On June 30, 1968, the American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO) premiered Krzysztof Penderecki’s Pittsburgh Overture on a large silver barge—the Point-Counterpoint— afloat at Point State Park the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In keeping with the music director’s commitment to disseminating innovative music for wind ensemble in an imaginative and intimate way, Penderecki’s commission brought the Polish musical avant-garde to the United States during an unlikely time in history. Relying on previously-unexamined archival materials including sketches, correspondences, and photographs, Emily traces the commission, planning, and compositional processes which made this waterway premiere possible in the context of the AWSO’s 1968 Festival of Poland. Further, Emily also considers the democratizing environment of the premiere event in 1960s industrial Pittsburgh, as well as the larger implications of this musical collaboration in the context of the Cold War.
Emily Theobald is a PhD candidate in musicology at the University of Florida, where she has also completed the certificate in Modern European Studies from the Center for European Studies. Her work examines the music of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki in both Polish and American contexts.