can be included within this framework and are worthy of our attention. Experts of contemporary music observed that despite the diagnosis that art is impossible after the Holocaust, artists such as Penderecki still approached the topic. Even from his very early compositions, Jewish issues have been present in his works.
This article presents three works by Penderecki, which are significant with regard to the difficulties that the composer has in dealing with the trauma of war. Under examination are works which had an influence on the perception and understanding of extreme issues such as the Holocaust.
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