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Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Kosmogonia”: A Group of Startling and Enlightening Pieces

by Ben Manzella

Make sure to check out Ben’s photographic work as SoundFrames here!

One of the rare pleasures of being a music analyst is that you can choose to work outside of your comfort zone. As much as I enjoy listening to classical music, ranging from composers that have been renowned for centuries to those who are redefining classical as it is known today, I have not regularly had the opportunity to actually review a classical release. Thanks to one of our favorite industrial labels, Cold Spring Records (who have a curiously strong track record for curating high-taste non-industrial works), and Krzysztof Penderecki, I had some time to explore Kosmogonia, a once-obscure collection of four compositions out of the seventies from Poland’s greatest living composer.  Yes, Cold Spring has recently reissued this wonderful album on CD and digital mediums.

At just over fifty-tree minutes, these four pieces of music give you a cascade of elements to be encompassed by. In the relatively short time that I’ve had to prepare and read a more about Mr. Penderecki, his compositions took on an even more fascinating quality that I could not have predicted. After taking some time to read through Filip Lech‘s excellent article, Notes on Penderecki, there is a story pertaining to another piece by the composer in question (“Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima or 8’37”) and the process of it being published in Germany that speaks volumes of the innovative skill that Penderecki possesses. I highly recommend you take the time to read the entire article.

Krzysztof Penderecki

While the title track “Kosmogonia” is clearly the central pillar to the release, its surrounding companions (“De Natura Sonoris II,” “Anaklasis,” and “Fluorescences”) cannot be overlooked. As even a short time of reading will reveal, many (often unknowingly) have been introduced to the works of Penderecki through “De Natura Sonoris II” because of its inclusion in various films (most famously, Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece The Shining). Because of classical compositions transcending generations, I took the time to seek out other recordings of all four pieces on this new release; the remaster work by Denis Blackham and Martin Bowes, in order for it to be presented digitally, is exceptional. The power of certain choral parts and the magnitude of swelling, climactic instrumental builds has been given a new life. This is not music for casual listeners; these compositions are four separate, unique experiences that are worth your full attention.

I hope to acquire a copy of the six-panel digipak Cold Spring has made, as I’m sure that the already beautiful audio is complemented nicely by having a tactile way of experiencing the collection. It should go without saying, but the work of Mr. Penderecki is sure to be remembered as a treasured piece of Polish history, and I’d highly recommend picking up Kosmogonia.

Cold Spring