Opening this evening’s performance will be a clarinet Prelude by Krzysztof Penderecki, one of the most loved and treasured Polish composers. Penderecki was born on November 23, 1933, in Dębica. He comes from a multi-cultural family with Armenian, German, and Polish roots. He started his musical training with piano lessons but was more interested in his father’s violin. As a student, he went to Kraków to study composition. From 1987 to 1990 he was the artistic director of the Kraków Philharmonic, and since 1993 he has been the artistic director of Festival Casals in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Starting in 1997 he became the music director of Sinfonia Varsovia, and in 1998 he began advising the Beijing Music Festival. Since 2003 he has served as the Artistic Director of the Sinfonia Varsovia. Hi most successful works include Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (1960), St. Luke Passion (1966), Cello Concerto No.2 (1983) written for Mstislav Rostropovich, Polish Requiem (1984), Symphony No.3 (1995), Violin Concerto No.2 written for Anne-Sophie Mutter (1995), Symphony No.7 The Seven Gates of Jerusalem (1997) and the Double Concerto (2012). Also a prominent film composer, Penderecki wrote music for one full-length feature film The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Wojciech Jerzy Has, and his work can also be found in Kubrick’s The Shining, Friedkin’s The Exorcist, The Mask by the Quay brothers and Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese.
Imagining a wily independent rogue who follows his own paths, tells unpalatable truths, takes jabs at conventional society and makes fools of pompous authority figures, all while indulging in dirty humour is exactly what drew Richard Strauss to compose one of the finest examples of musical humour ever elaborated and it will be tonight’s finale!
Goethe famously said, “Eulenspiegel: All the chief jests of the book depend on this: that everybody speaks figuratively and Eulenspiegel takes it literally.” Till Eulenspiegel is more than a charming rogue, and his 95 tales are more than an entertaining collection of pranks. There is almost no moralizing in the book, Till Eulenspiegel takes people at their word, and acts on what they actually say, rather than what they mean, thumbing his nose at society.
Till Eulenspiegel, the man is something of a mystery, the last of the tales say he died in 1350 of the plague. However, some references remain impossible to verify and the lovable character he has become in Western traditions would probably have little in common with any flesh and blood man who might have lived. The name of popular German jester called Till Eulenspiegel or Master Tyll Owlglass, in modern German is translated as “owl mirror,” or “wise mirror,” from which has been inferred the sub-title, “wise reflection,” befitting to a collection of tales meant to edify the reader. In any case, this presumably historical figure whose escapades are greatly exaggerated made him a staple of Germanic folklore.
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator