• Polish Orchestra Named After Górecki

The city of Katowice in southern Poland today honoured its most famous and distinguished musical son.  The Silesian PO (Filharmonia Śląska) has been named in memory of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, who died on 12 November 2010.

His widow Jadwiga, who was present at the announcement, said that the initiative to confer the title left her “breathless with delight and emotion”.  Also present were their daughter Anna, her husband and their three children.

Górecki’s association with the Silesian PO went back to before he became a student at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice in 1955.  He would often travel from his home town two hours away to hear concerts both by the Silesian PO and by the other full-size symphony orchestra in Katowice, the Great SO of Polish Radio.

The Silesian PO first honoured Górecki, while he was still a student, by devoting an entire concert to his recent compositions.  On 27 February 1958, it premiered Toccata for two pianos (1955), Variations for violin and piano (1956), Quartettino (1956), Songs of Joy and Rhythm (1956), Sonata for two violins (1957) and Concerto for Five Instruments and String Quartet (1957).  It subsequently premiered Epitafium (1958) at the 2nd ‘Warsaw Autumn’ Festival on 3 October 1958, Genesis II: Canti strumentali (1962) at the 6th ‘Warsaw Autumn’ on 16 September 1962 and Choros I (1964) at the 8th ‘Warsaw Autumn’ on 22 September 1964.

In choosing Górecki as its patron, the Silesian PO is following an honourable new tradition in Polish music.  The Zielona Góra PO renamed itself after the composer Tadeusz Baird in 1982, the year after his death, and the Wrocław PO renamed itself after Witold Lutosławski in 1994, with the blessing of his widow, who died just three months after her husband.

The commemorations to mark the first anniversary of Górecki’s death have already included a concert last night in which his Three Pieces in Old Style (1963) was played.  Tomorrow night, the ‘Górecki Philharmonic’, conducted by Mirosław Błaszczyk, will give a concert in the Arch-Cathedral in Katowice (where the funeral service was held last year).  Opening the programme will be the premiere of Nocturne (2011) by Górecki’s son Mikołaj, and this will be followed by a performance of Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

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