Krzysztof Penderecki

The Dream of Jacob, for orchestra

    Description by "Blue" Gene Tyranny

    Penderecki's The Dream of Jacob (aka The Awakening of Jacob) was composed for large orchestra in 1974, and lasts approximately seven and a half minutes. It was commissioned for the 25th anniversary of the accession of Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Like most of the composer's other work of the 1960s and 1970s (De Natura Sonoris Nos. 1 and 2, Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, Fonogrammi, Dimensions of Time and Silence, etc.), this piece is a giant soundscape employing tone clusters, unusual methods of playing instruments, some unusual instruments such as the musical saw, and, while producing strong emotional effects, avoiding melody, harmony, and development in the traditional sense. The title refers to Jacob's well-known dream in the desert of a ladder to heaven on which angels were ascending and descending: "Jacob woke from his sleep and said: Truly the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it," Genesis 28:16. The Dream of Jacob opens by creating a surreal dreamscape: low pitched brass chords pulse, a thin electronic-like sustain appears above that, and lower strings add to the drone. Shivering tremolos from the strings appear and disappear. Then great tone clusters in the strings and woodwinds sigh with the timbre of air raid sirens. This develops into larger glissandi interrupted several times with brass choir clusters with scattered punctuations among the solo instruments in the group. Everything slowly disappears except the upper strings which slide by themselves in clusters. This continues as an inverted high pedal point as on-rushing strings join in beneath, and again create a momentary, overwhelming wave. A gong interrupts this activity, everything becomes still again, like a lonely night in the desert, and we return to the opening airy sustain. The sound gradually dissipates.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967842421
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 Naxos 8572482
    2007 Absurda/David Lynch / David Lynch 2
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946381508
    2005 EMI Classics
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 74302
    1996 Chandos 9459
    1994 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 565077-2