by Adrian Thomas [1]


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]


First of all, may I say what an honor it is to be here at USC as part of this unique celebration, organized by the Polish Music Reference Center and the School of Music.[2] The PMRC ranks as the most important resource for Polish music anywhere outside Poland, and its activities, symbolised by this festival, are of international significance. And, speaking personally, my previous contact in 1983-84 with USC and the earliest days of the PMRC idea dreamed up by Stefan and Wanda Wilk was formative in developing my own interests in Polish music.

I have been asked tonight to give an introduction to the music of Górecki, a composer whose music is utterly distinctive and unmistakeable. I have also been asked to do this in some 55 minutes or so. Now, those of you who know his music know that that this is the same time-frame as that of his most famous work, the Third Symphony. Fortunately, and almost uniquely, we shall hear the Symphony conducted by the composer tomorrow night. Without doubt it will speak infinitely more eloquently than I can here about the nature of artistic experience as it relates to Górecki.[3] But I hope my words will reflect some of the fascinating aspects of his musical personality. Perhaps the most striking feature of Górecki’s creative impulse is its sense of total dedication. Every note has its own weight and value, nothing is insignificant. The Third Symphony is but one manifestation of this sense of commitment, and our discussion in Sunday’s symposium will, I am sure, produce a range of intriguing viewpoints illustrating its many levels of expressive and historical resonances. But this dedication has been there since his earliest works.

Think of Górecki’s relationship with his native country. Is his Polishness simply a matter of melodic inflections, harmonic sequences, instrumental timbres, or of his expressed identification with his Polish cultural heritage? I think not. Important as they are, there is something else, an almost intangible “sense of place,” as poets would say. And this is something which is impossible to capture fully in words. But a trial example would be to compare the CD recordings of the String Quartets by the Kronos and Silesian Quartets, both exemplary exponents. My ears tell me that the Silesian has an instinctive empathy with the guttural, earthy qualities of Górecki’s music which non-native players cannot be expected to have. Górecki’s music digs deep into the instruments—whichever he is employing (including voices)—he wants the performers to go “that extra mile.” There is a passion which links him with Szymanowski and Chopin. There is a sense of utter concentration, even on what may seem to be the most everyday of musical ideas. There is a sense of a composer embracing his entire world, not refining himself out of existence. Equally, Górecki is not a parochial composer. It may have taken him some time to become widely known outside Poland, but that is partly his decision not to promote his music. He’d much rather, I suspect, that we find his music almost by accident. Do you remember the first time you heard one of his pieces? I’m sure you do.

Well, this is obviously going to be a partisan talk about Górecki, and not a comprehensive chronology of his life and works from obscure student to world figure. But, as part of my inevitably selective discourse, I would like to relate to you three instances which have pinpointed for me the outstanding nature of Górecki’s contribution to the music of our time.

The first of these was almost 30 years ago, in 1969. One of my fellow students was Jim Samson, now internationally known as a scholar of Szymanowski and Chopin. He played me the very first LP of Górecki’s music—it was more recently re-released on CD, correctly although surprisingly labelled “The Essential Górecki” (it must have been a shock to those who thought it would be as harmlessly palatable as “The Essential Vivaldi”). On it were works like Epitafium (1958), Scontri (1960) and Refrain (1965). Scontri was a real shock to the system —a composer let loose on a vast orchestra with a palette knife in one hand and a Japanese brush in the other. Explosive, violent, tender, teasing—it was his first work on graduating from the Music Academy in Katowice. I felt that there was nothing like it when I heard it, let alone when it was composed. It was arguably the highpoint of experimentalism in Polish music at that time, antedating Lutosławski’s Jeux vénitiens and Penderecki’s Threnody.[4]

Example 1: Scontri (opening, p. 11).© Copyright 1961 by PWM Edition, Kraków, Poland. Used by permission in all the countries listed below, except the United States. Transferred 1998 to Chester Music Limited. U.S. Renewal Right assigned to Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. © 1998 by Chester Music Limited for the World except United States, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, Croatia and the Rest of the Territory of Former Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hugary, The Territories of Former Czechoslovakia and The Whole Territory of the Former U.S.S.R. Sub-Published for North America excluding the USA by Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

