Wishing Special Happy Birthdays to Ned Rorem, 90, and Krzysztof Penderecki, 80

By James Inverne on Dec 02, 2013 01:39 PM EST

Two important composer birthdays have recently occurred. American Ned Rorem turned 90, while that comparative youngster from Poland, Krzysztof Penderecki, was 80. Both in their own ways embody the vitality of their cultures.

Rorem, who once told me that he classifies everyone in the world as either French or German (in terms of the way they approached life) was an early disciple of Aaron Copland, and he has gained fame as much for his copious published diaries as for his masterful music. He said recently that he has stopped composing--unless someone pays him enough to change his mind (and fair enough). That Rorem will come to be seen in the royal line of American composers is inevitable; the only surprise is that he's not more often performed already.

Penderecki's music is at once complex, uncompromising and approachable. There is something about the purity and the visceral nature of his vision that is irresistibly compelling (and his associations with, variously, Radiohead and Stanley Kubrick won't have hurt his street cred either).

One could write a book about either of these towering figures. And people have. But it seems apt around their big birthdays to let their music do the talking...

Rorem, "Ferry Me Across the Water"

To Ned Rorem: Happy Birthday!

Penderecki, Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima

And to Krzysztof Penderecki: Wszystkiego Najlepszego!

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TagsNed Rorem, Krzysztof Penderecki, Radiohead, Stanley Kubrick, Copland, Ferry Me Across the Water, Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima

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