USC Monogram Polish Music Center Books

POLISH COMPOSERS


HENRYK MIKOŁAJ GÓRECKI

by James Harley and Maja Trochimczyk


© Photo by Gerry Hurkmans, Amsterdam 1997


(b. 1933, Czernica near Rybnik)

Introduction Honors and Awards Principal Publishers Short List of Works
List of Opus Numbers Selected Discography
Gorecki Autumn at USC
Bibliography Discography and List of Works (Frames)


INTRODUCTION: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY

"I was born in Silesia. . . Old, ancient Polish land. But three cultures have always coexisted there: Polish, Czech, German. . . Why do I like Czech music? Where does my knowledge and liking of German and Austrian music come from? Why do I worship Mozart, Schumann, Schubert, Brahms, Beethoven, Bach? [. . . ] Why am I enamored with Szymanowski and Chopin? Why did I grow up with them? Because at the beginning of my musical education, when I had no idea about music--nothing!--these names were always near me: Beethoven, Chopin, Szymanowski. . . Does one need to consider it in a special way, does one need to think much about this? I do not think so. . . Nobody chooses their time and place of birth."

Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (Zakopane, Poland, 18 July 1997)

Born on 6 December 1933, Górecki studied composition with Boleslaw Szabelski at the State Higher School of Music (PWSM) in Katowice (1955-1960). After a post-graduate sojourn in Paris, he became a professor of composition at the PWSM in Katowice, and-- in 1975-1979--its Rector. As a composer, he has been known and respected in Poland, but not well-known around the world. The phenomenal success of his Symphony no. 3 (Gramophone's"Best-selling CD in 1993") has astounded many of his contemporaries, especially in Poland, where the work had been known for more than a decade. In his home country Górecki's Third was perceived as one of a series of fascinating compositions, the result of a long and complex creative evolution.

Górecki has worked with great determination to develop his own compositional voice, through assimilating the techniques of his predecessors (Bartók, Szymanowski) and those active around him (Boulez, Xenakis, Nono), and then paring away all elements extraneous to his personal expression. These processes were carried out through the 1950s and 1960s, beginning with the Four Preludes for piano from 1955, his first numbered opus, and reaching full maturity with Old Polish Music from 1969. This is the most radical and dissonant period in his output: in the 1960s, Górecki belonged to the small group of the most avant-garde composers of his time. Together with Penderecki, Serocki, and others he established a pattern for new music: the more dissonance the better, the harsher the sounds, the better. This style of writing, associated with the so-called "Polish school of the 1960s" is alternatively known as "sound mass composition" or "sonoristic composition" - a name taken from "sonorous" or "sounding." In order to reduce music to pure sound, these composers stripped away all elements, except tone color. This path to the essentials is encapsulated by Górecki's Genesis cycle (1962-1963) and the aggressive Scontri for large symphony orchestra (1960)-- a work filled with clashes of vertical and horizontal sound patterns, often organized serially.

During the 1970s, beginning with Ad Matrem (1971) and continuing through to Symphony No. 3 and Beatus Vir (1979), Górecki worked to achieve a direct link between the emotional and spiritual content of texts, both sacred and traditional, and his musical architecture. He sought inspiration in early Polish music: a 13th-century conductus, a 16th-century polyphonic song... . The focus on vocal music throughout this period led quite naturally to an emphasis on melody, with a resulting simplification of the harmonic and textural elements. This gradual progress away from dissonance towards consonance, away from aggressive, dramatic, intense music, towards a more mellow style can be witnessed on the pages of Symphony No. 2, Copernican (1972).


Gorecki in his Katowice studio.
April 1998. Photo by Maja Trochimczyk.

The 1980s saw an expansion of Górecki's compositional resources to encompass radical contrasts in tempo, dynamics, density and harmonic dissonance. These elements cooperated to create a unified, highly concentrated musical expression, manifested in a remarkable series of chamber works, from the trio Lerchenmusik (1984) to Little Requiem for a Polka [Kleines Requiem fur eine Polka] for an ensemble of fourteen instruments (1993). These compositions resound with echoes of Chopin, Beethoven, and Szymanowski. They also draw inspiration from colours and rhythms of folk music: the strong accents, harsh timbres, and relentless ostinati of mountain dances from the Tatras and Podhale region, the melancholy clarinet tunes of Silesia, the impetousness of the Czech--or Silesian--polka. There is so much to admire!.

Symphony No. 3 comes just about the halfway point in Górecki's output to date. For many people, his achievement as a composer is fixed there. It should be known, however, that he has moved on, far beyond, while at the same time carrying forward the musical, emotional and spiritual concerns with which he has been preoccupied from the beginning. For, as the composer states, "music is one of the domains that people really need, and its importance only depends on whether one knows how to receive it."


Gorecki Autumn Poster, 1997, USC, Los Angeles.


GÓRECKI IN HIS OWN WORDS

"Composing is a terribly personal matter: the overcoming of difficulties, gaining knowledge, deciding upon a certain order, a certain method of constructing a new piece. This is important. You have to chose your way, you have to pick a proper path from an infinite number of possibilities. What do I do? In the past I invented and worked out detailed frameworks for my pieces. I had everything prepared and described before the work was composed. This started from the First Symphony; also in Scontri, Monologhi, Elementi I introduced different ways of structuring the pieces. Later I just knew - I had a technique and then other ideas came in ... Let me put it this way: you scholars would want to know too much. Of course it is important to know how a piece is constructed and how it was made. But later this mechanism, this architecture ceases to be all important; the composer thinks about the forms that the music should be "poured into." [...] Music begins with sound. It is always based on some musical association, a musical theme or a structure. Now it is fashionable to say that there are no themes, but they continue to exist. At times I even treated a 12-tone series as a theme. When composing I always begin with introducing some order. I have many things prepared much, much earlier than I begin to compose a piece. In this way I have researched and analyzed the possibilities provided by my materials. However, many pieces that I had worked on have never been finished. I only ordered the materials". [Górecki, unpublished interview with Trochimczyk, 1998]

"I think that music is one of the domains that people really need, and its importance only depends on whether one knows how to receive it. Every person needs to be prepared to know how to "use" music. Not only music -- also literature, painting, sculpture, and film [. . .] Tarkowski said that art is prayer. It is something that I also emphasize. But it is difficult to understand: one has to mature to this thought. It seems to many people that prayer means to "recite the Hail Mary"-- but someone may recite "Hail Mary" as many times as one wants and it will not be prayer. Olivier Messiaen said during a meeting in Katowice that he is a man of prayer. But what does he do? He writes his notes down, he listens to his birds. And this is supposed to be prayer?" [Górecki, interview with Maja Trochimczyk, 1997]


Gorecki with Maja Trochimczyk;
Katowice, April 1998. Photo by Mrs. Górecka


HONORS AND AWARDS:

1960 - First Prize at the Young Composers's Competition of the Polish
Composers' Union for Monologi I
1961 - First Prize at the Youth Biennale in Paris for Symphony no. 1 "1959"
1965 - Award of Third Degree from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts

1968 - First Prize at the Szczecin Composers' Competition for Kantata for organ
1969 - Award of First Degree from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts
1970 - Annual Award from the Polish Composers' Union
1973 - First Prize at the UNESCO International Composers Rostrum in Paris for

Ad Matrem
1973 - Award of First Degree from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts
1976 - State Award of the First Degree
1992 - Award of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1994 - Honorary Doctorate from the University of Warsaw


PRINCIPAL PUBLISHERS

PWM Edition (PWM)
Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne
al. Krasinskiego 11a
31-111 Krakow, Poland
Tel/Fax: 48--12--22-01-74

PWM Edition represents Gorecki in Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the CIS. The publisher distributing his music to rest of the world is Boosey & Hawkes, Ltd. (B&H):

Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.
295 Regent Street
London W1R 8JH
Tel: 44 (171) 580 2060
Hire Fax: 44 (171) 580 5815

From North America (USA, Canada, Mexico) contact the New York office of Boosey & Hawkes.

