• New CD of Górecki Church Songs
Wednesday, 29 May 2013 1 Comment
It emerged last week that twenty church songs by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki will be released on CD later this year. So far, 2013 has been dominated in Poland by celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Witold Lutosławski. As the year progresses, attention will no doubt turn also to events marking the birth 80 years ago of not only Górecki (who died in 2010) but also Krzysztof Penderecki (who is still very much alive). In October, for example, the festival that Górecki oversaw in Bielsko-Biała will acknowledge all three composers with a concert devoted to each (I am looking forward to hearing Górecki’s Second Symphony ‘Copernican’ and Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto – with Marcin Zdunik – and Trois poèmes d’Henri Michaux).
When I was researching my book on Górecki, I stayed with him in Katowice on two occasions in 1993 and 1994. During these visits, he sat at the piano and played through all of his completed but unpublished pieces. When it came to his vocal music, he would also sing along lustily. Among the pieces that he showed me were his Church Songs, which he had arranged in May-June 1986. They are beautifully moulded miniatures, one- or two-voice hymns whose melodies he had harmonised simply but tellingly. I published a list of the nineteen hymns that he said that he had completed, plus two others that he wanted to work on further.
What is interesting about the new CD – whose full list of contents has not yet been revealed – is that it consists of twenty Church Songs. However, in naming five of them, an article in Dziennik Polski (21 May 2013) raises questions of whether my list is now inaccurate (it was copied from Górecki’s own list of November 1991), whether some titles have been changed or whether there are a few different songs that have replaced some on my chronological list or been added to it. The article mentions hymns nos. 1, 11 and 14, but also names two that are not on my list nor can I find in my copy of the source hymn-book, first published in 1878: Pieśń o św. Mikołaja (Song about St Nicholas) and Idźmy do miłosierdzia (Let us go to mercy). Intriguing. Time will tell. The CD should be ready by the end of June.