• Górecki in wooden covers

I find it hard to believe that it is five years to the day that my irreplaceable friend, composer and life-force, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, died in Katowice.  But rather than dwell on this loss, I have dug up a memory from his 60th birthday, 6 December 1993.  The Great Symphony Orchestra of Polish Radio (WOSPR, now known as NOSPR, ‘National’) put on a celebratory concert of Górecki’s Second Symphony ‘Copernican’ and the Second Symphony by his beloved Karol Szymanowski (although he loved other Szymanowski works better).  Last year, not before time, NOSPR was rehoused in a wonderful purpose-built home the other side of the city, not ten minutes’ walk from Górecki’s house. (Deservedly, the new NOSPR building won ‘event of the year’ at last night’s annual musical ‘Koryfeusz’ awards in Warsaw, along with the composer Pawel Mykietyn for ‘personality of the year’, while the conductor Stanisław Skrowacewzki was honoured for his lifetime achievement.  To bring it full circle, Skrowaczewski conducted in the new hall last November.)

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At the reception after the concert in 1993, there was a surprise announcement from the then MD of the Polish Music Publishers, PWM.  PWM had imaginatively commissioned students of the School of Fine Arts in Zakopane, in the Tatra Mountains, to sculpt 25 wooden covers for commemorative copies of Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. I was one of the lucky recipients of this unusual gift and my no.4 is a treasured memento.  Five years later, for his 65th birthday, Górecki invited me, along with Susan Bamert from Boosey & Hawkes, to celebrate the occasion in snowy Zakopane, in a wooden chałupa (a traditional cottage), with much wining, dining, singing and dancing – and no symphonies.  But I haven’t dug those photos out yet.

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