Copyright and Promotion Office:
35 East 21st Street
New York NY 10010-6212
Tel: 212--358-5300
Fax: 212--358-5301
E-mail: bhpromo@ny.boosey.com

Sales and Marketing Information:
Tel: 212--358-5339
Fax: 212--358-5303
E-mail: bhsales@ny.boosey.com

Rental Library:
Tel: 212--358-5379
Fax: 212--358-5307

Serious Music Promotion:
Fax: 212--358-5306

Some recent works (e.g. O Domina Nostra) have been published by Chester Music (Chester):

J. & W. Chester/Edition Wilhelm Hansen London Ltd.
Eagle Court, London EC1M 5QD

In North America Chester Music is represented by :

G. Schirmer Music Corp.
P.O. Box 572
4445 Bellvale Road,
Chester, NY 10918
Phone: 914-469-2271
Fax: 914 469-7544



LIST OF WORKS

Vocal - Instrumental Music

Three Songs/Trzy piesni for medium voice and piano Op. 3 (1956); ca 4';
text by Juliusz Slowacki and Julian Tuwim: To Mother/Do Matki;
Ode to Liberty/Oda do wolnosci; A Bird/Ptak

Epitafium for mixed choir and instrumental ensemble Op. 12 (1958);
text byJulian Tuwim; 5' (B&H)

Monologhi per soprano e tre gruppi di strumenti Op. 16 (1960);
text by composer; ca 17' (B&H)

Genesis III: Monodramma per soprano, metalli di percussion (13) e sei violbassi Op. 19
No. 3 (1963); 10' (B&H)

Ad Matrem / Do Matki for soprano solo, mixed choir and orchestra
Op. 29 (1971); text by composer; 10-11' (B&H)

Two Sacred Songs / Dwie piesni sakralne for baritone solo and orchestra
Op. 30 (1971); text by Marek Skwarnicki; 5'

Two Sacred Songs / Dwie piesni sakralne for baritone and piano
Op. 30bis (1971); text by Marek Skwarnicki; 5'

Symphony No. 2 'Copernican' / II Symfonia "Kopernikowska" for soprano,
baritone, mixed choir and large orchestra Op. 31 (1972); texts in Latin include Psalms no. 145, 6, 135 (verse 7-9), and an excerpt from Book I of "De revolutionibus orbium caelestium" by Nicolaus Copernicus, ca 37'

Symphony No. 3 'Symphony of Sorrowful Songs' / III Symfonia "Symfonia piesni zalosnych"
for soprano solo and large orchestra Op. 36 (1976); texts include: 15th c. lamentation
of the Holy Cross Monastery (I movement), a young prisoner's inscription on the wall of her cell in Zakopane's Gestapo prison (II movement), folk song from the Opole region; 54-55'

Beatus Vir psalm for baritone solo, mixed choir and large orchestra
Op. 38 (1979); Latin texts include Psalms no. 142, 30, 37, 66, 33; 33-35'

O Domina Nostra Meditations on Our Lady of Jasna Gora / Medytacje o Jasnogorskiej Pani
Naszej for soprano and organ (1985); ca 35'

Good Night / Dobranoc for soprano, alto flute, piano and 3 tam-tams
Op. 63 (1990); ca. 30'


Orchestral Music

Songs of Joy and Rhythm [Piesni o radosci i rytmie] for 2 pianos
and chamber orchestra, Op. 7 (1956, rev. 1959); ca. 14' (PWM)

Symphony No. 1 "1959" for string orchestra and percussion,
op. 14 (1959); ca. 20' (PWM)

Scontri for orchestra, Op. 17 (1960); 17'30" (PWM)

Three Pieces in an Old Style [Trzy utwory w dawnym stylu] for string
orchestra (1963); ca. 10' (PWM)

Choros I per strumenti ad arco Op. 20 (1964); 18' (PWM)

Refrain [Refren] for orchestra Op. 21 (1965); ca. 16-17' (PWM)

Old Polish Music [Muzyka staropolska] for orchestra Op. 24 (1969);
ca. 23' (PWM)

Canticuum graduum for orchestra Op. 27 (1969); ca. 12' (PWM)

Three Dances [Trzy tance] for orchestra Op. 34 (1973); 12' (PWM)

Concerto for harpsichord (piano) and string orchestra Op. 40 (1980)

Concerto-Cantata for flute and orchestra Op. 65 (1992); 22' (B&H)


Chamber Music

Variazioni per violino e pianoforte Op. 4 (1956); ca 10'

Quartettino for 2 flutes, oboe and violin Op. 5 (1956); ca 8'

Sonatina in One Movement / Sonatina w jednej czesci for violino and piano
Op. 8 (1956); ca 2'30"

Sonata per due violini / Sonata na dwoje skrzypiec Op. 10 (1957); ca.6'30"

Concerto for five instruments and string quartet Op. 11 (1957); 10'17"

Five Pieces / Piec utworow for two pianos Op. 13 (1959); 7'30"

Genesis I: Elementi per tre archi Op. 19 No. 1 (1962) 12'42"

Genesis II: Canti strumentali per 15 esecutori Op. 19 No. 2 (1962); 8'04"

La Musiquette 2me / Muzyczka II for 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 pianos
and percussion (5 performers) Op. 23 (1967); ca 7'30"

La Musiquette 3me / Muzyczka III for violas Op. 25 (1967); may be played by any
multiple of the minimum no. of 3 violas; ca. 14'

La Musiquette 4me 'Trombone Concerto' / Muzyczka IV "Koncert puzonowy"
for trombone, clarinet, cello and piano Op. 28 (1970) ca 9'

Three Little Pieces / Trzy male utworki for violin and piano Op. 37 (1977)

Recitatives and Ariosos 'Lerchenmusik' for clarinet, cello, and piano Op. 53 (1984); ca 45'

For You, Anne-Lill / Dla Ciebie, Anne-Lill for flute and piano Op. 58 (1986- 90)

Aria opera scene for tuba, piano, tam-tam and bass drum Op. 59 (1987)

Already It Is Dusk Music for String Quartet (String Quartet No. 1) /
Juz sie zmierzcha Muzyka na kwartet smyczkowy (I Kwartet Smyczkowy)
Op. 62 (1988); 16'

Quasi una Fantasia String Quartet No. 2 / II Kwartet Smyczkowy Op. 64 (1992)

Kleines Requiem fur eine Polka for piano and 13 instruments Op. 66 (1993); 25' (B&H)

Kleine Phantasie for violin and piano op. 73 (1997)


Choral Music

Euntes ibant et flebant for unaccompanied mixed choir Op. 32 (1972);
Latin texts from Psalms no. 125, 6, 94; 9'

Two Songs / Dwie piosenki for choir of 4 equal voices Op/ 33 (1972);
text by Julian Tuwim [The Four Seasons / Rok i bieda and The Birds' Gossip /
Ptasie plotki ]; ca 4'30"

Amen for unaccompanied mixed choir Op/ 34 (1975); ca 8'

Broad Waters / Szeroka woda , five folk songs for unaccompanied mixed
choir Op. 39 (1979)

Miserere for large unaccompanied mixed chori Op. 44 (1981); 35'

My Vistula, Grey Vistula / Wislo moja, Wislo szara folk song for
unaccompanied mixed choir Op. 46 (1981)

Three Cradle Songs / Kolysanki for unaccompanied mixed choir Op. 49 (1984)

Totus Tuus for unaccompanied mixed choir Op. 60 (1987)


Music for Solo Instruments

PIANO

4 Preludes for piano Op. 1 (1955); 8'
Sonata No. 1 for piano Op. 6 (1956 -1990)

ORGAN

Cantata for organ Op. 26 (1968); ca 13'

