Gorecki, Henryk (Mikoaj)

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Gorecki, Henryk (Mikoaj)

Gorecki, Henryk (Mikoaj), celebrated Polish composer; b. Czernica, Dec. 6, 1933. He received training at the Secondary Music School in Rybnik (1952-55), and then was a composition student of Szabelski at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice (1955-60). While a student there, he was honored with an allGorecki concert on Feb. 27, 1958, which included premieres of five of his works. In 1960 his Monologhi for Soprano and 3 Instrumental Groups won first prize in the Polish Composers’ Union competition. His Scontri for Orch. created a great stir at its premiere at the Warsaw Autumn Festival on Sept. 21, 1960. In 1961 he was active in Paris, where his 1st Sym. won first prize in the 2nd Youth Biennale. He also met Boulez there and Stockhausen in Cologne. Until 1963 Gorecki followed a confirmed modernist course as a composer. With his 3 Pieces in Old Style for String Orch. (Warsaw, April 30, 1964), he instituted a “white note” modal idiom, inspired by medieval Polish music, which was to become prominent in all of his later vocal scores. His Do Matki (Ad Matrem) for Soprano, Chorus, and Orch. (Warsaw, Sept. 24, 1972) consolidated this modal idiom for the ensuing decade; the work won 1st prize at the Rostrum of Composers in Paris in 1973. In 1973-74 Gorecki was in Berlin under the auspices of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst. In the meantime, he joined the faculty of his alma mater in Katowice in 1965, where he was made a lecturer in 1968, assoc. prof, in 1972, and rector in 1975. In 1977 he was awarded the title of prof, by the Polish government. He composed what would later become his most famous score, the 3rd Sym., Symphony of Lamentation Songs for Soprano and Orch. (Royan, April 4, 1977). The three movements of the work (1, a Lamentation of the Holy Cross Monastery of the 15th century; 2, the prayer of 18-year-old Helena Wanda Blazusiakowna inscribed on her Gestapo cell wall in Zakopane during World War II; 3, a folk song of the Opole region) made a profound impression upon auditors in the waning years of an unlamented century marked by man’s inhumanity to man. For Pope John Paul II’s first visit as Pope to his Polish homeland in 1979, Gorecki composed his Beatus vir for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch., which was premiered in the presence of the Pope in Krakow on June 9th of that year. Later that year, Gorecki was compelled to resign his post as rector of the Katowice Cons, in the face of pressure from the Communist government. In the wake of the Communist regime’s attempts to destroy the Solidarity movement, Gorecki was moved to compose his Miserere for Chorus in 1981, a work finally premiered in Wocawek on Sept. 10, 1987. With the end of Communist rule in 1989, Gorecki was free to pursue his career unfettered as one of Poland’s foremost composers in a style notable both for its uniqueness and for its highly refined spirituality. In 1994 he received an honorary doctorate from the Univ. of Warsaw.


