Polish composer Henryk Gorecki dies at the age of 76

image captionGorecki's Symphony No. 3 became the best-selling record by a contemporary composer

Polish composer Henryk Gorecki has died at the age of 76, the country's national orchestra has announced.

He was best known for his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, which was composed in 1976 and sold more than a million copies following a 1992 re-release.

The symphony - part of which drew on an inscription scrawled on a Nazi prison wall during World War II - featured vocals from US soprano Dawn Upshaw.

It was often played on radio station Classic FM when it launched in 1992.

Gorecki had been suffering from a prolonged illness, a spokeswoman for Polish Radio's National Symphony Orchestra said.

Monumental style

Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki was born close to the industrial city of Katowice in southern Poland, where he studied music and taught at the city's music academy.

His early works were avant-garde in style, and later influenced by folk music of his native land.

By the 1970s he had developed the monumental style for which he became famous.

He was often at odds with the communist authorities in Poland and withdrew from public life in the 1980s to concentrate on composing.

His Symphony No. 3, which dealt with themes of war and separation in a slow, stark style, became the best-selling record by a contemporary composer.

Gorecki had completed his fourth symphony, the premiere of which was shelved on account of his illness.

Last month he was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest honour.