FLUTE SOLO

3 Diagrams / Trzy diagramy for flute solo Op. 15 (1959); ca 6'
Diagram No. 4 for flute solo Op/ 18 (1961)


LIST OF OPUS NUMBERS

op. 1 Four Preludes (1955) piano solo
op. 2 Toccata (1955) two pianos
op. 3 Three Songs (1956) medium voice and piano
op. 4 Variations (1956) violin and piano
op. 5 Quartettino (1956) two flutes, oboe, violin
op. 6 Sonata No. 1 (1956/84/90) piano solo
op. 7 Songs of Joy and Rhythm (1956) two pianos and chamber orchestra
op. 8 Sonatina in One Movement (1956) violin and piano
op. 9 Five Little Preludes (19560 piano solo
op. 10 Sonata (1957) two violins
op. 11 Concerto (1957) five instruments and string quartet
op. 12 Epitafium (1958) mixed choir and instruments
op. 13 Five Pieces (1959) two pianos
op. 14 Symphony No. 1, "1959" (1959) orchestra
op. 15 Three Diagrams (1959) solo flute
op. 16 Monologhi (1960) soprano, 2 harps, percussion
op. 17 Scontri (1960) orchestra
op. 18 Diagram IV
op. 19 Genesis
Trzy Utwory w Dawnym Stylu (1963)
op. 20 Choros I (1964) string orchestra
op. 21 Refren (1965) orchestra
op. 22 Muzyczka I (1967) two trumpets and guitar
op. 23 Muzyczka II (1967) 4 tpts, 4 tbns, 2 pfs, percussion
op. 24 Muzyka Staropolska (Old Polish Music) (1969) orchestra
op. 25 Muzyczka III (1967) violas
op. 26 Cantata (1968) organ
op. 27 Cantinticum Graduum (1969) orchestra
op. 28 Muzyczka IV (1970) clar, trom, vc, pf
op. 29 Ad Matrem (1971) sop, choir, orch
op. 30 Two Sacred Songs (1971) baritone, orch
op. 31 Symphony No. 2, "Copernican" (1972)
op. 32 Euntes Ibant et Flebant (1972) choir
op. 33 Two Little Songs of Tuwim (1972) choir
op. 34 Three Dances (1973) orch
op. 35 Amen, (1975) choir
op. 36 Symphony No. 3, "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (1976)
op. 37 Three Little Pieces (1977) violin, pf
op. 38 Beatus Vir (1979) baritone, choir, orch
op. 39 Szeroka Woda (1979) mixed choir
op. 40 Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra (1980)
op. 41 Mazurkas (1980) piano (unavailable)
op. 42 Two Songs of Lorca (1956/80) med. voice, pf (unavailable)
op. 43 Blessed Raspberry Songs (1980) voice, pf (unavailable)
op. 44 Miserere (1981) choir
op. 45 Dark Evening is Falling (1981) folksongs for choir(unavailable)
op. 46 Wis o Moja, Wis o Szara (1981) mixed choir
op. 47 Lullabies and Dances (1982) violin, pf (unavailable)
op. 48 Two Songs of Slowacki (1983) voice, pf (unavailable)
op. 49 Three Lullabies (1984, rev. 1991) mixed choir
op. 50 O my little garland of lavender (1984) folksongs; choir (unavailable)
op. 51 Cloud comes, rain falls (1984) folksongs for choir(unavailable)
op. 52 Sundry Pieces (1956-90) piano (unavailable)
op. 53 Lerchenmusik (1984) clar, vc, pf
op. 54 Five Marian Songs (1985) choir (unavailable)
op. 55 O Domina Nostra (1985) soprano, organ
op. 56 Under Your Protection (1985) choir (unavailable)
op. 57 Angelus Domini (1985) choir (unavailable)
op. 58 For You, Anne-Lill (1986-90) flute, pf
op. 59 Aria (1987) tuba, pf, tam-tam, bass-drum
op. 60 Totus Tuus (1987) choir
op. 61 Come Holy Spirit (1988) choir (unavailable)
op. 62 Already It Is Dusk (String Quartet, No. 1) (1988)
op. 63 Good Night (1990) soprano, alto flute, pf, tam-tam
Intermezzo (1990) piano
op. 64 Quasi una Fantasia (String Quartet No. 2) (1990-91)
op. 65 Concerto-Cantata (1992) flute, orch
op. 66 Kleines Requiem fur eine Polka (1993) ensemble
op. 67 String Quartet No. 3 (1993--), unfinished
op. 68 Three Songs of Konopnicka (1954/95) voice and piano
op. 69 New song cycle (1996) voice and piano]
op. 70 Valentine Piece (1996) flute solo and little bell
op. 71 Piece for clarinet and string quartet (1996)
op. 72 Sanctus Adalbertus (1997)
op. 73 Kleine Phantasie for violin and piano (1997)



SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY

Argo 436 835-2

Nikita Storojev - bass, Prague Philharmonic Choir, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra,
John Nelson - conductor.
Beatus Vir, op. 38 (1979)
Totus Tuus, op. 60 (1987)
Muzyka Staropolska (Old Polish Music), op. 24 (1966?)

