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Passio et Mors Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Lucam (Krzysztof Penderecki)

I have addressed the archetype of Passion, [...] to express not only the passion and death of Christ, but also the cruelty of our times, the passion of Auschwitz. I want the audience to be involved in the very centre of events, through music’s tensions and drama, like in a Medieval mysterium where no-one was standing aside (...).

K. Penderecki (in Labirynth of Time, 1997).


The St. Luke Passion was composed between 1962 and 1966 on the inspiration of Dr. Otto Tomek, following a commission from the West German Radio to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Münster Cathedral. “I am sentimental about the St. Luke Passion, which proved a turning point on my creative path”, Penderecki would say after many years in Labirynth of Time.

The first section of the Passion is the Stabat Mater sequence for three a cappella choirs, on 15 August 1962. The entire work was completed on 26 January 1966; dedicated to the composer’s wife Elżbieta, it also enjoys a peculiar historical context: 1966 marked the 1000th anniversary of Poland’s Christianisation. Yet the 1960s were also a period of struggle between Poland’s totalitarian authorities and the Catholic church and Polish society. The Great Novena, proclaimed by the Primate of Poland to prepare the 1000th jubilee, was defined by Communist leader Władysław Gomułka as “a crazy programme of throwing Poland into obscurity and ignorance [...], a distorted, anti-national idea of «bulwark of Christianity», which in our times consists of instigating quarrels between the Polish and Soviet nations” (Władysław Gomułka, Speeches 1964–1966, Warsaw 1967, p. 397). In that context, the first performance of St. Luke Passion, addressing the central theme of Christianity in Münster, in the free world, was a significant event for Polish spiritual life. Penderecki’s Passion, while subdivided into two parts according to the Baroque tradition, does begin later and end sooner from the point of view of Gospel events than is the case with Bach’s Passions. The first part, in fact, begins with the scene of the Agony in the Garden, and ends with the major scene of Trial of Jesus. The second part opens with the Via Dolorosa and ends with the Death of the Crucified.

The dramatic concept of the Passion is based, followed the genre’s history, upon three layers: the narrative of the Evangelist, a dramatic layer that includes utterances of the various characters in direct speech, and a commentary layer – which happens to be the most extensive. Here, Penderecki follows a rich Latin tradition of liturgy. His text is borrowed from the Gospel of Luke, but is enhanced with three dramatically pivotal excerpts from the Gospel of John. The choice of key events from the Gospel narrative, with the exclusion of many secondary characters and threads, has considerably shortened and condensed the text, and the consequent reduction of the Evangelist’s narrative has made it more dramatic. As in the Baroque tradition, the Gospel text is supplemented by a lyrical, reflexive commentary. In that role, however, Penderecki did not use contemporary poetry, as had Bach, Handel and Telemann; instead, he selected verses and stanzas from the Holy Week liturgy, all well familiar as they were set to music a great many times: the Psalms Miserere mei Deus and In te Domine speravi, the sequence Stabat Mater, the hymn Vexilla Regis (O crux), the antiphons Crux fidelis and Ecce lignum cruces, and the improperium Popule meus. The musical language of Penderecki’s Passion is an idiosyncratic combination of tradition and modernity: traditional sound material and unconventional timbres; quasi-tonal references and twelve-tone technique; Renaissance-derived polyphony and modern sonoristic techniques.

The main motifs and themes of the Passion are derived from the cells of two intricately construed twelve-tone series, in which the intervals of minor second and third and tritone play an important role. The last four notes of the second series constitute a B–A–C–H (B flat–A–C–B natural) motif, which plays an important role in some sections of the Passion such as the Miserere for a cappella choir and the extensive passacaglia of Popule meus. The motif can be interpreted as a symbolic homage paid by Penderecki to his illustrious compositional predecessor.

The musical concept of the Passion, apart from emphasising the narrative part of the Evangelist, is to contrast two semantically charged sound worlds.

