Born in Cracow, Poland. After graduating from secondary school, she studied Physics at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. Since 1965 she has managed the secretariat of her husband, Krzysztof Penderecki.
In 1990 she established and became president of the first Polish private music agency "Heritage Promotion of Music and Art", and managed it until the middle of 1995.
She has assisted her husband in organizing the Pablo Casals Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Krzysztof Penderecki was the artistic director during the years 1992-2002.
Elżbieta Penderecki is on the board of several foundations, including the European Mozart Foundation, which wound up its operations in December 1998 and had its headquarters in Poland for four years. She co-organized this foundation and took an active part in its Advisory Committee and Programme Council. She greatly contributed to the establishment of the Sinfonietta Cracovia chamber orchestra, the official orchestra of the Royal City of Cracow. Being its honorary patron together with her husband, she has helped in the promotion and organization of their concerts.
In November 1997, in cooperation with the Studio Art Centre she organized a charity concert for flood victims with the participation of the Sinfonia Varsovia orchestra, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, the National Philharmonic Choir and soloists Izabela Kłosińska, Arto Noras and Ewa Pobłocka.
In 1997 she initiated a series of musical performances entitled "Concerts of the Great Masters - Elżbieta Penderecki Presents”, which presented outstanding artists such as Mstislav Rostropovich, Jessye Norman and Simon Estes. The series was continued in 1998 with recitals by Barbara Hendricks and Stanislav Bunin. In 1999, among the invited guests were Martha Argerich and Krystian Zimerman in Cracow and Olga Borodina, Maxim Vengerov, Shlomo Mintz, Heinrich Schiff and Julian Rachlin in Warsaw.
During 1996-2000 she was Chairperson of the Cracow 2000 Artistic Board - a European City of Culture 2000. In the year 2000, on the occasion of Cracow being a European City of Culture 2000, she brought to Cracow the New York Philharmonic with Kurt Masur, the Norddeutsche Rundfunk with Christoph Eschenbach, the Concentus Musicus with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the Bergen Philharmonic with Simone Young, the Wiener Akademie with Martin Haselböck, the Bundesjugend Orchester conducted by Gerd Albrecht. Together with the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben and the Deutscher Musikrat she organized a tour of the Bundesjugendorchester “Poland and Germany - Together in the Heart of Europe” under the honorary patronage of the President of Germany Johannes Rau and the President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski in Cracow, Warsaw, Poznań and Gdańsk.
In March 1997 she organized the first Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival in Cracow. During the following years, among the artists who performed at the festival were: Anne-Sophie Mutter with the Penderecki Festival Orchestra conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki, Juozas Domarkas, Thomas Sanderling, Aldo Ceccato, Leopold Hager, Christoph Eschenbach, John Neal Axelrod, Rudolf Buchbinder, Boris Pergamenschikow, Arto Noras, Barry Douglas, Yuri Bashmet, Shlomo Mintz, Boris Carmeli, Elena Zaremba, Matthias Hölle, Renate Behle, the Chor der Bamberger Symphoniker and La Stagione Frankfurt, the Deutsche Kammerorchester Berlin, the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, the Sinfonia Varsovia, the Sinfonietta Cracovia, the Tokyo String Quartet and many other outstanding artists.
In 1988 Elżbieta Penderecki became the Artistic Director of the Krzysztof Penderecki Festival. The musical events of that year were held in Cracow under the patronage of the composer.
In November 1996 Elżbieta Penderecki was awarded the Knight Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. In November 1997 she received the PRO MUSICA VIVA prize, awarded by the Maria Strecker Daelen Foundation in recognition of her outstanding achievements in Polish and international musical life. In January 1998 she became a recipient of the Business Center Club Golden Statuette award. In January 1999 she was awarded the Honorary Medal "For the Outstanding Services to the Cracow Voivodeship" from the Voivode of Cracow, Ryszard Masłowski. That year she received a medal to mark the 40 years of the Fulbright Program in Poland. On this occasion she co-organized a charity symphony concert at the Wielki Theatre in Warsaw.
Elżbieta Penderecki is on the Board of the Łańcut Castle Foundation. She was invited to cooperate with a Polish publishing house, which will prepare, together with the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a promotional campaign of Poland and Poland’s accession to the European Union. For charity work since 1995 for the Prof. Julian Aleksandrowicz Blood Disease Prevention and Treatment Foundation, which supports the Hematological Clinic of the Jagiellonian University’s Collegium Medicum, she was awarded the Prof. Julian Aleksandrowicz Medal in December 2000.
In February 2001, as part of the concert series “The Great Orchestras - Elżbieta Penderecki Presents”, together with the Wielki Theatre in Warsaw she organized the concert of the Cincinnati Symphony orchestra. In May 2001, with the recital of a young pianist from Luxembourg, Francesco Tristano Schlimé she inaugurated in Cracow the piano festival “Masters of the Piano - Great Talents”. The festival was continued in 16-19 September with appearances by Konstantin Scherbakov, Henri Sigfridsson, Filippo Gamba, Kun Woo Paik and Barry Douglas. The first edition of this festival was concluded by Alexander Gindin in November.
Elżbieta Penderecki was twice elected one of the 50 most influential women in Poland by the “Home & Market” monthly.
In May 2002 at the Crackfilm Festival in Cracow she received the “Titan of Titans” award for promotion of Poland in the world.
In June 2002, Elżbieta Penderecki was conferred the anniversary European Culture Award 2002 by the KulturForum Europa for her achievements as the “Ambassador of Poland in opening Europe to the East”.The official conferral took place on 9 September 2002.
On 28 March 2003 Elżbieta Penderecki was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit of the Republic of Austria by the President of the Republic of Austria. It was conferred on 14 April by the Austrian Consul General at a concert organized as part of the 7th Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival. At the close of the festival in April 2003, the Mayor of Cracow and the Cracow City Council awarded Elżbieta Penderecki the Golden Medal Cracow 2000 “in acknowledgement of the promotion of Cracow by organizing one of the major cultural events in Poland and the world, the Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival”.
The Ludwig van Beethoven Association was established in September 2003. She became its President. Since 2004, the Ludwig van Beethoven Festival has been organized by the Association in Warsaw.
Recent awards of Elżbieta Penderecki include the Bertelsmann Award (2006), the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Lithuania (February 2007), the Commander of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity (April 2007), Music Ambassador Award from the Pro Musica Viva Stiftung in Mainz (November 2007), Honorary Doctor of the Armenian Branch of the International Academy of Science of Nature and Society (2008), Bernardo O’Higgins Order (2008), Honorary Distinction from the Embassy of Venezuela (2008). Elżbieta Penderecki became member of the Board of Trustees of the Aram Khachaturian International Competition (2009) and Advisor of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (2009). In February 2010, she received the “Golden Thought” award for her contribution to the development of Polish science and culture.
Elzbieta Penderecki, at an annual meeting at Yale University School of Music, was awarded the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal from Yale School of Music "for distinguished service to music". The medal was conferred by the Dean of the Yale School of Music, Prof. Robert Blocker.