Startling though Scontri remains, it was Refrain which took my breath away. There is a sense of tranquillity in the outer sections of this score. The rhythm and tempo are extraordinarily stretched (26-28 quarter notes per minute, with the predominant value being the half note—13-14 notes a minute only) and the music waxes and wanes almost imperceptibly. The contrast of the vigorous hockets in the central section only serves to highlight the calm of the flanking music. My impression was of a composer who was saying to the European avant-garde of the time: “Enough. I am my own man. And I care not a jot if I seem out of step with the mainstream.” There really was nothing like this in 1965.

Example 2: Refrain, Op. 21 (1965), first page of the score. © Copyright 1967 by PWM Edition, Kraków, Poland. Used by permission in all the countries listed below, except the United States. Transferred 1998 to Chester Music Limited. U.S. Renewal Right assigned to Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. © 1998 by Chester Music Limited for the World except United States, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, Croatia and the Rest of the Territory of Former Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hugary, The Territories of Former Czechoslovakia and The Whole Territory of the Former U.S.S.R. Sub-Published for North America excluding the USA by Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

My second encounter with Górecki’s music was at my first “Warsaw Autumn” Festival, in September 1970. On the programme was Górecki’s Muzyczka IV (La Musiquette / Little Music IV). The unusual instrumental combination—clarinet, cello, trombone, piano—was not his choice, but he had written a 9-minute piece that struggled within the boundaries of chamber music. It is severely abstract in its musical content, brutal reiterated motifs being interrupted by brutal elongated silences. No niceties here. But the uncompromising aggressiveness needed, it seems, a counterbalance. The second part of the composition recalls the chant-like melody of Refrain, a repose later and rudely shattered by the melody instruments playing their lines in strident parallel dissonances, something which was to recur when Górecki returned to chamber music in the mid-1980s. As David Drew has perceptively commented: “The static modality of its coda clearly represents a transcendence of the previous events and a critique of the violence that informs them.” [5] The full significance of Little Music IV in Górecki’s oeuvre has yet to be recognized.

Example 3: Muzyczka IV / La Musiquette 4 “Trombone Concerto” Op. 28 (1970), for trombone, clarinet, cello and piano. Clarinet part, movement 2, section C-D, p. 11. © Copyright 1988 by Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd. for the World except Poland, Bulgaria, China, Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Albania, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Hugary and teh U.S.S.R. © Copyright 1972 by PWM Music Publishers, Krakow, Poland for the territories listed above. Used by permission.

My third encounter, in 1984, was the oddest. And it all happened because I was arrested in the California desert east of San Diego for trespassing on a disused railroad track. It was very picturesque—burnt out trestles, dark tunnels, great views down the valley. But up the track came a converted four-wheel drive, and I and my group of friends from UCSD were subsequently compelled to do community service. I should explain that, at the time, I was a Visiting Scholar at UCSD, writing a book on Bacewicz for the PMRC and an article on Górecki. While the others cleaned Del Mar beach one weekend, I found myself playing the piano for several receptions at UCSD’s International Center. I freely admit I was pretty hopeless at this and my heart sank one day when I was told that the next reception would be a folk night and did I have anything suitable—I fled to the library and borrowed a copy of Chopin’s mazurkas.

You can, perhaps, imagine my surprise when I came across Op.17, No. 4 in A minor and thought I recognized the opening chords. Lo and behold, the first two chords appear as a rocking, lullaby alternation at the start of the final movement of Górecki’s Third Symphony. But I still wasn’t sure if I was reading something meaningful into what might just be coincidence. I met up with the composer later that summer and I asked him. Yes, they were Chopin’s chords. But had I spotted another reference a few bars later, where the violins and piano play an E natural above? I hadn’t, and so like everyone else I had missed a subtle reference to another Third Symphony, by one of Górecki’s idols, Beethoven (it is a very gentle reminder of that biting chord which comes halfway through the first movement’s development).

