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R.I.P. Henryk Górecki
November 12, 2010 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Composer Henryk Górecki, known for his choral and orchestral works in the "sacred minimalist" style, has died. He was best known for his Symphony #3, "Sorrowful Songs," (YT sample) premiered in the U.S. in 1994. Górecki's Symphony #4, scheduled to premier in 2010, was postponed because of the composer's extended illness, will not be completed.
posted by aught (65 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by everichon at 7:18 AM on November 12, 2010


Oh, this is sad. I love his music. I can vividly remember the first time I heard it, sitting in a friend's living room.
posted by Forktine at 7:20 AM on November 12, 2010


How sad. His music has moved me tremendously.
posted by elmono at 7:23 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by timshel at 7:24 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by Joe Beese at 7:25 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by Erroneous at 7:26 AM on November 12, 2010


#3 was heartbreakingly beautiful. But I tried listening to some of his other stuff and just didn't get it - too avant-garde for my uneducated ear, I guess.
posted by richyoung at 7:26 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by the_bone at 7:28 AM on November 12, 2010


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Although I like "Amen" better: http://www.amazon.com/Ikos-Gorecki-Tavener-interleaved-Plainchant/dp/B000002RU6
posted by LMGM at 7:32 AM on November 12, 2010


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This makes me a lot more sad than I would have expected. His "Totus Tuus" has been in my head more than usual recently; I think I'll put it on again when I get home this evening. RIP, sir.
posted by dorque at 7:33 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by Ahab at 7:34 AM on November 12, 2010


But I tried listening to some of his other stuff and just didn't get it - too avant-garde for my uneducated ear, I guess.

Yes, before his turn to minimalism in the 70's Górecki's work was much more modernist and experimental. The string quartets recorded by Kronos are kind of in the middle ground between the two styles (which I personally like the best).
posted by aught at 7:35 AM on November 12, 2010


One of my favorite holy minimalists.

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posted by box at 7:37 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:39 AM on November 12, 2010


It seems to be pretty hard to find the beginning of Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, which I believe is the most alone, the most solitary piece of music that can be heard. It is the only section of any piece that I've heard that can convey the sense of surviving a desolation. Gorecki cuts to the heart of why minimalism exists.
posted by curuinor at 7:40 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, man.

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posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 7:41 AM on November 12, 2010


Oh, no!

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I love his work -- listening and performing. I was just getting into my first college musicology classes at the time I became more familiar with his work, so when I had to do a paper on a 20th century composer I picked him right away. I ended up learning a lot about Poland and modern works inspired by Catholicism, including the greater genre of sacred minimalism. From there, he was the gateway to works by Part, Tavener, and (kind of in the opposite direction!) Penderecki.

So when I became more serious about my choral singing and encountered each of these composers, I could probably track it back to listening to that Symphony #3. I was so thankful that I had more to think about when I sang these works.

(And a huge thanks goes to Dawn Upshaw, the reason I listened to it in the first place, for great recordings and fearless promotion of living composers.)

Richyoung, have you heard Totus Tuus?
posted by Madamina at 7:41 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Very sad, indeed.

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posted by sinusoidal.tendencies at 7:42 AM on November 12, 2010


I thank Lamb for introducing me to Henryk Górecki.

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posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:44 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 7:58 AM on November 12, 2010


I love Górecki.

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posted by shakespeherian at 8:05 AM on November 12, 2010


Symphony #3 one the few pieces of music that I have a distinct memory of hearing for the first time. I was at my brother's house when he was in college; I was still in high school. Not an easy time for either of us. The room was dully lit by a gray sky and he was sketching while I laid on the couch. As we listened to the first movement I found myself unable to move a single muscle in my body. It was a singular experience for which I thank them both.

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posted by JohnFredra at 8:15 AM on November 12, 2010


He has moved me tremendously over the years. Quite sad.

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posted by georg_cantor at 8:16 AM on November 12, 2010



posted by Smart Dalek at 8:16 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by jeffj at 8:21 AM on November 12, 2010


A loss for us all, such wonderful music.

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posted by LooseFilter at 8:22 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by monkey closet at 8:23 AM on November 12, 2010


A few more links that have emerged as the day wears on:

There was more to Górecki than the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs

BBC Obit (which mentions the 4th Symph had in fact been completed, just not yet premiered, which is a consolation I suppose)

Gorecki had received the Polish White Eagle award in October

2007 Interview

Orchestra of St Luke's performance on NPR.com that includes Gorecki's Three Pieces in the Old Style (and some Mozart)
posted by aught at 8:31 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I too remember the first time I heard Gorecki - foolishly reaching for a notebook and pen while driving to work one morning many years ago, to write down what it was when the announcer finally identified that gorgeous, haunting stuff.
posted by zoinks at 8:32 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by aldurtregi at 8:44 AM on November 12, 2010


Damn. I'm sure I will not be the only me-fi to dig out a CD of Górecki tonight. #3 definitely helped me get through some hard times in my youth. Simply put - wonderfully intoxicatingly powerful music.

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posted by numberstation at 8:56 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by orrnyereg at 9:10 AM on November 12, 2010


Symphony #3 is one of the more treasured pieces in my music library. I remember how hard I had to work to find a copy when it was first released. I also remember how I played it for a lover one night, and he told me it was the most banal, boring piece of music he'd ever heard. I don't see much of him anymore.

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posted by hippybear at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by Zophi at 9:14 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by steambadger at 9:30 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by myopicman at 9:31 AM on November 12, 2010


Oh no no. What a sad day.

I remember the first time I heard Gorecki, which was, like it is for many, a recording of the 3rd symphony (the Dawn Upshaw recording). I was so moved and it left such a deep impression on me that his musical vocabulary infected my own in ways that I still can't quite shake. I was a young composer at the time and had been working on a piece for string orchestra. I was having an impossible time getting started on the piece and nothing seemed to be flowing. Then late one night at the piano I got a brilliant, beautiful idea and wrote furiously over several days. I wrote several minutes of the music, so happy with how profound I thought the music was, before I stepped back and thought 'wait a second...' And I realized I had basically just transcribed the third movement of the Gorecki 3.

Rest in beautiful, ethereal peace Henryk. Thank you for leaving us so much of yourself before you left.

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posted by Lutoslawski at 9:44 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wnuk-Nazarowa said she and another Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki, had visited Gorecki in the hospital on Wednesday.

"Penderecki insisted on seeing him," Wnuk-Nazarowa said. "We tried to joke, make plans for the future. Penderecki promised he would direct (Gorecki's) 'Beatus vir' for the 80th birthday" that both would celebrate in 2013.


This breaks my heart!
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:45 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by drowsy at 9:46 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by naju at 9:50 AM on November 12, 2010


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In some interview around the middle of the last century, Xenakis was asked where he saw the influence of his style. He pointed to the Polish avant-garde, Gorecki and Penderecki, and said that he felt they were developing the kinds of sounds he innovated, but suggested that they might do well to study math. Kind of ironic that their work divulged from that path to this monumental sonorous attenuated music.

I agree with aught in appreciation of the String Quartets (which post-date Symphony no.3). Also his Piano Sonata (first movement, YT).

It's difficult to find his pre-Symphony no.2 works (catalog of works). I'll have to search my CDs this weekend and see what I find.

hippybear we've not met, right? I've gotten over that opinion in the past few years, though.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 9:55 AM on November 12, 2010


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Sampled (YT)
posted by dowcrag at 9:55 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:02 AM on November 12, 2010


Oh, this is sad news...

I love Górecki. But more than anything, I'll be forever grateful for the lifeline his music was for a very dear friend of mine when he was struggling with severe depression and PTSD years ago. To have this river of beauty and sadness run through the desert our lives can turn into, it's such a precious gift, it changes lives, heals...

What a loss for us all.
posted by sively at 10:04 AM on November 12, 2010


Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra, Op. 40 (1981)

Elżbieta Chojnacka, harpsichord.
posted by elmono at 10:21 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by butterteeth at 10:28 AM on November 12, 2010


When I am sad there are a couple of composers I turn to in order to renew my faith that there is beauty in existence. Górecki and Arvo Pärt are two of them.

I think I'm going to cry for a man I don't even know, but whose work has touched me so deeply.

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posted by winna at 10:59 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by Anything at 11:00 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by snuffleupagus at 11:06 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:22 AM on November 12, 2010




dziękuję bardzo



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posted by tzelig at 11:24 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 11:32 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by WalkingAround at 11:42 AM on November 12, 2010


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posted by turbodog at 12:04 PM on November 12, 2010


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posted by mingo_clambake at 12:09 PM on November 12, 2010


My first introduction to Gorecki was Symphony #3. Time literally stopped when I heard the second movement, Lento e largo—Tranquillissimo. It was such a wonderful aesthetic moment rarely found in contemporary art music. Another personal favorite piece is the Miserere. Unfortunately, this is only a 4 minute clip but the whole work is fantastic.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 12:10 PM on November 12, 2010


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posted by Halloween Jack at 1:17 PM on November 12, 2010


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posted by fremen at 1:50 PM on November 12, 2010


I can remember seeing a documentary on Symphony #3 some years ago on TV. Gorecki said he was partly inspired by the words found scrawled on a Gestapo prison. Those words have haunted me ever since - "Oh Mama do not cry." Whenever I think of what circumstances must have lead a child to write those words, my heart breaks. Gorecki captures that heartache so wonderfully and movingly. I like to think a small part of that child's and mother's immense suffering was not entirely in vain because of Gorecki.

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posted by vac2003 at 2:47 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Symphony #3 is really miraculous and utterly profound. I heard it the first time at work-- I had the radio on all day, back when CBC 2 was worth listening to in the daylight hours (don't get me started)-- and the music just reached out to me and drew me in, leaving me sitting awestruck beside the radio, everything else forgotten, and (and I swear to god this is the truth) when the voice finally arose from those shifting clouds of strings, I actually saw in my mind a vision of a woman standing in a grey barracks becoming suddenly illuminated with light.

I remember being on a mailing list (remember those?) during the mid 90s and a comment there that I kept for years, from a guy who had the late shift at his college radio station. I can't quote it perfectly, but it went something like this: As soon as the vocal part entered in the first movement, it was grand slam time on the phone lines. People were levitated over to their phones to find out the name of this music; all different kinds of people, from every walk of life imaginable.

Gorecki came to Vancouver to conduct the Third Symphony at one point, and I attended a seminar at which he spoke. It was a small meeting room, and his presence absolutely filled it.

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posted by jokeefe at 2:49 PM on November 12, 2010


This is sad news. I loved so much of his later work, especially his Three Pieces in the Old Style.
posted by sophie at 5:01 PM on November 12, 2010


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posted by rmannion at 7:32 PM on November 12, 2010


I can remember seeing a documentary on Symphony #3 some years ago on TV. Gorecki said he was partly inspired by the words found scrawled on a Gestapo prison.

I remember that documentary, it was profoundly moving. Do you remember what exactly it was called? Anyone who loves the 3rd should see it.
posted by homunculus at 9:55 PM on November 12, 2010


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thank you
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:33 AM on November 13, 2010


Do you remember what exactly it was called?

This may not be it, but that content was in a very moving South Bank Show in about '93
posted by monkey closet at 1:52 AM on November 15, 2010


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