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The Pittsburgh Overture

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Robert Austin Boudreau, conductor of the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, commissioned Penderecki to compose The Pittsburgh Overture in the interest of adding pieces of significance to the wind ensemble repertoire. Penderecki completed the piece in 1967, and it was premiered on June 30, 1968, at the home of the American Wind Symphony, Oakmont Riverside Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The name of the piece is derived from the location of the premier.

The Pittsburgh Overture illustrates Penderecki’s exploratory approach to twelve-tone composition. Although the twelve-tone method is present, it is not applied with consistency throughout the piece. Similarly, the composition is not organized in traditional or symmetric structure.

Perhaps the most in-depth analysis of the piece is Katherine Ann Murdock’s 1986 doctoral dissertation, submitted at the Eastman School of Music (University of Rochester). Murdock utilized set-class analysis to examine Penderecki’s organization of pitch materials. A similarly meticulous analysis of the construction of the piece revealed the importance of the wedge shape, applied to several levels of the composition. She writes, “Though The Pittsburgh Overture makes only minimal use of the extended instrumental techniques developed during this century, it greatly expands the textural and timbral possibilities of the wind ensemble as a whole” (Murdock, 1986, p. 2).

In addition to a noticeable lack of musical conventions such as melody, meter, and harmonic progression, Penderecki utilizes a set of instruments that are slightly unusual in wind band repertoire (see list below). Ultimately, the piece is regarded as powerful and evocative, not only due to resourceful use of compositional technique, but due to the composer’s sensitive and intuitive awareness of dramatic timing, pacing, and gesture.

General Info

Year: 1967
Duration: c. 12:00
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: C. F. Peters
Cost: Score and Parts - $36.75


Full Score
4 Flutes: E-flat, C, alto, bass (doubling 2 piccolos and four C flutes)
3 Oboes: C, d’amore, bass
English horn
2 Clarinets: B-flat and bass (doubling 2 E-flat alto saxophones)
2 Contrabass clarinets: E-flat and B-flat
3 Bassoons
2 Contrabassoons
5 Horns in F
5 Trumpets
5 Trombones
6 Timpani
2 Bongos
3 Tom-toms
Bass Drum
5 Temple blocks
6 Cymbals
Metal Plate (Musical Saw)
2 Javanese Gongs
2 Gongs
3 Tam-tams


  • Murdock, K. A. (1986). "THE PITTSBURGH OVERTURE" BY KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI (AND) "FORGING THE CIRCLE". (ORIGINAL COMPOSITION). (Order No. 8614154, The University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.