Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
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1933-12-06
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Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

Henryk Mikolaj Górecki Biography (BBC)

Often mistaken for a one-work composer on account of his Third Symphony, Henryk Górecki, born in 1933 near Rybnik, Silesia, was a Polish creative artist who, from the atomised musical language of the 1960s avant-garde, fashioned a remarkable individual style - grave, penitential, mystical - guided by the twin stars of national spirit and the Catholic Church.

Directly or obliquely, Poland's troubled history is reflected in much of his output. As a gifted young modernist composer, he became prominent through the Warsaw Autumn Festival, founded in 1956 as an audacious assertion of his country's artistic independence in the years of Soviet domination.

But while his early works such as Epitafium, the First Symphony and Scontri scandalised audiences and established his progressive credentials in the European citadels of new music, he was also sensitive to deeper currents from his country's history. Long before it became fashionable to recall the past through quotations of earlier music, heritage elements of Tatra folk song and medieval liturgical chant became part of his language through their overwhelming symbolic power.

First revealed in the nostalgic anachronisms of the Three Pieces in the Old Style of 1963 and in the Old Polish Music of 1969, this new manner achieved a simple yet bold monumentality in the 'Copernican' Second Symphony of 1972, more intimate expression in the Third Symphony of 1976, and a historic apotheosis in Beatus vir, performed in Krakow before Pope John Paul II on his first Polish pilgrimage in 1979.

Górecki responded to the political violence of the early 1980s with an unaccompanied Miserere; boycotted by the authorities, it was premiered in 1987, a year that also saw a renewal of interest in his Third Symphony against the backdrop of a decaying Soviet empire. Recovering from serious illness in 1985, he re-engaged with the currents of contemporary music in Recitatives and Ariosos (Lerchenmusik) for clarinet, cello and piano, but otherwise concentrated on the composition of choral music, including Totus tuus, written in 1987 for the third Papal visit to Poland.

Górecki's rise to celebrity status in the late 1980s scarcely shifted his stylistic co-ordinates, though he extended their scope in a variety of chamber works, including Already it is Dusk (1988) for the Kronos Quartet, the memorial Good Night (1990) and the enigmatic Little Requiem for a Polka (1993), both for ensemble. Faith and its expression in vocal and choral music steeped in the Polish tradition nevertheless remained at the heart of his later music, which is dominated by the substantial cantata Salve, sidus Polonorum (2000; heard at the Proms in 2001). In 2002 Górecki arranged his second string quartet Quasi una fantasia for string orchestra, and his long-awaited Third String Quartet was premiered by the Kronos in October 2005. His Symphony No. 4 was due to be premièred in London in 2010, by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, but the event was cancelled due to the composer's ill health. He died in November of that year.

Profile © Nicholas Williams, 2005

Henryk Mikolaj Górecki Biography (Wikipedia)

Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (English pronunciation Go-RET-ski; December 6, 1933 – November 12, 2010) was a Polish composer of contemporary classical music. According to Alex Ross, no recent classical composer has had as much commercial success as Górecki. Górecki became a leading figure of the Polish avant-garde during the post-Stalin cultural thaw. His Webernian-influenced serialist works of the 1950s and 1960s were characterized by adherence to dissonant modernism and drew influence from Luigi Nono, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki and Kazimierz Serocki. He continued in this direction throughout the 1960s, but by the mid-1970s had changed to a less complex sacred minimalist sound, exemplified by the transitional Symphony No. 2 and the hugely popular Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs). This later style developed through several other distinct phases, from such works as his 1979 Beatus Vir, to the 1981 choral hymn Miserere, the 1993 Kleines Requiem für eine Polka and his requiem Good Night.

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Henryk Mikolaj Górecki Audio & Video


Henryk Mikolaj Górecki Performances

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Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Oh, Our River Narew (Broad Waters)
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Oh, Our River Narew (Broad Waters)
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Wislo moja, Wislo Szara (My Vistula, Grey Vistula) Op.46
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Wislo moja, Wislo Szara (My Vistula, Grey Vistula) Op.46
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
II. Lento e largo - Tranquillissimo (Symphony No.3 'Sorrowful Songs')
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II. Lento e largo - Tranquillissimo (Symphony No.3 'Sorrowful Songs')
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
O Domina Nostra (Op.55) (1982-85)
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O Domina Nostra (Op.55) (1982-85)

O Domina Nostra (Op.55) (1982-85)

Performer
Peter Thomas
Ensemble
La Gioia
Singer
Diane Verdoodt
Ilse Schelfhout
Kristien Vercammen
Bernadette De Wilde
Lieve Mertens
Els Van Attenhoven
Lieve Vanden Berghe
Ludwig van Gijsegem
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Totus Tuus
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Totus Tuus
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Miserere, Opus 44
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Miserere, Opus 44
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Harpsichord Concerto, Op.40
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Harpsichord Concerto, Op.40
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Gorecki Totus Tuus
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Gorecki Totus Tuus
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Symphony no. 3 Op.36 (Symphony of sorrowful songs) for soprano and orchestra
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Symphony no. 3 Op.36 (Symphony of sorrowful songs) for soprano and orchestra
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Amen for chorus
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Amen for chorus
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Euntes ibant et flebant Op.32 for chorus
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Euntes ibant et flebant Op.32 for chorus
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Totus tuus sum, Maria
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Totus tuus sum, Maria
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Symphony No 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), 2nd movement
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Symphony No 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), 2nd movement
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Symphony no. 2 (Copernican)
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Symphony no. 2 (Copernican)
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
String quartet no.1 (Already it is dusk) Op.62
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String quartet no.1 (Already it is dusk) Op.62
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Old Polish music [Muzyka staropolska] Op.24
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Old Polish music [Muzyka staropolska] Op.24
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Concerto for harpsichord and string orchestra
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Concerto for harpsichord and string orchestra
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Church Songs
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Church Songs
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Spiegel Im Spiegel
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Spiegel Im Spiegel
Playlists featuring Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
BBC Orchestras and Choirs
BBC Orchestras and Choirs

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