‘Here I write different music…’ Remembering Penderecki, through his garden…
Best-known internationally for his work on David Lynch films and Hollywood productions including Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, perhaps lesser known is Krzysztof Penderecki’s love of gardens.
A keen Gardner and amateur dendrologist, Penderecki created one of Europe’s largest and species diverse arboretums in the grounds of his estate, as well as impressive Italian and Japanese gardens, and a huge 13th century inspired maze.
Located in the town of Lusławice, 100 km outside Kraków, Penderecki’s garden has often been described as his symbolic ninth symphony, a masterpiece equaling his greatest musical achievements.
Speaking about his love of music and his garden Penderecki said: “Lonely moments spent over a music sheet are the most important hours in my life. And going for a walk in the park which is my dearest place on earth…”.
The culmination of a childhood dream, Penderecki’s garden is a vast 30 hectare park with a 15 hectare arboretum containing around 2,000 species of trees and shrubs from across the globe, meticulously sourced and collected by the composer over more than 45 years of overseas travel.
Species include rare and exotic varieties native to all five continents, including the Gingo Biloba, Canadian Maple and Giant Sequoia as well as several endangered species of Chinese trees.
Over 4000 of the trees in the garden were planted by the composer himself, which he compared to being equivalent to composing a piece of music.
But for him, trees were also an allegory for a work of music and for the process of composing. He once said: “Let’s look at the tree; it teaches us that a work of art must be rooted – in the earth and in the sky. No creative work can stand without roots.”
Aside from the arboretum, other notable parts of Penderecki’s garden include a terraced Italian garden with a 250-year-old oak and a Japanese garden, but perhaps the most spectacular element is the imposing and complex labyrinth made from 14,000 hornbeams, and containing 3km of paths.
The design was copied from a 13th century plan for a labyrinth Penderecki found in an old book and which he joked he wanted to invite his worst critics to walk through as punishment. The labyrinth was also personally symbolic for Penderecki as a metaphor for the process of searching and finding, which he saw as an integral part of the process of composing.
Penderecki’s garden paradise is known to have been an important influence on his musical output. He once told a friend: “Here I write different music than in Kraków…Here with one stroke of a pen I created a clarinet quartet. Here on the porch, were formed very large fragments of the Te Deum.”
When not in his main home in Kraków, Lusławice was the place where he spent the most time, reportedly getting up at 6am each morning for a walk in the grounds.
The garden at Lusławice is on an estate which Penderecki and his wife saved from ruin when they bought it in 1974 after the composer’s search for an appropriate artistic residence and musical centre saw him visit a range of abandoned palaces and castles.
The garden had no trees and the 18th century manor house lay in ruin. But, Penderecki was captivated by the history of the place, which included an association with eminent painter Jacek Malczewski whose brother-in law was the owner.
As such, Malczewski stayed at the manor house during the interwar period and taught painting and drawing to local children and featured the manor at Lusławice in many of his paintings.
The idea of Lusławice being a creative centre to teach young people was something Pendercki wanted to continue. The composer’s other great legacy, the modern, state-of-the art Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music, is just opposite and was created by the composer with the primary aim of honing the skills and talents of gifted young Polish musicians.
Including a 650-seater concert hall, the Centre has also hosted top orchestras and musicians from across the world for workshops and seminars as well as performances.
Although the gardens have always been separate from the European Centre for Music and served largely as the private property of Penderecki and his wife, all this is set to change.
In 2019, a year before his death, Penderecki and his wife signed a letter of intent with the Polish Minister for Culture Piotr Gliński regarding the protection of the Pendereckis’ manor house and garden by the Polish State, a decision the composer made to ensure his legacy.
The details of this letter are still currently being agreed, and final legally-binding decisions have yet to be made, but it is understood that one possibility being discussed is that the gardens and manor house would become part of the European Centre for Music, which would allow it to decide how the manor house, gardens and arboretum are made available to the public.
A year on from his death, it was announced in recent days that Penderecki’s state funeral, which could not take place due to the pandemic, will now take place exactly a year from now on 29th March 2022 at the National Pantheon in Krakow’s St Peter and Paul Church.
Mark Bebłot photographed Krzysztof Penderecki for over 20 years. His collection of photographs of Penderecki’s gardens at Lusławice is one of the largest. A gallery of his 900 shots and short films of the garden can be found at http://luslawice.com/.