Example 4: Chopin’s Mazurka op. 17, no. 4, first system. From Fryderyk Chopin, Complete Works, “Mazurkas,”
ed. Ignacy Paderewski et al., Kraków: PWM, 1954.

Many strands in Górecki’s search for compositional inspiration come together in these three anecdotes. Among the most enduring are (1) melodic influences from chant and folksong, (2) the iconographic importance of citations from other sources, and (3) the ingrained passion for dynamic, textural and temporal extremes.

(1) Melodic Influences from Chant and Folksong

The melodic influence of Catholic chant and folksong, reflecting a wide range of Górecki’s references to Polish music of the past, dates from well before the slowly evolving lines in Refrain. Back in 1955 (understandably, given the temper of the mid-1950s), Górecki’s pre-student compositions are strongly folk-influenced, and this continued into the first two years of his composition studies in Katowice. There is the reference to Szymanowski in the Variations for violin and piano (1956), which we heard last night. There is the derivation of motivic ideas in the Songs of Joy and Rhythm (1956, rev.1960) from the incipit of that quintessential Polish chant, Bogurodzica. There are even traces in some of the serial pieces of the late 1950s, notably the First Symphony “1959”; Górecki even says that the closing perfect fifths at the end of the First Symphony were drawn from the folk music drone.

Foremost among the chant and folk-related ideas are those whose motifs and melodies revolve around the first three pitches of the Dorian and Aeolian minor modes. In Songs of Joy and Rhythm, and especially from 1970 onwards after the intense period of serial and abstract expressionism of the 1960s, Górecki returns time and again to these three pitches. For want of a better description, I have called this idea Górecki’s “motto” motif. We find it in places as varied as the coda of Little Music IV, the Harpsichord Concerto (1980), and the Miserere (1981).

Example 5: Miserere, for large mixed choir a cappella, Op. 44 (1981), opening.
Copyright 1990 by Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd. Used by permission of Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

But from the Third Symphony onwards this “motto” is overtaken by what I have described as the “turn,” or “Skierkowski’s turn.”[6] Who was Skierkowski? Well, after the unjustly neglected 19th-century Polish ethnographer, Oskar Kolberg, Skierkowski was one of Poland’s most noted collectors of folk melodies. His collections inspired Szymanowski to write his Kurpian Songs. And one of his melodies, quoted in a study by Antonina Wozaczyńska (1956),[7] made an overpowering impact on Górecki as he set about composing the first movement of his Third Symphony. In particular it was the sequence of a rising minor third, followed by a descending semitone, which resonated with the composer. It had already appeared in the earlier violin and piano Variations and, much earlier, had been memorably used by Szymanowski at the start of the last movement of his Stabat Mater (1926). Not for the first or last time, Górecki touched base with his predecessor. As he once said: “Where Szymanowski went, I went too.”[8]

This “turn” appears on many occasions, mostly verbatim, although in the middle movement of the Third Symphony it appears in the major mode, as it were. The coda of Beatus vir(1979), the climax of the Miserere, the melody of the finale of Good Night (1990) and the opening of Little Requiem for a Polka (1993) are but several of the best known examples.[9]

Example 6: Little Requiem for a Polka. First system of first movement. Copyright 1994 by Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd. Used by permission of Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

(2) Iconographic Importance of Citations from Other Sources

These recurrent melodic patterns—and there are others emerging in recent pieces—are tied in with my second observation, that of iconography. Such intervallic and motivic ideas develop a significance for the composer beyond their simple constituents. His repeated return to them bespeaks at the very least a passionate attachment if not dependency. They are a touchstone, a litmus test of his compositional and contextual truth. They are shared across several decades and many pieces. Citations from pre-existing sources share some, but not all of these qualities. With one notable exception, Górecki uses these only within individual works, thus emphasising their creative separateness rather than their corporate nature. And most of them are quoted directly, unaltered—found objects of iconographical significance to the composer.

Where has he culled these citations, and why do I call them iconographic? They come from a variety of sources. Firstly, from chant. I’ve already mentioned Bogurodzica. Elsewhere, apart from generalized chant-like lines, the “prefacja” of the mass, and possibly “Pater noster,” underlie Canticum graduum (1969). Secondly, ancient Polish music surfaces in a variety of guises. There is King Zygmunt II’s wedding song in the Three Pieces in Old Style (1963) and an anonymous medieval organum Benedicamus Domino in the coda of the aptly-named Old Polish Music (1968). An anonymous 15th-century Laude digna prole appears twice, firstly in a forgotten and long-lost fanfare for a 1969 contemporary music festival in Wrocław, Wratislaviae Gloria (1968), secondly, and unforgettably, in the coda of his Second Symphony “Copernican” (1972).

The most enduring of Górecki’s Polish citations is that of the tenor part from “Prayer for children going to sleep” (published in 1556). This is one of seven surviving Polish hymns by Wacław z Szamotuł (c. 1524 – c. 1560). Górecki has described both the whole hymn and the tenor as amongst the jewels of the Polish Renaissance. He used the tenor line in an unpublished Chorale in the Form of a Canon (1961), in a serially manipulated manner in Old Polish Music, while its best-known appearance is in the First String Quartet, Already it is dusk (1988). Here’s the original, from which you might like to tease out the tenor line.

Example 7: “Już się zmierzcha,” Modlitwa gdy dziatki spać idą [Prayer for children going to sleep] by Wacław of Szamotuły, to text by Andrzej Trzecieski. From Wacław Panek, Polski śpiewnik narodowy. Poznań: Grupa wydawnicza “Słowo,” 1996, 26. Used by permission.

But it is not only Polish music which fascinates Górecki. The carol Silent Night steals in in the coda of the Second Quartet, Quasi una fantasia (1991). Chopin and Beethoven have already been mentioned, and Quasi una fantasia includes oblique references to both composers. The fact that these are references and not citations is important, because it marks a shift in the composer’s approach to found material. Earlier in his career, he clearly relished the serendipity of such rich sources. From his student days onwards, even during his most experimental period, likely citations were noted in periodical articles—Górecki was a voracious reader of printed material—and stored for later use. The iconography comes in two main ways: the music cited was invariably used at the original pitch, virtually untouched, and furthermore was often placed at significant structural moments, often in the codas, as in the Old Polish Music (where two trumpets intone the anonymous Benedicamus Domino) and the Second Symphony, where he introduces Lauda digna prole. These codas characteristically fulfilled the same criterion ascribed by David Drew to that of Little Music IV: “a transcendence of the previous events.”[10]

On the other hand, the tenor line from Wacław z Szamotuł’s hymn was, from the beginning, treated as material for moulding. Certainly, its serial treatment in Old Polish Music is as far removed from the tenor’s original context as it is possible to imagine. When used as canon fodder in the First Quartet, including some intervallic tweaking, the original sheds its iconographic purity, becoming something more complex. This process of compositional development of found material is most clearly apparent in the work which kick-started Górecki’s career in the mid-80s: Recitatives and Ariosos: Lerchenmusik (1986). The reference—not citation—in the finale of Lerchenmusik to the opening of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto is also informed by the melodic allusion to chant. Furthermore, it is not presented in its original guise and is subject to compositional moulding. This process continues in the Second String Quartet, Quasi una fantasia, where he even quotes a passage from his own music, from the First Quartet. But the strongest reference, both thematically and structurally, is where a chordal sequence appears at several junctures. Górecki has called this sequence his “Beethovenian chords.”

Example 8: Quasi una fantasia (String Quartet No. 2), Op. 64 (1991). Copyright 1994 by Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd. Reprinted by Permission of Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

I have not been able to pin down this sequence to any particular work—maybe it is staring me in the face and I can’t see it! But this loosening up of his source materials—from iconographic quotation to allusion—is an important development.

(3) Ingrained Passion for Dynamic, Textural and Temporal Extremes

From the very beginning, Górecki’s music demonstrates his love of extremes. Extremes of dynamics are in evidence in his unpublished high-school composition, the Piano Concerto (c. 1955). Characteristically, apart from in his serial pieces, he largely eschews dynamic markings which are not emphatic. And the markings themselves are often accompanied, as in Ad matrem (1970), by rubrics such as ritmico-marcatissimo-energico-furioso-con massima passione e grande tensione and tranquillissimo-cantabillissimo-dolcissimo-affetuoso e ben tenuto e LEGATISSIMO . These dynamic and interpretative extremes bespeak a composer who is straining to obtain the maximum—even more than the maximum—of expression. And for many of us, I suspect, it is the quiet passages which speak most eloquently. The Third Symphony is a case in point, but I would draw your attention to the “still point of the turning world”[11] which we find in lesser-known works, like the short central movements of the Piano Sonata we heard last night and of the Sonata for Two Violins (1957). In both these cases, that stillness is heightened by the ferocious music which embraces it.

Textural extremes are a linked phenomenon, and by textural I am talking about instrumental and vocal registers and of ensembles. These latter, post-1960, tend to favour homogenous groupings. He has frequently expressed his love for the string ensemble and for the choral texture. And his love of the human voice, which dominated his music after the 1960s, is intimately bound up with his search for his inner roots and with his attachment to certain types of text (folk, church) and authors (primarily Polish). The most extreme example of textural (and textual) simplicity I know in his music is his unpublished setting of a folksong from Podhale in southern Poland. It is a vicious little lullaby which seems intent on frightening a child to sleep by conjuring up images of sheep-eating wolves and dogs. But the melody couldn’t be simpler and my recollection of the manuscript is that it totally respects the folksong’s directness.

Example 9: Folk melody, O My Garland of Lavender: “Bzi, bzi, bzibziana” from Oskar Kolberg, Dzieła wszystkie, vol. 39, “Pomorze.” Kraków: PWM, 1965. [12] USC Polish Music Center.

Registral extremes are familiar to many performers of his music. Orchestrally, the greatest challenge was probably in Scontri, but there are other examples. In his works for smaller ensembles, such as the three-part series—pointedly called Genesis (1962-63), Little Music IV, and, more recently, Lerchenmusik, For You, Anne-Lill for flute and piano (1986) and Aria(operatic scena) for tuba, piano, tamtam and bass drum (1987), he stretches players to the limits. It is less a matter of interpretation than one of registral heights, combined with dynamic extremes and long stretches in the same tessitura. Aria, in particular, is hardly ever performed because of the stupendous demands placed on the tubist.

Temporal extremes are a well-acknowledged feature of Górecki’s music. His popular image is one of a composer who writes slow music. But let’s not forget the tiny Harpsichord Concerto (1980) or some of the folksongs and the string quartets. In fact, his music since the mid-1980s has a considerable number of movements in fast tempi. I do not want to tread on David Kopplin’s topic for Sunday’s Symposium, but it is worth considering for a brief moment this phenomenon of slow tempi. They should not, of course, be separated from the musical material which unfolds in these tempi, and examples are plentiful: Refrain, Little Music IV, Old Polish Music, Beatus vir , Miserere, with two works—the Third Symphony and Good Night —being substantial works each of three slow movements. But we might also investigate those moments in the early works (Songs of Joy and Rhythm, Sonata for Two Violins) as well as recent pieces (the quartets, Concerto-Cantata for flautist and orchestra, Kleines Requiem) where rumbustious ideas (dare I call it oompah-oompah?) often have a slow rate of change, paralleling that of transparently slow music. And there is a related and fascinating study, yet to be made I suspect, into the nature and significance of repetition in Górecki’s music. For me, the combination of these various extremes bespeaks a composer who is intent on testing expressive limits in an almost abstract way, notwithstanding the often very human emotions at the core of his music. Its the sort of concentration, the dispensing of frippery and decoration, which lends his music that stark and challenging directness we all recognise.

I would like to finish by referring to Górecki’s lifelong attachment to the written word as musical text, and to one Polish poet in particular. Górecki, typically, will spend months searching for the right text. I have documented in my book the outline of his search for texts for the Third Symphony, but the same process was apparent for the Second Symphony and for Beatus vir in the latter case, he spent much more time selecting his texts from the Book of Psalms than he did writing the music. There are sometimes hidden texts – for the First String Quartet, he composed his own doggerel as a compositional aid, but that of course was a purely private matter. He even wrote texts of his own, for Monologhi (1960) andMonodramma (1963), both of which texts are in the futurist tradition.

But the poet to whom he has returned most frequently is Julian Tuwim (1894-1953). Tuwim inspired many Polish composers and Górecki found special resonances in his poetry. Three works are inspired by his poetry, two of them using child-like or nursery rhyme texts. The third, Epitafium (1958), is, as its title suggests, rather more serious. It was with this miniature for choir and ensemble that Górecki made his “Warsaw Autumn” Festival debut in 1958. Its aphoristic nature stems not only from Górecki’s rapidly developing serial technique but, more importantly, from Tuwim’s text: “… for the sake of economy put out the light eternal, if it were ever to shine for me.” It was a bitter irony that Tuwim’s take on Goethe’s last words—”Open the second shutter, so that more light can come in”—should also be his last poetic utterance. Tuwim noted his sentence on a serviette in a coffee shop in Zakopane (in the Polish mountains) just one hour before collapsing and dying in his hotel. Górecki’s setting is spare, even laconic, and he highlights the words “światło wiekuiste” (the light eternal).

Example 10: Epitafium, Op. 12 (1958). Postludium, p. 19-20. © Copyright 1960 by PWM Edition, Kraków, Poland. Used by permission in all the countries listed below, except the United States. Transferred 1998 to Chester Music Limited. U.S. Renewal Right assigned to Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. © 1998 by Chester Music Limited for the World except United States, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, Croatia and the Rest of the Territory of Former Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hugary, The Territories of Former Czechoslovakia and The Whole Territory of the Former U.S.S.R. Sub-Published for North America excluding the USA by Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

This emphasis on “the light eternal” connects directly to the transcendental images which inform so many of Górecki’s works: obvious candidates like the Second and Third Symphonies, much of the choral music, the diatonic chording in the codas of many of his recent pieces. His music seems to be constantly searching for the sacred, in the broadest sense of that word. When receiving a doctorate at the Catholic University of America in Washington two years ago, Górecki recalled Pope John Paul II’s homily on creative artists:[13]

“Authentic and humble artists are perfectly well aware, no matter what kind of beauty characterises their handiwork, that their paintings, sculptures or creations are nothing else but the reflection of God’s Beauty. No matter how strong the charm of their music and words, they know that their works are only a distant echo of God’s Word.”

How resonant that last phrase is: “a distant echo of God’s word.”

There is a fourth work by Górecki which is purely instrumental but undoubtedly draws its inspiration and sense of transcendental awe from the poetry of Tuwim. It is one of his student works, the Songs of Joy and Rhythm. It is a sort of sinfonia concertante for two pianos and chamber orchestra. It is also the seed from which much of his later music grew—the use of chant (Bogurodzica), modal motifs, canons, extremes of tempo and register, the delight in oddball material and unexpected contrasts quasi fantasia. But, above all, I sense that the poem which inspired this vivid piece underlies Górecki’s search for his personal truth. If I may, to end with, I will read my imperfect translation of Tuwim’s youthful poem:[14]

The stars twinkled in the sky.

In space—billions of universes.


Resting my forehead in my hand, I think.

I do not dream.

A great reality has awoken in me,
A truth which hits me in the eye,
A truth which is living, visible, unique,

I – under this huge starry dome,
I—absorbing it in its entirety,
I relish it, I become one with myself.
Slowly—inside—I am restored to myself:
To intense joy and profound rhythm.All my thoughts, words and deeds,
Have only been bringing me closer
To the universal embrace:
Here I am resting joyfully in myself,
Wrapped in deep silence on all sides,
And my heart beats in the rhythm of everything,
Which surrounds me.
Enough. No need for words.