Conifer Classics CDCF 246:

Concerto for piano and orchestra
Three Pieces in Old Style

ECM 1495 437956-2 (1993)

Sarah Leonard (soprano), Christopher Bowers-Broadbent (organ).
O Domina Nostra, op. 55 (1985)

Elektra Nonesuch 9 79257-2 (1991);

Kronos Quartet, London Sinfonietta Soloists
Already It Is Dusk (String Quartet No. 1), op. 62 (1988)
Lerchenmusik: Recitatives and Ariosos, op. 53 (1984)

Elektra Nonesuch 79282 (1992);

Dawn Upshaw - soprano, London Sinfonietta, David Zinman - conductor.
Symphony No. 3, "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs," op. 36 (1976)

Elektra Nonesuch 79319 (1992)

Kronos Quartet
Already It Is Dusk (String Quartet No.1), op. 62 (1988)
Quasi una Fantasia (String Quartet No.2), op. 64 (1992)

Elektra Nonesuch 2 79348 (1994)

Chicago Symphony Chorus, Chicago Lyric Opera Chorus, John Nelson - conductor,
Lira Chamber Chorus, Lucy Ding - conductor.
Miserere, op. 44 (1981)
Amen, op. 35 (1975)
Euntes Ibant et Flebant, op. 32 (1972)
Wislo Moja, Wislo Szara, op. 46 (1981)
Szeroka Woda, op. 39 (1979)

Elektra Nonesuch 7559-79362-2 (1995)

Elzbieta Chojnacka - harpsichord, Dawn Upshaw - soprano, London Sinfonietta,
David Zinman, Markus Stenz - conductors.
Kleines Requiem fur eine Polka, op. 66 (1993)
Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra, op. 40 (1980)
Good Night, op. 63 (1990)

EMI 5 55096 2 (1994)

Choir of King's College, Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury - conductor.
Totus Tuus, op. 60 (1987)
Amen, op. 35 (1975)

Philips 442 533-2 (1995)

Schonberg Ensemble, Reinbert de Leeuw - director.
Kleines Requiem fur eine Polka, op. 66 (1993)
Lerchenmusik, op. 53 (1984)

Polskie Nagrania PNCD 233 (1993)

Jerzy Artysz - baritone, Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir,
Jerzy Katlewicz - conductor, Jan Politowski - choirmaster,
Polish Chamber Orchestra, Jerzy Maksymiuk - conductor,
Stefania Wojtowicz - soprano, Warsaw National Philharmonic Choir and
Symphony Orchestra, Andrzej Markowski - conductor.
Beatus Vir, op. 38 (1979)
Trzy Utwory w Dawnym Stylu (Three Pieces in Old Style) (1963)
Ad Matrem, op. 29 (1971)

Schwann 3-1041-2 (1989)

Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra, Roland Bader - conductor.
Symphony No.1, "1959," op. 14 (1959)
Choros I, op. 20 (1964)
Trzy Utwory w Dawnym Stylu (Three Pieces in Old Style) (1963)

Schwann CD 11615 (1986);

with Stefania Woytowicz - soprano, Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin,
Wlodzimierz Kamirski - conductor, Warsaw Chamber Orchestra,
Karol Teutsch - conductor.
Symphony No. 3, "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs," op. 36 (1976)
Trzy Utwory w Dawnym Stylu (Three Pieces in Old Style) (1963)


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Copyright 1999-2001 by the Polish Music Center
Introduction by Maja Trochimczyk and James Harley
Discography by James Harley
Lists of works, awards, etc. by Maja Trochimczyk

Send your comments and inquiries to:polmusic@usc.edu
Page updated on 26 June 2001.