Partita for harpsichord, electric guitar, bass-guitar, harp, double bass and orchestra
The first version of Penderecki’s Partita for concertante harpsichord, electric guitar, bass guitar, harp, double bass and orchestra was composed and premiered in 1971. This version, consisting of two parts, Allegro ma non troppo and Allegro molto, was written for pianist Felicja Blumental, wife of Penderecki’s close friend, the painter and art collector Markus Mizne. Blumental had studied with Zbigniew Drzewiecki before the war, but the composer, whose dislike of piano was well known, persuaded her to play his Partita on a harpsichord. The work was first performed in the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Exactly 20 years later, in 1991, Penderecki revised the score and added three virtuosic cadenzas specially for the new soloist, harpsichordist Elżbieta Chojnacka.
With respect to genre, form and technical principles, the composition positions itself between Dimensions of Time and Silence (1960) and Fonogrammi (1961) and his concerti grossi, for three cellos and orchestra (2001) and for five clarinets and orchestra (2004). The Partita draws on the graphic ideas of Paul Klee, with interpenetrating sections varying in colour and structure, and Yves Klein, with static sections of vibrating “sound space” or of resonance alone, which had inspired the composer in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and on the Baroque concertante tradition, in which the concertino, ingeniously complemented by amplified guitars, is opposed to the full ensemble sound.
As in the case of the flute in Phonograms, the role of the concertante harpsichord among other instruments treated as soloists should not be overestimated. What comes to the foreground are its trills, the incessant repetitions of two neighbouring sounds, and it is only in the solo cadenzas that the instrument contributes overtly to the elaborately woven texture, which in this piece can be described as caligraphic rather than painted with Penderecki’s typical thick “cluster” brush. An rare element in his music that is highly pronounced in this work is the form-shaping role attached to rhythm and to changes of movement.