Born on November 23, 1933, in Dębica, Poland, Krzysztof Penderecki began studying composition under Franciszek Skolyszewski. He later studied at the Krakow Conservatory under Artur Malawski and Stanislaw Wiechowicz and graduated in 1958. He was then appointed as a professor at the Conservatory. Between 1966 and 1968, Penderecki was a lecturer at the Volkwang Hochschule für Musik in Essen, Germany. In 1968, he received a grant from the German Academic Exchange Organisation — DAAD. He was appointed rector of the Krakow Conservatory in 1972.
Krzysztof Penderecki’s first public appearance on an international level was in 1959 at the Warsaw Autumn Festival. There he performed Strophen, one of three works for which he received first prizes at the 2nd National Young Composers Competition. The other two works were Psalms of David and Emanations.
In 1968-69, Penderecki wrote his first opera, The Devils of Loudun, commissioned by the Hamburg State Opera where it had its world premiere in 1969. Since then, this work has been produced numerous times, has been broadcast, televised, and released on record.
In 1972 Penderecki began his conducting career. Since that year, he has been seen on the podiums of the most important orchestras of the world.
In the years between 1972 and 1978, Krzysztof Penderecki was a professor at the Yale University School of Music.
In 1988 Penderecki received a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for his Concerto for Cello No. 2, M. Rostropovich as soloist, and recorded by ERATO.
In 1999 Krzysztof Penderecki received two Grammy Awards for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, (Violin Concerto No. 2 – “Metamorphosen” performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter) and for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Penderecki Violin Concerto No. 2 under the composer’s baton). On 23 January 2000, Krzysztof Penderecki received the “Best Living Composer” award at the Midem Classic in Cannes and in October 2000 an honorary doctorate from the University of Luzern.
In 2005 Krzysztof Penderecki was awarded the Order of the White Eagle — Poland’s highest decoration and in 2006 he received the Three Star Order in Latvia.
In autumn 2007 the composer became the Honorary Professor of St. Petersburg Rimski- Korsakov State Conservatory and in 2008 — the Honorary Professor of Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory.