Krzysztof Penderecki was just 32 when his composition, the Passion of Saint Luke (»Passio et mors Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Lucam« / The suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke), commissioned by the West German broadcasting company WDR, was premiered in St Paul's Cathedral in Münster on the 30th March 1966.
On this Wednesday hundreds of people streamed into the cathedral with only a vague idea that they would be witnessing an époque-making work in modern musical history. The premiere of St Luke's Passion marked the moment when he would become famous outside "expert circles" in new music as a result of the coverage and praise for both the work and its composer. At the time Heinz Josef Herbort wrote in the weekly "Die Zeit": "Penderecki’s "Passion" is one of the most significant compositions in new music." He was right.
In June 1966 Krzysztof Penderecki was awarded North Rhine Westphalia’s Major Art Prize (music) for this work. Even then the first performance in Münster Cathedral was regarded as an important step in relaxing relationships between Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany.
It is therefore no surprise that 45 years later, in his Laudatio at the award-winning ceremony for the Viadrina Prize, the well-known German conductor Rolf Beck did not restrict himself to talking about Krzysztof Penderecki’s musical career but also emphasised "to what extent Krzysztof Penderecki’s music had contributed to bringing Poles and Germans closer together after the Second World War".