Górecki in Context: Essays on Music

Edited by Maja Trochimczyk
Published by Moonrise Press in December 2017, 420 pages, 66 illustrations.
ISBN 978-1-945938-10-8, $40.00

The classical music world went into shock when Henryk Mikolaj Górecki's Third Symphony climbed up to the top of charts as an international "hit" beloved by millions. The mystery of the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs still attracts critical attention, a year after the composer's death (1933-2010). This volume gathers interviews with and about Górecki and studies of his music by scholars from Poland, Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. The interviews, spanning the years 1962 to 2008, were conducted by Mieczyslaw Kominek, Leon Markiewicz, Maja Trochimczyk, Malgorzata and Marcin Gmys, and Krzysztof Cyran with Anna Wieczorek. Authors of scholarly studies and essays include Luke B. Howard, Kinga Kiwala, Teresa Malecka, and Maja Trochimczyk.

Henryk Mikolaj Górecki was a Polish composer, most famous for his Symphony No. 3, "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs." Born on 6 December 1933 in Silesia, Górecki started his music education with a delay that did not prevent him from becoming one of the most important composers of the 20th century, associated with the "holy minimalism" school of composers writing deceptively simple music of a great emotional impact and a profound spiritual inspiration. He studied piano and composition with Boleslaw Szabelski at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice (1955-1960). A member of the radical, avant-garde "Polish school of sonorism," after a fellowship in Paris that exposed him to the music of Olivier Messiaen, he became a professor of composition at the PWSM in Katowice. Enamoured of the mountains, he eventually settled in the village of Zab in the Tatra Mountains. Górecki died on November 12, 2010.


This volume gathers interviews and studies of the music of the Polish composer, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (1933-2010). Contributors include the composer himself – in a series of interviews spanning his entire career, from 1962 to 2008 – as well as leading Górecki scholars from Poland, the U.K., the U.S., and Australia. The collection includes a list of works, music examples, portraits, photographs, and a bibliography. The value of gathering five interviews in one place cannot be overestimated, as these encounters portray the mind of the composer and capture the changing interests that preoccupied him at various stages in his career.

The project brings together different views at the composer's oeuvre, highlighting three of the four symphonies, each honored by a separate chapter: the Second Symphony Copernican (Kinga Kiwała), the Third Symphony The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Maja Trochimczyk) and the Fourth Symphony Tansman Episodes (Andrzej Wendland). Two studies were contributed by an eminent Polish scholar and Górecki's long-time personal friend, Prof. Teresa Malecka of Kraków, including an extensive review of the composer's links to Polish musical traditions, and an overview of his piano music. The studies are rounded up by an introductory overview of Górecki's life and career and a case study of his visit to Los Angeles in 1997, when he conducted his Third Symphony for the first time outside of Poland, and made a huge impact on the musical life of California.

As one of the organizers of the 1997 Górecki Autumn Residency at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and the composer's personal translator and guide, I had an unusually close contact with the reclusive composer and was able to present his views in two interviews and several articles, with a focus on the Third Symphony.

I hope that this volume will serve to stimulate further research into the life and music of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki whose oeuvre goes well beyond the world-famous maverick of a piece, his Third Symphony, beloved and misinterpreted in equal measure.

Maja Trochimczyk

Gorecki "sekunduje" (plays the second fiddle) in goralska kapela for the 50th anniversary of the Tatra Eagle in New Jersey, September 1997. L to R: Prof. Thaddeus Gromada, Andrzej Bachleda, H. M. Gorecki, Jane Kedron. Used by Permission of Thaddeus Gromada.


Maja Trochimczyk – Introduction

Luke B. Howard – Why Love Górecki?

Maja Trochimczyk – Mountains of Grief (Poem)

PART I Górecki on Life and Music

Chapter 1 — Page 3. Conversation with Henryk Górecki: Leon Markiewicz, July 1962 — Translated by Anna Maslowiec

Chapter 2 — Page 12. “I Am Always Myself" – Says Henryk Mikołaj Górecki in Conversation with Mieczysław Kominek (December 1993) — translated by Maja Trochimczyk

Chapter 3 — Page 22. About Life and Music: A Conversation with Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (Zakopane, 16 July 1997) — Maja Trochimczyk

Chapter 4 — Page 45. “Composing is a Terribly Personal Matter:" A Conversation with Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (April 1998) —Maja Trochimczyk

Chapter 5 — Page 66. “There's More to Life than the Arranging of Sounds" – Henryk Mikołaj Górecki in Conversation with Małgorzata and Marcin Gmys

Chapter 6 — Page 80. “Music? A Visitor from Another World," (15 October 2008), Henryk Mikołaj Górecki in Conversation with Małgorzata and Marcin Gmys

Chapter 7 — Page 87. “Music is a Conversation." Henryk Mikołaj Górecki Talks to Anna Wieczorek and Krzysztof Cyran (29 April 2008) —edited by Małgorzata Janicka-Słysz

Jane Kedron, Andrzej Bachleda and Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki, in conversation with Maja Trochimczyk, October 1997, Los Angeles. Photo by Henry Kedron.

PART II On Górecki's Life and Music

Chapter 8 — Page 101. Górecki's Life and Music: A Bird's Eye View — Maja Trochimczyk

Chapter 9. Henryk Mikołaj Górecki's Symphony No. 2 Copernican: Word and Sound and the Sublime — Kinga Kiwala — Translated by Maja Trochimczyk

Chapter 10. Mothers and Motherhood in Górecki's Third Symphony and Other Works — Maja Trochimczyk

Chapter 11. Górecki and the Polish Musical Tradition. Wacław of Szamotuły, Chopin, Szymanowski, Polish Folk and Church Music — Teresa Malecka  

Chapter 12. Górecki at the Keyboard: The Piano in his Compositional Output — Teresa Malecka

⦾ Chapter 13. Górecki in Los Angeles, 1997 — Maja Trochimczyk

Chapter 14. The Phenomenon and Mystery of Górecki's Fourth Symphony – Tansman Episodes" — Andrzej Wendland (translated by Maja Trochimczyk)

Henryk Mikołaj Górecki - List of Works (by Maja Trochimczyk)

Bibliography (By Maja TRochimczyk)

Notes about Contributors


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