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Henryk Górecki

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Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (born December 6, 1933) is a Polish composer of classical music. He is best known for his Symphony No. 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, a recording of which became a best seller in the early 1990s in Britain.

Górecki was born in a place in southern Poland called Czernica[?]. He did not study music seriously until he was in his twenties. Then, he first studied in Katowice and later in Paris, where he was able to hear works by Anton Webern, Olivier Messiaen and Karlheinz Stockhausen which were suppressed by the Polish government. He eventually became a music professor in Katowice, but resigned his post in the late 1970s as a protest against the government not allowing Pope John Paul II to visit the city.

Górecki's music covers a variety of styles, but tends to be harmonically relatively simple. His first works were in the same avant garde style as that of Pierre Boulez or other serialists, but his later music is more often compared to minimalism, often being labelled as "holy minimalism". Like Arvo Part, with whom he is also compared, his works often reflect his religious beliefs, in the case of Górecki, Roman Catholicism.

Górecki's best known piece by far is his third symphony, subtitled Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. It is written for orchestra and soprano solo. It is in three movements. The words of the first movement are from a 15th century lament[?], the second movement has words found written on the wall of a Gestapo cell in Zakopane, and the third movement is a folk song. The music throughout is slow and contemplative, with the first movement an extended canon for strings taking up around half of the entire playing time. A typical performance of the work will last in the region of fifty minutes.

The work was written in 1976, and premiered the following year. A recording of it released in 1993 sung by Dawn Upshaw[?] with the London Sinfonietta[?] conducted by David Zinman[?], became a best seller.

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