Polish Music Journal
Vol. 6, No. 2, Winter 2003. ISSN 1521 - 6039





HENRYK MIKOŁAJ GÓRECKI

ABSTRACTS OF ARTICLES
PMJ, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Winter 2003)

HowardKopplin MaslowiecThomasTrochimczyk


Luke B. Howard: "Laying the Foundation:" The Reception of Górecki's Third Symphony, 1977-1992

When a new recording of Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3, the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs," achieved unprecedented popularity during 1993, many journalists and critics hailed it as a "surprising" hit by an "obscure" composer. The myth of Górecki's obscurity helped perpetuate the work's phenomenal success.

This paper outlines a reception history of the Third Symphony from its premiere in 1977 to the release of the now-popular recording on the Nonesuch label in 1992. By documenting early performances and recordings, and assessing the impact they had on audiences, it shows that Górecki's popularity was already assured even before the new recording was released. This new recording was not so much the cause of the composer's celebrity as it was part of an emerging interest in Górecki's music that was already firmly in place in 1992, an interest fueled by increasing familiarity with the Third Symphony through concerts, recordings, film and television, and radio broadcasts, as well as other works by Górecki, including the string quartets, Lerchenmusik, and the larger choral pieces. [Luke Howard]

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David Kopplin: "The Concept of Time in Górecki's String Quartets"

The music of composer Henryk Górecki is enigmatic. Indeed, from his extreme modernist early works to the widely-popular Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Górecki's music never fails to illicit strong responses from listeners and critics alike. Using Górecki 's two string quartets as examples for analysis, this presentation focuses on a single, essential element in his music: namely, his manipulation of the experience of time. [David Kopplin]

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Anna Maslowiec: "The Utmost Economy of Musical Material:" Structural Elements in Górecki's Works from Refrain (1965) to Ad Matrem (1971)

The following analysis examines five major works written between 1965 and 1971: Refrain (1965) and Canticum graduum (1969) for orchestra, Old Polish Music (1967-69), Muzyczka II (1967) for large ensemble, and Ad matrem (1971) for soprano, mixed choir and orchestra. These five works retain many traces of Górecki's interest in serial technique and clusters during the late fifties and early sixties. Yet they introduce important new features such as rhythmic and harmonic palindromes, harmonic mirrors, whole-tone scales and the use of dynamics to shape form, all of which became integral to much of his later work after Ad matrem. Refrain is examined in greatest detail for two reasons: firstly, as the most "schematic" of these pieces, it is the logical starting point for demonstrating the individual structural elements; secondly it clearly illustrates the process of building form with these elements. Refrain is the first work in which these compositional ideas are extensively worked out, and thus the first mature example of these new techniques. Although the pieces following Refrain originate from different ideas, they nonetheless, to a greater or lesser degree, share similar structural elements such as textural contrast, dynamics, palindromes and sections divided by general pauses. However, the relationship between these elements becomes flexible rather than fixed. Coming after a long interest in instrumental pieces, Ad matrem is the first work to return to the more expressive combination of voic e and text as well as anticipating a return to major-minor scales. Ad matrem concludes the period in which Górecki was preoccupied with an avant-garde interpretation of "the utmost economy of musical material" and points to the new, modally orientated direction he was to pursue in subsequent works. [Anna Maslowiec]

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Adrian Thomas: "Intense Joy and Profound Rhythm:" An Introduction to the Music of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki

This paper, richly illustrated with musical examples and personal anecdotes, introduces the most significant elements in Górecki's music. Among the most enduring aspects characterizing his oeuvre since the beginning are (1) melodic influences from chant and folksong, with examples from Miserere, Litte Requiem, and Symphony No. 3; (2) the iconographic importance of citations from other sources, including a 16th-century prayer-song, "Already it is dusk," in String Quartet No. 1, the "Beethovenian Chords" in String Quartet No. 2; and various citations of folk melodies and motives, found in Górecki's favorite folkore collection by Oskar Kolberg; and (3) the ingrained passion for dynamic, textural and temporal extremes, permeating all of Górecki's music. [Maja Trochimczyk]

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Maja Trochimczyk: "Mater Dolorosa and Maternal Love in Górecki's Music"

This article is a revised version of a paper published in Musical Quarterly in 1998, as "Górecki and the Paradigm of the 'Maternal'" (under the author's previous name, Maria Anna Harley). The paper examines sacred and secular aspects of Górecki's imagery of motherhood which juxtaposes poignant representations of maternal sorrow, captured in the symbolic icon of the suffering Mother of Christ present at his Crucifixion, "Mater dolorosa," with subtle representations of spiritual maternal power, as in the glorious O Domina nostra. Górecki's portrayals of motherhood have nothing in common with the national myth of the heroic Polish Mother, "Matka-Polka." His maternal imagery is distant from the conventional myth of a good mother who finds perfect fulfillment in her child and unnafected. Instead, he draws upon certain topoi from the Catholic tradition (Mary as victorious Queen and Mater dolorosa from the Stabat Mater sequence) and alludes to basic emotive behavioral patterns as his contexts and inspirations. The human mother is tearful (Symphony no. 3, Ad matrem) and full of sadness (Three Songs, Symphony no. 3). The heavenly mother is an all-powerful Queen (Symphony no. 3, O Domina nostra, Totus Tuus), but also a sorrowful mother (Ad matrem, Symphony no. 3). References to the absence of the natural mother and to the eternal source of maternal grace are often juxtaposed (Ad matrem, Symphony no. 3). The repeated rhythmic patterns draw simultaneously from cultural modes of expression of grief (slow walking, crying, lamenting), comfort (lullaby, repeated vocal phrases and gestures), and religious belief (invocations and prayers, responsorial patterns). [Maja Trochimczyk]

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Copyright 2003 by the Polish Music Journal.
Editors: Maja Trochimczyk and Linda Schubert.
Design: Maja Trochimczyk & Marcin Depinski.
Editorial Assistance: Krysta Close.
Comments and inquiries by e-mail: polmusic@email.usc.edu