ORCH Works: Orch.: Piesni o radosci i rytmie (Songs of Joy and Rhythm) for 2 Pianos and Chamber Orch. (1956; Katowice, Feb. 27, 1958; rev. 1959-60; London, July 8, 1990); 3 syms.: No. 1, 1959, for Strings and Percussion (Warsaw, Sept. 14, 1959), No. 2, Kopernikowska (Copernican), for Soprano, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1972; Warsaw, June 22, 1973), and No. 3, Symfonia piesni zalosnych (Symphony of Lamentation Songs), for Soprano and Orch. (1976; Royan, April 4, 1977); Scontri (Collisions; Warsaw, Sept. 21, 1960); Trzy utwory w dawnym stylu (Three Pieces in Old Style) for Strings (1963; Warsaw, April 30, 1964); Choros I for Strings (Warsaw, Sept. 22, 1964); Refren (Refrain; Geneva, Oct. 27, 1965); Muzyka staropolska (Old Polish Music) for Brass and Strings (1967-69; Warsaw, Sept. 24, 1969); Canticum graduum (Diisseldorf, Dec. 11, 1969); 3 Dances (Rybnik, Nov. 24, 1973); Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings (Katowice, March 2, 1980; also for Piano and Strings, Poznari, April 22, 1990); Concerto-Cantata for Flute and Orch. (1991-92; Amsterdam, Nov. 28, 1992). CHAMBER: Variations for Violin and Piano (1956; Katowice, Feb. 27, 1958); Quartettino for 2 Flutes, Oboe, and Violin (1956; Katowice, Feb. 27, 1958); Sonatina in 1 Movement for Violin and Piano (1956); Sonata for 2 Violins (1957; Katowice, Feb. 27, 1958); Concerto for 5 Instruments and String Quartet (1957; Katowice, Feb. 27, 1958); 3 Diagrams for Flute (1959; Warsaw, Sept. 21, 1961); Diagram IV for Flute (1961); Chorale in the Form of a Canon for String Quartet (Warsaw, Feb. 7, 1961); Genesis I: Elementi for String Trio (Krakow, May 29, 1962) and 71: Canti strumentali for 15 Players (Warsaw, Sept. 16, 1962); Muzyczka I for 2 Trumpets and Guitar (1967), II for 4 Trumpets, 4 Trombones, 2 Pianos, and Percussion (Warsaw, Sept. 23, 1967), III for Violas (Katowice, Oct. 20, 1967), and IV for Trombone, Clarinet, Cello, and Piano (Vienna, April 15, 1970); 3 Little Pieces for Violin and Piano (1977; Katowice, Jan. 5, 1978); Kolysanki I tance (Lullabies and Dances) for Violin and Piano (1982); Recitativa i ariosa: “Lerchenmusik” for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano (Lerchenborg, July 28, 1984; rev. version, Warsaw, Sept. 25, 1985; 2nd rev. version, Poznan, April 12, 1986); Dla Ciebie, Anne-Lill (For You, Anne-Lill) for Flute and Piano (1986; rev. version, Lerchenborg, Aug. 4, 1990); Aria (scena operowa) [Aria (operatic scene)] for Tuba, Piano, Tam-tam, and Bass Drum (Salzburg, May 28, 1987); 2 string quartets: No. 1, Juz sie zmierzcha (Already it is Dusk; 1988; Minneapolis, Jan. 21, 1989) and No. 2, Quasi una fantasia (1990-91; Cleveland, Oct. 27, 1991); Male Requiem dla pewnej Polki (Little Requiem for a Polka) for Piano and 13 Instruments (Amsterdam, June 12, 1993); Piece for String Quartet (1993; N.Y., Jan. 20, 1994); Valentine Piece for Flute and Small Bell (N.Y., Feb. 14, 1996). KEYBOARD : Piano : 4 Preludes (1955; Katowice, Jan. 30, 1970); Toccata for 2 Pianos (1955; Katowice, Feb. 27, 1958); Sonata (1956; rev. version, Lerchenborg, July 28, 1984; 2nd rev. version, 1990; Helsinki, March 17, 1991); Z ptasiego gniazda (From the Bird’s Nest; 1956); Kolysanka (Lullaby; 1956-80); Utwory rozne (Sundry Pieces; 1956-61; 1990); 5 Pieces for 2 Pianos (1959); Mazurkas (1980); Intermezzo (Lerchenborg, Aug. 3, 1990). Organ : Kantata (1968; Kamieri Pomorski, July 18, 1969). VOCAL: 3 Songs for Medium Voice and Piano (1956); 2 Songs for Medium Voice and Piano, after Garcia Lorca (1956-80); Epitafium for Chorus and Instrumental Ensemble (Warsaw, Oct. 3, 1958); Monologhi for Soprano and 3 Instrumental Groups (1960; Berlin, April 26, 1968); Genesis III, monodrama for Soprano, Metal Percussion, and 6 Double Basses (1963); Do Matki (Ad Matrem) for Soprano, Chorus, and Orch. (1971; Warsaw, Sept. 24, 1972); 2 Sacred Songs for Baritone and Orch. (1971; Poznan, April 6, 1976; also for Baritone and Piano); Euntes ibant etflebant (They Who Go Forth and Weep) for Chorus (1972-73; Wroclaw, Aug. 31, 1975); 2 Little Songs for Chorus of 4 Equal Voices (1972); Amen for Chorus (Poznan, April 5, 1975); Beatus vir for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Krakow, June 9, 1979); Szeroka woda (Broad Waters) for Chorus (1979; Poznari, April 28, 1987); Blogostawione piesni malinowe (Blessed Raspberry Songs) for Voice and Piano (1980); Miserere for Chorus (1981-87; Wocawek, Sept. 10, 1987); Wieczor ciemny sie uniza (Dark Evening is Falling), 5 folk songs for Chorus (1981); Wiso moja, Wiso szara (My Vistula, Grey Vistula), folk song for Chorus (1981; Poznan, April 28, 1987); O Domina Nostra: Medytacje o Jasnogorskiej Pani Naszej (O Domina Nostra: Meditations on Our Lady of Jasna Gora) for Soprano and Organ (1982-85; Poznan, March 31, 1985; rev. version, London, July 7, 1990); Songs for Voice and Piano, after J. Slowacki (1983; Zakopane, Sept. 14, 1985); Trzy kolysanki (3 Lullabies) for Chorus (1984; rev. version, Lerchenborg, Aug. 2, 1991); Ach, moj wianku lewandowy (O, My Garland of Lavender), 7 folk songs for Chorus (1984); Idzie chmura, pada deszcz (Cloud Comes, Rain Falls), 5 folk songs for Chorus (1984); Piesni Maryjne (Marian Songs) for Chorus (Warsaw, June 3, 1985); Pod Twoja obrone (Under Your Protection), Marian song for Chorus (1985); Na Aniot Panski bija dzwony (The Bells Ring Out for the Angelus Domini) for Chorus (1986); Piesni koscielne (Church Songs) for Chorus (1986; Warsaw, April 1987); Totus Tuus for Chorus (Warsaw, July 19, 1987); Przybadz Duchu Swiety (Come Holy Spirit) for Chorus (1988; Warsaw, Oct. 11, 1993); Dobmnoc (Good Night) for Soprano, Alto Flute, 3 Tam-tams, and Piano (1988-90; London, May 6, 1990); Trzy fragment- do slow Stanistawa Wyspianskiego (3 Fragments to Words by Stanislaw Wyspianski) for Voice and Piano (Zakopane, Feb. 23, 1996).


A. Thomas, G. (Oxford, 1997; Polish tr., Krakow, 1998).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire