Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

1933 - 2010



Górecki's early works were influenced by Messiaen, with whom he studied briefly in Paris in the early 1960s. The Communist regime's stark disapproval of his music resulted in him using folk music as a basis for works such as Three Pieces in Old Style (1963). His growing interested in Christianity became evident in his Second Symphony (1972), which sets a text by Copernicus in praise of God. Górecki has composed few works since 1980; however, global success came in the late 1980s with his Symphony No 3 'A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs', written fifteen years earlier.
Critical Acclaim
Górecki invests  words with a simple dignity that is deeply affecting. The music as a whole is suffused with a sort of abstract folk feeling, like a religious experience that achieves its intensity through the simplicity of its musical means. - Martin Anderson, classic.net

Górecki... managed to speak to a worldwide audience, many of whom do, indeed, feel both starved of the spiritual and impatient with the rigours of the avant garde. In using modernist ideas as just one building block in the forging of his own idiom, Górecki demonstrated that it was possible for a late 20th-century composer to write music of individuality and substance while simultaneously achieving unusual success. - Keith Potter, The Guardian


Henryk Mikolaj Górecki's career spans more than 40 years, dating from the post-Stalinist era of the mid 1950s and embracing a catalogue of more than 70 acknowledged works. It was not, however, until the phenomenal success of his third symphony, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs Op 36, which brought the composer world-wide renown through its numerous performances and recordings, that his music reached an extended audience outside his native Poland. Since then the directness and emotional impact of his music have established him as one of the major figures of contemporary music. Apart from two brief periods of study in Paris in the early 1960s and a stay in Berlin in 1973 severely curtailed by serious illness, Górecki has remained rooted in southern Poland where his deep awareness of Polish folk culture and religious heritage have formed the standing stones of his musical language. Whether abstract in reference (large-scale canvasses, granitic textures) or specific (modal hymnody, folk songs and texts), Górecki has increasingly allowed the simplicity of these building blocks to stand on their own terms. From time to time he has also made reference to other composers with whom he feels a special affinity such as the powerfully expressive quotation from Beethoven in Lerchenmusik Op 53. The diversity of this highly individual musical personality can be traced in his work, ranging from the rugged and combative Genesis Op 19 and the long slow lament of the Third Symphony to the modal melodies of Three Pieces in the Old Style, and the fast flamboyant movements of the Harpsichord Concerto.