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 107 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    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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  • 2.
    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  ... 
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  • 3.
    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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  • 4.
    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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  • 5.
    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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  • 6.
    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  ... 
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  • 7.
    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
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  • 8.
    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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  • 9.
    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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  • 10.
    Gorecki: Symphony No. 3; Aruty: Trumpet Concerto
    Label: Audiophile Classics   Catalog: 7702053 Release Date: 05/03/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki,  Alexander Arutiunian
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  • 11.
    EMI Eminence - The Original Jacket Collection [50-CD Set]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 393872 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Richard Strauss,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  William Byrd  ... 
    Performer:  David Nolan,  Jonathan Small,  George Malcolm,  William Bennett  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Anton Rickenbacher,  Vernon Handley,  George Guest,  George Malcolm  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,  Cambridge St. John's College Choir  ... 
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  • 12.
    Essential Choral
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 234422 Release Date: 01/22/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  George Frideric Handel,  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Heather Harper,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Robert Tear,  Peter Barley  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Sir David Willcocks,  Wolfgang Sawallisch  ... 
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  • 13.
    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
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  • 14.
    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
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  • 15.
    Sacred Treasures
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 2646 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Marc-Antoine Charpentier,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Claudio Monteverdi,  George Frideric Handel  ... 
    Performer:  David Thomas,  Emma Kirkby,  Rogers Covey-Crump,  Gérard Lesne  ... 
    Conductor:  William Christie,  Andrew Parrott,  Philip Ledger,  Paul McCreesh  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Arts Florissants,  Taverner Players,  Taverner Consort  ... 
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  • 16.
    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
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  • 17.
    Elementia / Eric Banks, The Esoterics
    Label: Terpsichore Records   Catalog: 301 Release Date: 08/28/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  David Asplin,  Donald M. Skirvin,  Ildebrando Pizzetti,  Lajos Bárdos  ... 
    Performer:  Skylar Carroll,  Tom Hitt,  Cathy Federici,  Pam Anderson  ... 
    Conductor:  Eric Banks
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Esoterics
    CD: $29.99
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  • 18.
    Gorecki: Totus Tuus / Brewer, National Youth Choir Of Great Britain
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34054 Release Date: 06/12/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Conductor:  Mike Brewer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Youth Choir of Great Britain
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  • 19.
    All Shall Be Well / David Ogden, Exultate Singers
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572760 Release Date: 05/29/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Roxanna Panufnik,  Gustav Holst,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  Richard May,  Rebecca Quiney,  Oliver Condy
    Conductor:  David Ogden
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Exultate Singers
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  • 20.
    Gorecki: Concerto-Cantata, Little Requiem For A Certain Polka  / Wit, Warsaw Philharmonic
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572872 Release Date: 05/29/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
    Performer:  Anna Górecka,  Carol Wincenc
    Conductor:  Antoni Wit
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 21.
    Great Classical Masterpieces: Bestselling Recordings 1987-2012
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8578217 Release Date: 05/29/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hildegard of Bingen,  Johannes Brahms,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Carl Orff  ... 
    Performer:  Jénö Jandó,  Norbert Kraft,  Klára Körmendi,  Takako Nishizaki  ... 
    Conductor:  Jeremy Summerly,  István Bogár,  György Lehel,  Stephen Gunzenhauser  ... 
    CD: $5.99
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  • 22.
    Christmas / Voces8
    Label: Signum U.k.   Catalog: 291 Release Date: 04/24/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  Hieronymus Praetorius,  Francis Poulenc,  William James Kirkpatrick  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voces8
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  • 23.
    Choir Music From Poland & Belgium
    Label: Phaedra   Catalog: 92072 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Józef Elsner,  César Franck,  Jules Van Nuffel,  Vic Nees  ... 
    Performer:  Andrzej Bialko,  Andrzej Zawisza
    Conductor:  Herman Engels
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  • 24.
    Magnificat - 500 Years Of Choral Masterworks [50-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001664502 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Gregorio Allegri,  Antonio Lotti,  Orlando de Lassus,  Josquin Des Préz  ... 
    Performer:  Patrick Russill,  Marinella Pennicchi,  Michael Chance,  Mark Tucker  ... 
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers,  Paul McCreesh,  Stephen Cleobury,  Edward Wickham  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players  ... 
    CD: $179.99
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  • 25.
    Contrasts / Vocaal Ensemble Cantatrix
    Label: Aliud Aliud   Catalog: 34 Release Date: 11/29/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki,  Jaakko Mäntyjärvy,  Coen Vermeeren,  Morten Lauridsen  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vocaal Ensemble Cantatrix
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