Symphony No. 7 “The Seven Gates of Jerusalem”
The choice of texts from the Psalms and fragments of the Prophetic Books was determined by the commission, for the 3,000th anniversary of the foundation of Jerusalem. Completed a month before the premiere on 9 January 1997, the score is titled The Seven Gates of Jerusalem, which relates to the architectural planning of the holy city of three religions, and represents a symbol of passage between the two worlds of expression, and a point of reference for the textual opposition of light and darkness, as well as the textual representations of divine glory and the coming of the Messiah.
The symbolic significance of the number 7 is also reflected in specific musical solutions – most clearly, in the seven parts or “gates” of the symphony, but also in such details as the seven-note theme of the Passacaglia in Parts II and IV, or the septuple metre. The musical language of the Seven Gates comes from the period of Penderecki’s “great synthesis” and provides the one-hour composition with essential unity.Especially attractive for the listener is the spatial arrangement of performers, which takes advantage of topophony in the parts of tubaphones and winds, as well as of polychorality.
Gate I (Psalms 48 and 96) opens the cantata in chorale style. Initially the choir sings in unison supported by a pedal note; later the texture is enriched by chords. In the second section we hear the soloists, in the third, the choir, and then again the soloists. Gate II shares with Gate IV the presence of the fifth verse from Psalm 137 – “Si oblitus fuero tui, Jerusalem” (“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem”), a warning against breaking the pledge of faith to the holy city. Gate III (Psalm 130) is a dark, penitential De profundis for three a cappella choirs. Gate V (Psalm 147) opens with the choir singing the words of joyful admiration: “Lauda Jerusalem, Dominum” (“Praise, Jerusalem, Thy Lord”). An important role is attached here to the tubaphones, built of multiple long pipes after Penderecki’s own design inspired by Australian instruments. Gate VI, beginning attacca, contains the memorable part of a speaker presenting an awe-inspiring vision of the end of the world and the rising of the “dry bones” of the defeated from the dead (Ezekiel 37), always in a language understood by the audience, as the composer instructs. This is the culmination of the entire symphony, followed by the last part, which makes use of messianic texts by the Biblical prophets. In this part, the composer recalls the motifs from the previous parts, and the symphony ends with seven repetitions of the E major chord.