Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

Biography

Born: December 6, 1933; Czernica, Poland   Died: November 12, 2010; Katowice, Poland  
Henryk Górecki was that rarity among contemporary composers: the originator of a full-fledged hit. A recording of his Symphony No. 3 by the London Sinfonietta with soprano Dawn Upshaw climbed to the top of the British pop charts in the early '90s. Górecki was among the Eastern European composers for whom contemporary stylistic trends (first serialism and then the various reactions against it) took on anti-authoritarian overtones, and who thus Read more emerged in the forefront of late twentieth century music; in his works, stylistic originality seems a personal and political necessity.

Górecki was born in 1933 in the small town of Czernica in the Silesia region of Poland. He was trained as a primary-school teacher, and did not formally become a composer until the age of 22 when he enrolled at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice. He studied in Paris for a time and became acquainted with the leading edge of the Western avant-garde. The works of Webern, Stockhausen, and Messiaen were unavailable in Poland, suppressed by socialist-realist doctrines; but all of them, especially Messiaen, influenced Górecki's early music. Górecki became a professor at Katowice and went on to gain some official acceptance, ascending to the post of provost.

Górecki's music was always deeply rooted in Polish ideals, however, and it carries a sense of the emotional impact of the atrocities of the Second World War. He ran afoul of the authorities in the late '70s, resigning his post as provost to protest the government's refusal to permit Pope John Paul II to visit Katowice. He later composed music to honor an injured Solidarity labor union activist. What gave his protests additional weight was that he had rejected Western hyper-modernism and created a new musical language that more directly served his ideals. Górecki had first gained recognition with Scontri (1959), a work very much of the avant-garde in its treatment of sonority and texture as primary structural elements. In the 1960s, however, Górecki's music offered harbingers of the eclecticism that would dominate contemporary music by the century's end. Genesis shows minimalist qualities, while Three Pieces in the Old Style manipulates modal and whole tone ideas, and Lerchenmusik quotes Beethoven, to name a few examples.

Górecki became interested in the folk music of his native region and investigated Polish music of the Medieval and Renaissance eras. In 1976 he synthesized the new trends in his music with the Symphony No. 3, subtitled "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs." Scored for soprano and orchestra, this hour-long piece contains three movements, quoting old religious and folk texts and incorporating folk tunes. It opens with a canon in the strings that builds gradually over a 12-minute span, with an effect comparable to that of Western minimalist composition but proceeding from different spiritual bases. (One of the animating principles of Górecki's work was a fervent Roman Catholicism.) The work was recorded several times, but it was the 1993 release that caught fire -- partly because it fit perfectly with the new and well-marketed trend toward "holy minimalism."

Despite his growing success, Górecki continued to compose largely in response to inner creative dictates rather than according to any plan to increase his reputation. Much of his work in the 1980s and 1990s has been in the choral and chamber genres; the String Quartet No. 1, Op. 62 ("Already It Is Dusk"), was written for the Kronos Quartet, a successful U.S. ensemble devoted to new music, and further enhanced his reputation. The work used a Renaissance part-song as raw material, transforming it first into a dissonant but peaceful chorale and then into a folk-inflected dance. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 89 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Gorecki: Symphony No. 4 / Boreyko, London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 549570 Release Date: 01/22/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Conductor:  Andrey Boreyko
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $15.99
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  • 2.
    Henryk Gorecki: A Nonesuch Retrospective
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 550588 Release Date: 01/22/2016   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Christopher Van Kampen,  Michael Collins,  John Constable,  Dawn Upshaw  ... 
    Conductor:  Andrey Boreyko,  David Zinman,  John Nelson,  Lucy Ding  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Kronos Quartet,  London Sinfonietta members  ... 
    CD: $33.99
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  • 3.
    Gorecki: Symphony No 3 / Zinman, Upshaw, London Sinfonietta
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 109131 Release Date: 10/30/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Dawn Upshaw
    Conductor:  David Zinman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
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  • 4.
    Gorecki: Symphony No 3 / Zinman, Upshaw, London Sinfonietta [blu-ray]
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 109173 Release Date: 10/30/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Dawn Upshaw
    Conductor:  David Zinman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
    Blu-ray Video: $24.99
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  • 5.
    Evensong Live 2015
    Label: King's College Choir   Catalog: 11 Release Date: 06/09/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Tallis,  Robert Parsons,  Giles Swayne,  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki  ... 
    Performer:  Douglas Tang,  Daniel [Bass Vocal] d'Souza,  Tom Etheridge
    Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
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  • 6.
    Pasketid: Easter Music For Voice And Organ
    Label: Lawo Classics   Catalog: 1077 Release Date: 06/09/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Norwegian Traditional,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Hans Leo Hassler,  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki  ... 
    Performer:  Marianne Beate Kielland,  Elise Bĺtnes,  Kĺre Nordstoga
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  • 7.
    Time Present and Time Past / Mahan Esfahani
    Label: Archiv Produktion (Dg)   Catalog: 002301402 Release Date: 05/26/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alessandro Scarlatti,  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki,  Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach,  Francesco Geminiani  ... 
    Performer:  Mahan Esfahani
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto Cologne
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  • 8.
    A Celebration of Peace Through Music / Levine, Orchestra of St. Luke's
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3487 Release Date: 05/12/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Anonymous,  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki  ... 
    Conductor:  Gilbert Levine
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's,  Washington Choral Arts Society,  Cracow Philharmonic Chorus
    CD: $17.99
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  • 9.
    Choral Masterpieces
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 2564614351 Release Date: 05/12/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel,  Gregorio Allegri  ... 
    Performer:  Gerald Finley,  David Bell,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks,  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Stephen Cleobury,  Franz Welser-Möst  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Academy of Ancient Music,  Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
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  • 10.
    Beyond the Eastern Wind / Deltchev, Collegium Vocale
    Label: Danacord   Catalog: 750 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki,  Arvo Pärt,  Alfred Schnittke,  Peteris Vasks  ... 
    Performer:  Louise Boll
    Conductor:  Michael Deltchev
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Collegium Vocale
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  • 11.
    Gorecki: Symphony No 3 / Kord, Koslowska, Warsaw Philharmonic
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002141802 Release Date: 09/16/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Joanna Kozlowska
    Conductor:  Kazimierz Kord
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $14.99
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  • 12.
    Baltic Neopolis Orchestra Plays Lukaszewski & Gorecki
    Label: Dux Records   Catalog: 855 Release Date: 06/10/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Pawel Lukaszewski,  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Conductor:  Emilia Goch
    CD: $19.99
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  • 13.
    Polonium / Motion Trio
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 34361 Release Date: 06/10/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki,  Jacek Holubowski,  Witold Lutoslawski,  Krzysztof Penderecki  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Motion Trio
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  • 14.
    100 Great Symphonies
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002054602 Release Date: 06/03/2014   Number of Discs: 56
    Composer:  Giovanni Battista Sammartini,  Johann Wenzel Stamitz,  Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf,  Johann Christian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Dame Gwyneth Jones,  Hanna Schwarz,  René Kollo,  Kurt Moll  ... 
    Conductor:  Kevin Mallon,  Christopher Hogwood,  Thomas Füri,  Sir Neville Marriner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aradia Ensemble,  Academy of Ancient Music,  Camerata Bern  ... 
    CD: $245.99
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  • 15.
    Prayer
    Label: Dux Records   Catalog: 779 Release Date: 05/27/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Marian Borkowski,  Frank Martin,  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki,  Eriks Esenvalds  ... 
    Performer:  Piano] Lukasz [Organ Farcinkiewicz,  Joanna [Soprano Vocal] Lukaszewska,  Anna [Soprano Vocal] Krawczykiewicz
    Conductor:  Pawel Lukaszewski,  Jan Krutul
    CD: $19.99
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  • 16.
    Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki: From Church Songs
    Label: Dux Records   Catalog: 805 Release Date: 01/28/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Conductor:  Wlodzimierz Siedlik
    CD: $19.99
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  • 17.
    Come Dance With Me
    Label: Meridian Records   Catalog: 84621 Release Date: 01/14/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alberto Ginastera,  Joaquin Turina,  Olivier Messiaen,  Ernesto Lecuona  ... 
    Performer:  Katarzyna Musial
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  • 18.
    Antoni Wit Conducts Henryk Gorecki
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8503268 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Zofia Kilanowisz,  Andrzej Dobber,  Anna Górecka,  Carol Wincenc
    Conductor:  Antoni Wit
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    CD: $39.99
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  • 19.
    Erato - 50 CD Collection
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 46441 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Tomaso Albinoni,  Giuseppe Tartini,  Georg Philipp Telemann,  Giuseppe Torelli  ... 
    Performer:  Maurice André,  Pierre Pierlot,  Paul Hongne,  Jacques Chambon  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Jean-François Paillard,  Frigyes Sándor,  Kent Nagano  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ens.,  Paillard Chamber Orchestra,  Vienna Soloists  ... 
    On sale! $299.98
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  • 20.
    Gorecki: Works For String Orchestra
    Label: Dux Records   Catalog: 938 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Piotr Plawner,  Roman Widaszek,  Jean-Marc Fessard
    Conductor:  Wojciech Rajski
    CD: $19.99
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  • 21.
    Micolaj Gorecki, Henryk Micolaj Gorecki: Nocturne For Orchestra; Concerto For Harpsichord
    Label: Dux Records   Catalog: 924 Release Date: 05/28/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Anna Górecka,  Kaja Danczowska
    Conductor:  Miroslaw Jacek Blaszczyk
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  • 22.
    Stanislaw Moryto, Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki, Romuald Twardowski, Witold Lutoslawski, Wojciech Kilar
    Label: Dux Records   Catalog: 939 Release Date: 05/28/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki,  Romuald Twardowski,  Witold Lutoslawski,  Wojciech Kilar  ... 
    Conductor:  Leszek Sokolowski
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  • 23.
    Gorecki: Symphony no 3, Three Pieces in Old Style / Gritton, Simonov
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 1204 Release Date: 11/27/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Susan Gritton
    Conductor:  Yuri Simonov
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $9.99
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  • 24.
    Gorecki: Symphony No. 3 'symphony Of Sorrowful Songs'
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001742402 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Joanna Kozlowska
    Conductor:  Kazimierz Kord
    CD: $7.99
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  • 25.
    Gorecki: Miserere / Gershon, Los Angeles Master Chorale
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001718402 Release Date: 09/04/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Conductor:  Grant Gershon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Master Chorale
    CD: $21.99
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