THE IMAGE OF TOTALITARIAN POWER REFLECTED IN HIS 'FOURTH SYMPHONY' AND 'UBU REX' BY KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI
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The author suggests that K. Penderecki's 'Fourth Symphony', composed on the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution and remarkably solemn in expression - in spite of the stylistic divergence - is a work which contains a very similar message as Penderecki's opera buffa 'Ubu Rex' written two years later (1991). Both compositions offer a more or less veiled critique of the revolutionary idea. In his suggested semantic analysis of the work, the author draws attention to a number of musical symbols contained in 'Symphony No.4', such as the rhythmical model of a slow introduction to a French ouverture, figures resembling birdsong (especially the so-called Totenvogel from Mahler's symphonies), a funeral march, the sound of a tam-tam and rhythms of death. The general scenario of Penderecki's composition may be slightly reminiscent of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No.7, a paradigmatic European opus that illustrates the transition from the sphere of darkness into light (as indicated by J. Starobinski in '1789: Les Emblemes de la raison', the solar topos was readily exploited by the ideologues of the French Revolution). Just as Mahler's Seventh, Penderecki's symphony closes with a tonal focus on C that is associated with light, the only difference being that the application of a tam-tam and the death rhythm deprives the finale of the anticipated apologetic expression. 'Ubu Rex' is interpreted in the category of palimpsest. The author writes that in Alfred Jarry's early play, one of the first examples of palimpsest in literature, a major albeit not the only point of reference is Shakespeare's Macbeth. In Jarry's wake, Penderecki has created a musical palimpsest where among the many references to works by other artists, worthy of particular attention is the polyphonic Intermezzo in Act II, illustrating the battle between Polish and Russian armies. At the same time, the fragment is a reference to the battle music in Verdi's Macbeth, presented there in the form of a fugue, and to the polyphonic battle in the second movement of D. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11 (describing the events of the Revolution of 1905). Thus, the whole work, which has a recurring refrain of a song on 'debraining' reminiscent of Kurt Weill, with solar metaphorics ('Wenn die Sonne am Sonntag uns lachte'), exposes the mechanism of a political coup. It is nonetheless significant that towards the end, this mechanism clearly takes on the colours of revolutionary rhetoric, and that because of allusions to some contorted concepts that directly bring to mind the events of 1789 (i.e. 'Brotherhood in Equality, Equality in Justice and Justice in Lawlessness') as well as Penderecki's references to his own 'Symphony No.4'.
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