The first of these is characterised by sustained vocal timbres with definite pitch, linear voice-leading, stable quasi-tonal centres (notwithstanding a free use of twelve-tone material), an ascetic melody with frequent repetitions, and a slow tempo. The almost ceremonial character of this layer connects the secular world with the mysterious domain of the sacred. For centuries, that domain has almost magnetically attracted the human mind and imagination. This circle of references is symbolised by the call “Domine” (Lord), recurrent throughout Penderecki’s Passion in the light register of the boys’ choir, ending with the soft sonority of the minor third. The telling transformation of this interval into an E major triad in the work’s conclusion emphasises the general message.

The other sound world is characterised by unconventional instrumental and vocal means of expression, a violently changing articulation, dynamic contrasts, a hastened, anxious, discontinuous narrative. It symbolically represents the domain of darkness, hatred and evil; it is particularly suggestive in the turba scenes. The part of the Evangelist is recited according to the prosody of the text, instead of being sung in the manner of a recitative, as in Baroque passions. This type of reciting is in fact a reference to the liturgical tradition more than to the Baroque recitative. The dominant tone is of an objective report, emphasising the time lapse between the narrative and the dramatic events it narrates. Yet there are moments in the Passion when the narrator gets carried away, and his account becomes almost parallel to the dramatic action, up to the point of being taken over by the screaming turba. In those moments, speaking about the past becomes a live account of what is happening in front of us, heightening the drama and throwing us in the middle of it. The instrumental accompaniment of the narrative part emphasises those differences: it fades away in moments of objective reporting that precede the utterances of Jesus, while anticipating moments of drama with more mobile textures.

The musical characterisation of Christ is largely consistent with the tradition of the genre: he sings a low voice (baritone), and the tempo of his narrative is slow or moderate, with a type of singing close to a traditional arioso. In Penderecki’s Passion, one individual trait of Christ’s part is the introduction of a leitmotif. Of supplicative character, it is based on an upward minor second motion with repetition of the second note, and recurs often in the St. Luke Passion. Yet at its last appearance in the scene of Jesus’ death on the Cross, the motive changes its direction downwards and becomes greatly extended through a chromatic passage, gradually fading into a morendo.

The large-scale structure of the Passion is framed by the initial O Crux chorus and the final Psalm In Te Domine speravi. The chorus acts as an exposition in which the basic musical structures (series), main motifs, and textural types are presented. The chorus opens with a triple repeat of the solemn musical gesture on the words O Crux, presenting the Passion’s theme and symbolically opening the mysterium. The work’s inner integration is strengthened by a complex system of anticipations and repetitions of crucial motifs and threads, including the pivotal Domine motif, recurrent throughout the work and consisting of the minor third E–G.

The final Psalm In Te Domine speravi assumes the character of an elaborated conclusion. After the recapitulation of main motifs and threads of the Passion comes a quasi-chorale, tellingly repeated thrice with a verse from the Psalm In Te Domine speravi, closing the entire Passion with the words Domine, Deus veritatis, carrying a generic message of hope.

Penderecki’s Passion occupies a special place in 20th-century music. On one hand, it is a thoroughly contemporary work, while on the other it continues the great European tradition of sacred music. With the two-part Utrenja, composed a few years later to Orthodox liturgical texts (Part 1, Deposition, Part 2, Resurrection), it composes a great Paschal triptych, which by referring to the different spiritualities of West and East, nonetheless emphasises the universal, interconfessional character of its subject – the very core of the Christian tradition.

Regina Chłopicka


Passio et mors

domini nostri

Jesu Christi

Secundum Lucam


Pars I

O Crux, ave, spes unica,

Hoc Passionis tempore

Piis adauge gratiam,

Reisque dele crimina.

Te, fons salutis, Trinitas,

Collaudet omnis spiritus.

Hymnus "Vexilla Regis prodeunt" 21-26


Et egressus ibat secundum consuetudinem in montem Olivarum.

Secuti sunt autem illum et discipuli... positis genibus orabat dicens:

Pater, si vis, transfer calicem istum a me: verumtamen non mea voluntas,

sed Tua fiat. Apparuit autem illi angelus de caelo, confortans eum.

Et factus in agonia prolixius orabat. Et factus est sudor eius sicut guttae

sanguinis decurrentis in terram.

Ev. s. Lucam 22, 39-44


Deus, Deus meus, respice in me, quare me dereliquisti

Deus meus, clamabo per diem, et non exaudies.

Verba mea auribus percipe, Domine;

intellige clamorem meum.

Psalmus 21 (22), 2-3 et 5, 2


Domine, quis habitabit in tabernaculo tuo, aut

quis requiescet in monte sancto tuo

In pace... dormiam...

... et caro mea requiescet in spe.

Psalmus 14 (15), 1; 4, 9; 15 (16), 9


Adhuc eo loquente ecce turba, et qui vocabatur Judas, unus de duodecim,

antecedebat eos et appropinquavit Iesu ut oscularetur eum... "Juda,

osculo Filium hominis tradis ... Quasi ad latronem existis cum gladiis et

fustibus ... sed haec est hora vestra et potestas tenebrarum.

Ev. s. Lucam 22, 47-53


Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum,

Deum Tuum.

De Lamentatione Jeremiae Prophetae


Ut quid, Domine, recessisti longe.
Psalmus 9 (10), 1
Comprehendentes autem eum duxerunt ad domum principis sacerdotum. Petrus vero sequebatur a longe... Quem cum vidisset ancilla quedam sedentem ad lumen et eum fuisset intuita, dixit: Et hic cum illo erat. ... Mulier, non novi illum. Et post pusillum alius videns eum dixit: Et tu de illis es... O homo, non sum. Et intervallo facto quasi horae unius, alius quidam affirmabat dicens; Vere et hic cum illo erat; nam et Galilaeus est. ...Homo, nescio, quid dicis. Et continuo adhuc illo loquente cantavit gallus. Et conversus Dominus respexit Petrum. Et recordatus est Petrus verbi Domini... Et egressus foras... flevit amare.

Ev. s. Lucam 22, 54–62

Iudica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam.

Psalmus 42 (43), I

Et viri, qui tenebant illum, illudebant ei caedentes. Et velaverunt eum et percutiebant faciem eius et interrogabant eum dicentes: Prophetiza, quis est qui te percussit?... Tu ergo es Filius Dei?... Vos dicitis, quia ego sum.

Ev. s. Lucam 22, 63–70

Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum,

Deum Tuum.

De Lamentatione Ieremiae Prophetae

Miserere mei, Deus, quoniam conculcavit me homo,

tota die impugnans tribulavit me.

Psalmus 55 (56), 2

Et surgens omnis multitudo eorum duxerunt illum ad Pilatum. Coeperunt autem illum accusare dicentes: Hunc invenimus subvertentem gentem nostram et prohibentem tributa dare Caesari et dicentem se Christum regem esse, ... Tu es rex Iudaeorum? ... Tu dicis... Nihil invenio causae in hoc homine. Et... remisit eum ad Herodem... Herodes autem... interrogabat, eum multis sermonibus. At ipse nihil illi respondebat... Sprevit autem illum indutum veste alba... remisit ad Pilatum...Pilatus autem convocatis principibus sacerdotum..., dixit ad illos: ... ecce nihil dignum morte actum est ei. Emendatum ergo illum dimittam. ... Tolle hunc et dimitte nobis Barabbam ... Iterum autem Pilatus locutus est ad eos volens dimittere Iesum. At illi succlamabant dicentes: Crucifige, crucifige illum... Quid enim mali fecit iste? nullam causam mortis invenio in eo.

Ev. s. Lucam 23, 1–22  

Pars II
et in pulverem mortis deduxisti me
Psalmus 21 (22), 16
Et baiulans sibi crucern exivit in eum, qui dicitur
Calvariae, locum, Hebraice autem Golgotha
Ev. s. Ioannem. 19, 17
Popule meus, quid feci tibi?

Aut in quo contristavi te?

Responde mihi.

Quia eduxi te de terra Aegypti:

parasti Crucem Salvatori tuo.

Hagios o Theos.
Sanctus Deus.

Hagios ischyros.

Sanctus fortis.

Hagios athanatos, eleison himas.

Sanctus immortalis, miserere nobis.
... ibi crucifixerunt eum et latrones unum a dextris et alterum a sinistris.
Ev. s. Lucam 23, 33
Crux fidelis, inter omnes

arbor una nobilis:

nulla silva talem profert,

fronde, flore, germine.

Dulce lignum, dulces clavos,

dulce pondus sustinet.
Ecce lignum Crucis,

in quo salus mundi pependit.
Antiphonae I et II hymni ,,Pange lingua”

Antiphona ad detegendam Crucem
Iesus autem dicebat: Pater, dimitte illis; non enim sciunt, quid faciunt:

Dividentes vero vestimenta eius miserunt sortes.
Ev. s. Lucam 23, 34 pulverem mortis deduxisti me

foderunt manus meas et pedes meos.

Dinameraverunt omnia ossa mea,

ipsi vero consideraverunt et inspexerunt me.

Diviserunt sibi vestimenta mea
et super vestem meam miserunt sortem.

Tu autem, Domine, ne elongaveris auxilium Tuum a me;

ad defensionem meam conspice.
Psalmus 21 (22), 16–20  

Et stabat populus spectans, et deridebant eum principes cum eis dicentes: Alios salvos fecit, se salvum faciat, si hic est Christus Dei electus. Illudebant autem ei et milites accedentes et acetum offerentes ei et dicentes: Si tu es rex Iudaeorum, salvum te fac.
Ev. s. Lucam 23, 35–37
Unus autem de his qui pendebant latronibus, blasphemabat eum dicens: Si tu es Christus, salvum fac temetipsum et nos. Respondens autem alter increpabat eum dicens: Neque tu times Deum, quod in eadem damnatione es. Et nos quidem iuste, nam digna factis recipimus; hic vero nihil mali gessit... Domine, memento mei, cum veneris in regnum Tuum. ...Amen dico tibi: Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso.
Ev. s. Lucam 23, 39–43
Stabant autem iuxta crucem Iesu mater eius et soror matris eius Maria Cleophae et Maria Magdalene. Cum vidisset ergo Iesus matrem et discipulum stantem, quem diligebat, dicit matri suae: Mulier, ecce filius tuus. Deinde dicit discipulo: Ecce mater tua.
Ev. s. Ioannem 19, 25–27
Stabat Mater dolorosa

Iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,

Dum pendebat Filius.

Quis est homo, qui non fleret,

Matrem Christi si videret

In tanto supplicio?

Eia, Mater, fons amoris,

Me sentire vim doloris

Fac, ut tecum lugeam.

Fac, ut ardeat cor meum

In amando Christum Deum,

Ut sibi complaceam.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,

Da per Matrem me venire

Ad palmam victoriae.

Quando corpus morietur,

Fac, ut animae donetur

Paradisi gloria.
Sequentia ,,Stabat Mater”

Erat autem fere hora sexta, et tenebrae factae sunt in universam terram usque in horam nonam. Et obscuratus est sol, et velum templi scissum est medium. Et clamans voce magna Iesus ait: Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum. Et haec dicens exspiravit.
Ev. s. Lucam 23, 44–46
Consummatum est
Ev. s. Ioannem 19, 30
In te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in aeternum: in iustitia tua libera

me Inclina ad me aurem tuam, accelera ut eruas me,

esto mihi in Deum protectorem

et in domum refugii, ut salvum me facias.

In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum:

redemisti me, Domine Deus veritatis.
Psalmus 30 (31), 2–3, 6
Text of the Gospel quoted after: Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine... edidit Augustinus Merk, Romae 1948. Note: Ev. s. Lucam 23, 21 „eum” has been substituted by „illum” for phonetic reasons. Psalms quoted after: Bibliorum Sacrorum Iuxta Vulgatam Clementinam..., edition... curavit Aloisius Gramatica. Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis MCMXXIX. Other texts quoted after: Missale Romanum, Bruges 1949.



Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus 

Christ According to St. Luke

Part I


O Cross, our one reliance, hail! 

So may thy power with us avail 

To give new virtue to the saint, 

And pardon to the penitent.

To thee, eternal Three in One, 

Let homage meet by all be done.

Hymn Vexilla regis prodeunt

Jesus on the Mount of Olives

And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the Mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And he kneeled down, and prayed, saying: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

St. Luke 22:39–44


My God, my God, [look upon me,] why hast thou forsaken me? 

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearst not.
Give ear to my words, O Lord,
consider my meditation.

Psalm 22: 1–2 and 5: 1


Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?

who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
I will both lay me down and sleep.
My flesh also shall rest in hope.

Psalm 15:1; 4:8; 16:9

The Taking of Jesus

And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said unto him: “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” – “Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

St. Luke 22:47–53


Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord, 

thy God.

From the “Lamentations of Jeremiah” 

according to the version of the Missal

Psalm a cappella

Why standest thou afar off, O Lord?

Psalm 10:1

Peter’s Denial

Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the
fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said: “This man was also with him.” “Woman, I know him not.” And after a little while another saw him, and said: “Thou are also of them.” “Man, I am not.” And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying: “Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.” “Man, I know not what thou sayest.” And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord. And he went out and wept bitterly.

St. Luke 22:54–62


Judge me, O God, and plead my cause.

Psalm 43:1

The Mocking before the high priest

And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying: “Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” – “Art thou then the Son of God?” – “Ye say that I am”.

St. Luke 22:63–70


Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord, thy God.
From the “Lamentations of Jeremiah”

according to the version of the Missal

Psalm a cappella

Be merciful unto me, O God: 

for man would swallow me up; 

he fighting daily oppresseth me.

Psalm 56:1

Jesus before Pilate

And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying: “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” “Art thou the King of the Jews?” – “Thou sayest it.” – I find no fault in this man”.
And he sent him to Herod. Herod questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. And Herod set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, said unto them: “Nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him.” – “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.” Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying: “Crucify him, crucify him.” – “Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him.”

St. Luke 23:1–22


The Way of the Cross

Thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

Psalm 22:15–19

And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew “Golgotha”.

St. John 19:17


My people, what have I done to thee?
or in what have I grieved thee?
Answer me.
Because I brought thee out of the Land of Egypt: 

thou hast prepared a Cross for thy Saviour. Holy God.

Holy and Strong God.
Holy and Immortal God, have mercy on us.

From the “Improperia”

The Crucifixion

There they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

St. Luke 23, 34


Faithful Cross! above all other, 

One and only noble tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom, 

None in fruit thy peer may be; 

Sweetest wood and sweetest iron! 

Sweetest weight is hung on thee. 

Behold the Wood of the Cross

on which the Salvation of the World was hang’d.
1st and 2nd antiphon of the hymn “Pange lingua”

and the antiphon to the unweiling of the Cross 

Then said Jesus: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

St. Luke 23:33

Psalm a cappella

Thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 

They pierced my hands and my feet,
I may tell all my bones:
they look and stare upon me.

They part my garments among them, 

and cast lots upon my vesture.
But be not thou far from me, O Lord. 

O my strength, haste thee to help me.

Psalm 22:15

The Mocking of Christ on the Cross

And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying: “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, and saying: “lf thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.“

St. Luke 23:35–37

Jesus between the thieves

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying: “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” But the other answering rebuked him, saying: “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. ... Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”... “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

St. Luke 23:39–43

There stood by the Cross

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said unto his mother: “Woman, behold thy son!” Then saith he to the disciple: “Behold thy mother!”

St. John 19:25–27

Stabat Mater

Stood the Mother, stood though sighing, 

Tearful, neath the cross, where dying 

Hung her only Son and Lord.
Who the man his tears withholdeth

On her martyrdom profound? 

Mother, fount of love the purest,
All the anguish thou endurest,
Make me feel to mourn with thee. 

Make my heart with ardour glowing, 

In the love of Christ still growing, 

Unto him well–pleasing be.

Christ, where hence my spirit’s lifted, 

Through thy Mother be I gifted
With the palm of victory.
When my mortal flesh here dieth, 

Grant my soul in glory flieth

Swift to Paradise with thee.

From the sequence “Stabat Mater”

The Death of Christ

And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried a loud voice, he

said: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” And having said thus, he gave up the ghost. “It is finished.”

St. Luke 23:44–46 and St. John 19:30

Finale (Psalm)

In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust;
let me never be ashamed;
deliver me in thy righteousness.
Bow down thine ear to me; 

deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock,

for an house of defence to save me.
Into thine hand I commit my spirit:
thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

Psalm 31:1–2, 5