[1]. Professor Adrian Thomas was keynote speaker at the “Górecki Autumn” Festival in October 1997. His travel to USC was funded by the USC Distinguished Visitors program and this talk was given on 2 October 1997 at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, USC, Los Angeles. [MT] [Back]

[2]. In 2000 the USC School of Music was renamed the Flora L. Thornton School of Music, after receiving a donation of 25 million dollars. At the same time, the Polish Music Reference Center was renamed the Polish Music Center. [Back]

[3]. The uniqueness of this experience has been captured in a CD recording issued by the Polish Music Center simultaneously with the current Journal, and available from the Thornton School of Music and PMC (online orders). The performance created such a stir in the Los Angeles music world that it found its way to three lists of the most important events of 1997. See December issues of the Los Angeles Times, Downtown News, Los Angeles Weekly reprinted in the current Journal. [Back]

[4]. Scontri, Op. 17, was composed in 1960; Jeux vénitiens and Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshimain 1961. [Back]

[5]. David Drew and Tadeusz Marek, “Górecki in Interview (1968) – and 20 Years After,” Tempo 168 (March 1989): 28-9. [Back]

[6]. Father Władysław Skierkowski was an eminent collector of Polish folksong, author of Puszcza Kurpiowska w pieśni (1928-34), whose work was raided by Szymanowski for his two volumes of Kurpian Songs. [Back]

[7]. Antonina Wozaczyńska, Pieśni Kurpiowskie: Ich struktura i charakterystyka w świetle zbiorów W. Skierkowskiego (Wrocław, 1956), 80. [Back]

[8]. Quoted in Christiane Galeski-Wild, Henryk M. Górecki et ses oeuvres symphoniques, MA thesis (University of Strasburg, 1986). [Back]

[9]. The composer does not like the German-language version of this work’s title, Kleines Requiem für eine Polka, preferring Little Requiem in English or Małe Requiem dla Polki in Polish. The German version only came about because that was the language of communication with Reinbert de Leeuw who conducted the work’s premiere in Amsterdam. [Back]

[10]. Drew, op. cit, see note 5. [Back]

[11]. Cited from T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” part 2, from Four Quartets. [Back]

[12]. Oskar Kolberg, Dzieła wszystkie, vol. 39, no. 147 (p. 188). [Back]

[13]. Jarmiła Sobiepan, Jan Paweł II w krajach Benelux i w Liechtensteinie (Warsaw, 1987), 320-6. [Back]

[14]. Julian Tuwim, from Czyhanie na Boga [Lying in Wait for God], 1918. [Back]

Adrian Thomas is Professor of Music at Cardiff University, United Kingdom. His previous positions have included Visiting Scholar at the University of California at San Diego (1983-4), Professor of Music at The Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland (1985-90) and Head of Music at BBC Radio 3 in London (1990-93). He is the author of monographs on Bacewicz (PMC, 1985) and Górecki (Oxford University Press, 1997; Polish translation, PWM, 2001) and of many articles and chapters on Polish music from Chopin to Lutoslawski. He is the author of over fifty entries on twentieth-century Polish music in the Second Edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2000-01).

Prof. Thomas has lectured widely in the United States and in Europe and is the recipient of the Polish Composers’ Union medal (1989) and the Polish Government’s Cultural Order of Merit (1996). In 2002, Prof. Thomas received the Wilk Book Prize for Research in Polish Music for his monograph on Górecki. While at the BBC, he initiated and played a major programming role in “Polska!,” Radio 3’s nationwide festival of Polish music and culture. He has completed a research project, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Board, into the interaction of “socrealizm” and musical creativity in post-war Poland. His forthcoming books include a study of Polish music since 1937 (Cambridge University Press) and a monograph, with accompanying CD, on Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto.