Krzysztof Penderecki
Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima


4.5
superb

Review

by AaronIsCrunchy USER (18 Reviews)
July 12th, 2015 | 26 replies


Release Date: 1960 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Krzysztof Penderecki's most famous work easily stakes its place as one of the most frightening pieces of music ever written.

Nowadays, there are a reasonable number of artists that specialise in unsettling the listener through a myriad of different methods. Across the vast musical spectrum in the last 25 years or so we have seen declarations of evil, samples of serial killers, horrifyingly nauseating vocals and industrial, grinding noises that sound like they're straight out of a sci-fi horror film. However, the most convincingly terrifying piece of music is not from this era. It does not feature vocals, nor utilise samples, nor have a sordid, granular feel to it. Instead, it is over 50 years old and was abstractly composed by one man as an experimental string piece - Krzysztof Penderecki's 'Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima'.

From start to finish, the piece is comprised of dissonant stabs and swells, seemingly unstructured percussive sections (which are made by slapping the sides of their instrument) and quieter plucked sections, akin to rats running amok among an orchestral suite. By instructing some members to bow behind the bridge, a piercing abrasive quality takes on much of the threnody, and setting the instruments' tunings to being ever-so-slightly yet very deliberately different from one another shatters the usual system of tones and semitones which we have become so used to. An additional curiosity is the Pole's method of writing down and portraying the music to the orchestra - bars for some instruments start halfway through others, and additional sets of instructions were created for each musician to play their piece as he intended (possibly needed when taking into account the layout of the sheet music).

It's certainly possible to look at this in great technical detail, taking into account all the various bowing techniques, the unorthodox composing style and the usage of microtonality in the layers created by the 52 musicians and their instruments. However, the effect that this has upon the listener whilst playing means that, at least across its length, consideration behind its makeup is a practically pointless task. The harsh stabs of the loudest parts punctuate like a blade within a torso, twisting and turning to inflict as much pain as possible. When these stop, the effect is not respite, but suspense - an agonising wait playing with the mind, further creating the feeling of a malevolent presence emanating from the music itself. The whole composition is like a perfect horror film, providing both immediate shock and terror, whilst sticking in the mind long after the final scene.

When associated with the horrifying effects of the Hiroshima bombing back in August 1945, Penderecki's work takes on a haunting, yet somehow sadder quality to the horrific, almost torturous description given above. Although it can be viewed from different perspectives for different situations, the ability of 'Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima' to evoke feelings of dread, terror and sorrow simultaneously is practically unrivalled by any piece of music, from any era, from any genre.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
AaronIsCrunchy
July 12th 2015


1919 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Been wanting to give this a review for a while now, it's so fantastic yet so horrifying. I think it's probably pretty clear my in-depth knowledge of classical music is wobbly at best, so any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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adr
July 12th 2015


6905 Comments


Sweet a classical review! I already have Matrix 5 downloaded for a few months now, so i guess i need to listen to it already huh

Digging: Today Is the Day - Willpower

worthlessscab
July 12th 2015


165 Comments


this piece hits the sweet spot for me

treeqt.
July 12th 2015


14373 Comments


why download matrix 5 when this exists
https://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/krzysztof_penderecki/orchestral_works__emi___penderecki_/

Digging: Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss

treeqt.
July 12th 2015


14373 Comments


and check his choral works they the real mvp

Cygnatti
July 12th 2015


25734 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This shit blew my mind years ago.

Digging: Darkthrone - Goatlord

AaronIsCrunchy
July 12th 2015


1919 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've only known about it since last September, but it leaves me awestruck every time I listen to it.

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
July 12th 2015


22835 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wow this didnt have a review til now? this shit is haunting

Digging: Lamb of God - VII: Sturm und Drang

treeqt.
July 12th 2015


14373 Comments


and take a look at giacinto scelsi

AaronIsCrunchy
July 12th 2015


1919 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'll get on that, what kinda thing should I be expecting?

treeqt.
July 12th 2015


14373 Comments


scelsi was born 30 years earlier and he was pretty much unknown for most of his life so there's none of the hot memes of mid 20th century classical music in his music
a lot of his works could be described as minimal drone music whereas penderecki, ligeti, cerha and the likes were generally a little more crass in their use of extended techniques and general scale of their works

LordePots
July 12th 2015


16686 Comments


i learned a new word thanks to this album that i will never listen to

Digging: Kutiman - Space Cassava

treeqt.
July 12th 2015


14373 Comments


its not an album

Cygnatti
July 12th 2015


25734 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

scelsi was too esoteric and meandering for me 2 years ago, wonder how it'll stack up for me now...

LordePots
July 12th 2015


16686 Comments


i can tell this is fucking shit doe just from all the bullshit tree is spewing about it

Ocean of Noise
July 12th 2015


1850 Comments


This is a great piece, albeit one that I'll probably never listen to again. It makes a very strong first impression.

I do prefer the R. Murray Schafer Threnody though.

Digging: Deadmau5 - While(1

Cygnatti
July 12th 2015


25734 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

but the bullshit that treeqt is spewing isn't about this album...

pots as far as classical goes, this stuff is extremely immediate, completely disorienting, and pretty heartbreaking imo

LordePots
July 12th 2015


16686 Comments


well ill only listen to it if tree doest like it tbh

Ocean of Noise
July 12th 2015


1850 Comments


Potsy you've listened to and rated 4000+ albums SURELY you have the time to listen to this itty bitty 8 minute piece

Cygnatti
July 12th 2015


25734 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

considering it's a classical piece that i like a lot, there's a high chance that tree will like/enjoy it but is not overly impressed by it at all.



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