In this Musical Moment, VocalEssence artistic director and founder Philip Brunelle shares insider information and beautiful music by the composer Henryk Górecki.
Henryk Górecki was a Polish composer whose somber Symphony No. 3 enjoyed extraordinary international popularity in the late 20th century. Górecki studied at the Music Academy of Katowice, Poland. The works of Anton Webern, Olivier Messiaen, and Karlheinz Stockhausen informed Górecki’s often atonal and violent early compositions. A change in his compositional style came in 1963 when, challenged to write simple tunes, he created Three Pieces in Old Style for orchestra. Folk songs, medieval music, and references to his Roman Catholic faith characterized his subsequent work, which frequently was based on tragic themes and cast in very slow tempi. Górecki was elected provost of his alma mater, the Music Academy in Katowice, in 1975, but he resigned in protest four years later when the government refused to let Pope John Paul II visit the city. He then traveled to Kraków to conduct his choral work Beatus Vir for the pope and composed new pieces for subsequent papal visits to Poland. Górecki’s Miserere, also a choral composition, was written in 1981 to honor a Solidarity (Polish labor union) leader beaten by the militia; however, because of turbulent political circumstances, it was not until 1987 that the piece was performed. In the decade straddling the turn of the 21st century, Górecki composed or revised roughly 15 works, consisting mainly of vocal compositions and pieces for small ensemble. Górecki’s final work—The Song of Rodziny Katynskie, Opus 81, for unaccompanied chorus—was completed in 2004 and premiered by the Polish Radio Choir in Kraków in 2005.
Suggested Choral Works: