by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki

translated by Maja Trochimczyk [1]

Movement No. 1

Górecki: Welcome everyone. Let us start with the music first and then we’ll talk.


Górecki: Some general remarks: Please sustain the half notes, without diminuendo, in a contemplative mood. It should all be sostenuto and very tranquil, very cantabile. That is all. Once again.


Górecki: Stop! Hold this chord. Repeat three measures before rehearsal number 19.


Górecki: Let’s have a little break here, so that we don’t get too tired. Do you have any questions or problems? First issue: very often after the fourth beat there is a feeling of waiting for something. We wait for the fourth note. . . and the flow of the music stops. . . Or maybe my heart stops? I have stage fright when I face you. I do not do this every day. Instead I listen to music and I’m more interested in playing myself than conducting. But I will improve before tomorrow if I live that long. Did you practice this section slower or faster?

Students: – Faster!

Górecki: – Nonetheless, I would like to play it slower. This is the whole problem. If we play it in a romantic fashion, then the canon stops being what I imagined it to be. It is based on a very long theme. It is so long that perhaps it would even find its way into the Guinness Book of Records! Therefore, the canon has to be “broader” – do not rush it.

The most important problem for me at the end of the twentieth century is the continual lack of time. We are always in an awful hurry and still we waste an incredible amount of time, for instance in front of the TV or in a car. While I do like some aspects of our “fast” civilization—I love to fly in airplanes, I am fascinated with cosmic adventures, trips to the moon or Mars—and we do live in astounding times, still, here, in this music, we have to surrender ourselves to this other dimension of time. We have to slow down. Only then the sonority will be fantastic: the higher the music will go, the more distinctly it will sound. I dream of writing such tranquil music. I do not want to compose anything that echoes the modern “rush” – the cell phones, the telephones and faxes. It has to be calm. Life is too beautiful to be wasted in this way, by rushing things so much.

How should I explain it to you? Perhaps you should think about an elevator: you leave behind the basement of everyday life, filled with noises, distractions and anxieties, and you take the elevator up to the tenth floor, or even into the sky of timelessness. When you are in this music, time slows down, it is as if you were in heaven, it is like eternity. Do you understand what I want to achieve there? Total calm. . . Let us play it again.


Górecki: Please do not play the sustained, extended sonorities with diminuendo. It was all very good up to now. In one measure after rehearsal number 23 there is no sforzato in the harp part; the louder stroke appears only in 23. Let us start over from rehearsal number 17.


Górecki: I am sorry for these mistakes. But I think that we will be able to communicate soon. Very good. After the break we will play the next movement.

Intermission: Górecki talks to Elizabeth Hynes

Górecki: Do you know what is the meaning of the text that you sing?

Hynes: Yes, I do. Maja provided me with a translation and a Polish singer, Beata, helped me learn to pronounce Polish words.

Górecki: Great! But I would like to add something here about the inscription. In prison, the whole wall was covered with inscriptions screaming out loud: “I’m innocent,” “Murderers,” “Executioners,” “Free me,” “You have to save me”—it was all so loud, so banal. Adults were writing this, while here it is an eighteen-year-old girl, almost a child. And she is so different. She does not despair, does not cry, does not scream for revenge. She does not think about herself; whether she deserves her fate or not. Instead, she only thinks about her mother: because it is her mother who will experience true despair. This inscription was something extraordinary. And it really fascinated me: “Mother, do not cry, no. The purest Queen of Heaven, you always support me. Hail Mary.” Here the inscription ended and I added: “You are full of grace.” Not “Full of grace” as it is in the prayer, but “You are full of. . .”

Hynes: It is fascinating and so sad. . . I’m deeply touched by your music.

Movement No. 2


Górecki: Let us start four measures before rehearsal number 4. We play C three times with accents. Three measures after rehearsal number 4 there is a crescendo for all the strings playing the “motto” of the movement. In rehearsal number 5, or rather two measures before 5, you should play a little bit faster. We have a piu mosso there, but it still remains piano. But I beg you to make audible all the songs in all the chords of the strings. I am asking you to sing them out, cantabile. Perhaps we should start now 6 measures before rehearsal number 4.


