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To Silesia with Górecki

Classical Academy | Composers20th Century PeriodAround the World


Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland where the late composer Henryk Górecki was born and where he developed a love of the native folk music. "It is a Polish land", described Górecki, "but there were always three cultures present: Polish, Czech, and German. The folk art, all the art, had no boundaries. Polish culture is a wonderful mixture. When you look at the history of Poland, it is precisely the multiculturalism, the presence of the so-called minorities that made Poland what it was. The cultural wealth, the diversity mixed and created a new entity."


True to the cultural heritage of Silesia, Górecki's music covers a variety of styles within a simple harmonic and rhythmic framework. The founder of what is known as the New Polish School, he began composing in an avant-garde style before moving towards the current of minimalism in the 1970s. His most popular piece, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, launched his name onto the international stage. A slow and contemplative piece for orchestra and solo soprano, the piece draws of 15th century lamenting melodies and texts from Silesian folk song that describes the pain of a mother searching for a son killed in the Silesian uprisings. Indeed, the symphony speaks of motherhood and separation through war. 


Although this symphony was particularly well received, Górecki chose not to compose again in the same style, working not to further his career, but responding purely to the creative impulses he felt within him. A month before his death in November 2010 he was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest honor. In a moment of tranquility, press play on this wonderful recording of Górecki's beautifully eclectic music, including the poignant Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.