These concertos were created at two different points in Penderecki’s career. They came to existence within the space of thirty years and reflect the evolution of his style. Violin Concerto No. 1 belongs to the Polish Romantic tradition, which encompasses the notion of striving with God, while Concerto for Horn expresses utter submission to God’s power.
Violin Concerto No.1 is fundamentally a one-piece composition based on a four movement sonata cycle. It contains three distinctive parts which, though not formally defined, differ in character and ambience: the unbearably sullen allegro that culminates in the unexpected Tempo di Marcia, the lyrical adagio full of melody (Scherzando) and the stunning virtuosity of the grand finale. The is a tremendously expressive and meaningful element to this music and one can observe the complexity and interdependence between the sinfonia (harmony) and concerto, the rivalry between the soloist and the orchestra, and the dominant soloist part. The sonatas structure is reflected by its unsteady tempo and the various forms of expression. Penderecki admits that during the creation of this concerto he preserved the idea of traditional form, which was then fundamentally altered according to the variation technique.
Concerto for Horn - a world premier recording by the way, and his first solo piece for a brass wind instrument - is also called The Winter Journey, which may suggest some connection with Schubert’s Wintrreise However, Penderecki never looked for inspiration in German Romanticism and its gloomy pessimism, his affirmation of nature and joy must come from the Baroque music, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, that makes nature the prototype of perfect harmony and the source of vitality. The influence that Luslawice had on Penderecki is clear in this piece and as he says, it is “more personal and genuine.”