Górecki to the singer: Do not make too big of a break here. Two measures before rehearsal number 5.


Górecki: Perhaps now we should move to the third movement.

Movement No. 3

Górecki: Here each sound has to be audible. I would like you to make sure that everything is audible at rehearsal number 3 and later at number 7. When the orchestra plays alone I ask you to please play it with a crescendo. However when Elizabeth sings we should go a little bit under, lower but still with full sonority and with crescendos. A final matter: at number 9 in D major you have to be very careful with shifts to F-sharp. Thank you.


Górecki: Boldly, boldly, full sonority…—Three measures before number 3. Here you have the same tempo but it is played all tenuto.


Górecki: Once again from number 7.


Górecki: Once again from number 10. Perhaps it is my fault that it is not going so well. But it will be very good!


Górecki: Here—four measures before number 12 we should make an allargando and later play a tempo. Let us now take a small “breathing space” so that you can understand my intentions. This is a mother’s song. This song has to be expressed both by the orchestra and the soloist. It has to be contemplative in mood, but still maintain the tempo. It approximates the speed of slow walking, when one walks alone, lost in thought. We have to enter into this mood. It is as if we were walking, or even slowly dancing. You have to think about walking here. For me it is a very difficult movement because I do not usually engage in conducting and I do not know how to enchant you with my hand movements, but music carries me away and I may at some spots (and please forgive me if I do) make a wrong movement at a certain time, but you know the score and could play on. So then do not look at me, at what I am doing, but listen to each other, listen to what happens around you.

Student: Should we maintain the tempo all together?

Górecki: Yes, do not slow down here at all because otherwise later, when you have a rallentando, you will not have anything left to slow down from. May we try now the A major segment, that is at number 9? Let us play all together, my dears.


Górecki: Please repeat number 15… Please sustain the tempo, give more here!

[Music ends]

Górecki: Bravo! My dears I have one request to make of you. When the flutes enter here, please sing on, when the clarinets join in it has to be audible, the French horns have to sing, have to come out in the foreground. At number 16 the harp has to be more prominent. Please look at the score and do not look at me, then everything will be well. Thank you very much. See you tomorrow then.

Górecki (turns to the audience): I have just one question, how does it sound out there in the audience?

Someone from the audience: In general it sounds very, very well, though in the second part it seems that there is too much bass. The soloist disappears under the orchestra in the section when she sings “Mamo. . . re-mi-re-do. . .”

Górecki: But this is the whole point. She has to drown in the sound, this is the culmination and later she will again float out of this sound. She sings extraordinarily well!

Jung-Ho Pak:[2] Ladies and gentlemen: for the composer, every note is important. When I conducted this yesterday I did follow the text, but for this man here, even the shortest note matters a lot. It is his music.

Górecki (jokingly): It does because I’m fat and he is thin.

Jung-Ho Pak (laughs): Yes. But let us be serious for a moment. Ladies and gentlemen, we know that the USC orchestra is the best orchestra in town, in the world, and I would like to see everyone from the first to the last stand playing with full attention, communication. The composer conducts his work more beautifully than I could ever have conducted it. A single note matters here and you have to give him your all. Basses, pay attention to articulation at the beginning of the first movement. You are doing a great job. You have to disregard here what I told you earlier. It was an absolute mistake. The composer wants individual expressivo here and this is how you will play it.

Górecki to Jung-Ho Pak: Thank you very much for preparing the musicians for me. It made my work easy. Thank you every one and see you tomorrow!


[1]. These remarks have been transcribed from an audio recording of the rehearsal of Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, with the composer conducting the USC Symphony Orchestra on 2 October 1997, at Bovard Auditorium, USC University Park Campus, Los Angeles. Prof. Elizabeth Hynes, soprano, was the soloist. Remarks transcribed from a CD recording (edited by Ted Ancona) by Blanka Sobuś. Translated by Maja Trochimczyk. [Back]

[2]. Jung-Ho Pak was the main conductor of USC Symphony Orchestra in 1997 and prepared the Symphony with the musicians for Górecki’s one rehearsal and performance. [Back]