• Katowice: Skrowaczewski takes a bow

The highpoint of my trip to Katowice last month was my second visit to the new (2014) home of the Polish Radio National SO (NOSPR).  In November that year, I heard the 91-year-old Stanisław Skrowaczewski conduct Shostakovich 5.  I never imagined that I would get to hear him again, but my luck was in again this year.  On 8 April, now 92, Skrowaczewski conducted NOSPR in a luminous account of Bruckner 8.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, intense and uplifting and seamlessly shaped.

As the audience rose in a spontaneous standing ovation, I remembered my camera and shot one of the ‘curtain calls’.

• Katowice: Artists’ Memorial Walkway

IMG_9040 copyOne of the oddest developments in Katowice in recent years has been the erection of a series of sculptural memorials to the city’s creative past.  Since 2005, fifteen figures have been so honoured, although you would be hard-pressed to find this ‘Gallery of Artists’ as it is rather off the beaten track.
Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 11.50.41It’s on Plac Grunwaldski (Grunwald Place), a ten minute walk from Górecki’s home to the north and a similar distance to the famous tilting concrete flying saucer ‘Spodek’ and to the new home for the Polish Radio National SO (designed by Tomasz Konior).  The NOSPR building is fronted by a splendid square named after Wojciech Kilar, while Gorecki has to make do with a desultory link-road nearby.  On the other hand, Górecki is the patron of Katowice’s other orchestra, the Silesian Philharmonic.

On the day after my talk at the Szymanowski Academy of Music, I visited Górecki’s widow Jadwiga with her grandson Jaś.  They had both come to hear me the day before, but this was a time for relaxation, laughter and tasty food (homemade soup, stuffed peppers and the largest chocolate mousse cake I’ve ever seen).  After lunch, Jaś took me to see the ‘Gallery of Artists’, a straight line of individual monuments of similar dimensions but designed and sculpted by different artists in many various ways.

First up, as we walked from the western end of the walkway, were the film actor Zbigniew Cybulski (Wajda’s Generation and Ashes and Diamonds, and many more), whose unusual gravestone is in the same cemetery as Górecki’s and Kilar’s; the conductor Karol Stryja; the artist Paweł Steller; and the writer, artist and actor Stanisław Ligoń.

Then came the raconteur and screen-writer Wilhelm Szewczyk; the artist Jerzy Duda-Gracz; the film actress Aleksandra Śląska, who among other roles played Konstancja Gładkowska in the socialist-realist biopic Chopin’s Youth (1952); and Stanisław Hadyna, who  created the folk song and dance troupe Śląsk, also in 1952.

There followed the actor Bogumił Kobiela, a glance back and forwards along the line, and the children’s author Wilhelm Szewczyk.

The image of the ethnomusicologist Adolf Dygacz came next (he furnished Gorecki with the theme of the finale of the Third Symphony), followed by Górecki‘s monument.  This is a curious one: he is recognisable, but has an uncharacteristic dismissive air in his expression.  His family doesn’t like it, and I’m not sure I do either.  I also find the overall design a bit ghoulish.

The last group starts with Górecki’s fellow composer, Wojciech Kilar, looking especially gaunt and unfortunately the recent recipient on the top of his head of a gift from on high; the last two – for the time being – are the painter Andrzej Urbanowicz and the actor and composer Jan Skrzek.

I was struck by the lugubrious nature of these commemorations.  A full statue is more affirmative, while the bench-statue, very popular in Poland, is even more so.  Gorecki has one in Rydułtowy, which I visited in November two years ago.  It’s good to feel that sense of companionship.


• Katowice: New-Old Academy of Music

Earlier this month I paid a visit to the Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, at the invitation of Marcin Trzęsiok and Eugeniusz Knapik, to give a lecture during their annual open days.  There was a book launch (a collection of essays, Edvard Grieg and his Times in two versions – one in English, one in Polish – edited by Wojciech Stępień), student papers, two guest lectures, a choral-instrumental concert and a concert of new pieces by student composers.  It was all very stimulating and I thoroughly enjoyed my three days with the staff and students, meeting up with old friends (such as Arkadiusz Kubica of the Silesian String Quartet) and making new ones.

Adding the New

Although I have seen the Academy buildings before (it was where the reception was held after Górecki’s funeral in 2010), I was once again taken aback by the magnificence of the old part and stunned by the brilliant added space designed by Tomasz Konior.  The new part – the Centre of Science and Musical Education – was completed in 2007.  It  houses a new concert hall (where the student compositions were performed), a new library (which furnished me with important research material) and spacious accommodation for visitors.   They are all linked by a glass atrium, a concourse where staff, students and visitors can mingle and enjoy refreshments from the cafe (it does good breakfasts!).  The following links give some idea of these new facilities, inside and outside, but before I mention the latest project, inaugurated a few days before my arrival, here are a few photos of my own to add to the gallery.

You get a great view of the north front of the building from the train as it draws into the main Katowice station:
IMG_9085 copyThe building’s origins in 1901 as the Building Trades School can be seen in the design of the shield above the central window (behind which is the Szabelski Auditorium):
IMG_8942 copyThe week before I arrived, the Music Academy awarded one of its rare and therefore coveted Honorary Doctorates to the former editor-in-chief of PWM, professor at the Kraków Music Academy and distinguished Polish musicologist, Mieczysław Tomaszewski.  At the age of 95, he is the seventh and oldest in the line of recipients, following Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (2003), Krystian Zimerman (2005), Andrzej Jasiński (2006), Stanisław Skrowaczewski (2012), Wojciech Kilar (2013) and Martha Argerich (2015).
IMG_8953 copyThe north-east corner of the Academy shows something of how the old and new buildings are combined:
IMG_8944 copyAnd from the south-east corner (with my guest apartment occupying the first four windows of the top floor and full depth of the eaves):
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The brickwork on the new Centre, such as around the steps into the atrium, is alive with little details:
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The eastern entrance to the atrium, uniting the new and the old:
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Inside, the access corridor for performers alongside the new concert hall has some fun silhouettes:
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IMG_8934 copyThere is also a western entrance to the atrium, and from a hundred metres away the western side of the site shows the new Centre linking the front building with another old edifice (whose venerable stairwell is adorned with portraits of the recipients of the Academy’s honorary doctorands).
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Renewing the Old

The Auditorium in the old Music Academy building has just been rejuvenated thanks to a programme of financial resources injected by the EU, Norway and Poland and of an academic partnership with the Grieg Academy and the University of Bergen (hence the book launch and shared personnel in the the first concert during my visit).

The old auditorium was once the temporary home for the Silesian parliament in 1922-29:
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By the time that Górecki and his future wife Jadwiga came to study at the Academy, in the second half of the 1950s, and right through to recently, the murals had been whitewashed and the pipes of an organ obscured the eastern wall.  Here it was that all the concerts took place, including Zimerman’s final undergraduate recital three years after winning the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1975.
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Now, after thorough restoration, the Gothic glory of Emil Noellner’s murals can be seen again.  Well, almost.  Here is that same wall on restoration, without the organ pipes and curtains.
It shows, from the edges inwards, the castle at Oleśnica near Wrocław (then Breslau) on the left and the wooden church once at Mikulczycach (right), subsequently moved and then destroyed by fire.  Inside them are the figures of an architect (left) and builder (right).  In the centre is St Hedwig of Silesia.

The only compromise within the whole scheme was the wish to install a new, less sprawling organ.  And I have to say that its design and scale makes the new instrument look totally at home:
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The trouble is that Saint Hedwig, the architect and the builder have disappeared.  But I did spot the architect’s foot poking out from behind the organ case on the left-hand side.
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It’s a pity to lose the centrepiece of this mural.  Maybe the Academy can find a place elsewhere in the building to put up a replica of the missing section.  The acoustics, both for choir (with and without organ) and for instrumental ensemble, were excellent and the renovated Szabelski Auditorium, named after the most important Katowice composer since independence and the teacher of Górecki, is an atmospheric addition to the facilities.  If the murals don’t grab your attention, the stained-glass images in the three large windows overlooking the front of the building, of six Polish composers up to and including Szymanowski, will remind you of the national musical heritage.  All that’s needed now is space for six more recent Polish composers.  Any suggestions?

• 6th Festival of Premieres, Katowice

Last November, the 21st to be exact, I visited the new and magnificent home in Katowice of NOSPR, the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra.  The occasion was a performance of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony under the baton of the 91-year-old Stanisław Skrowaczewski.

1510969_530640500404789_5062398667736756849_nIt was a searing account, made all the more special because that very morning I had come across a programme from 1949 when Skrowaczewski had conducted the same work with the other Katowice orchestra, the Silesian Philharmonic.  65 years on, and still going strong.


I hope that in 2080 someone will come across the programme of NOSPR’s 6th Festiwal Prawykonań (Festival of Premieres, 17-19 April 2015) and make a similar connection with a performer or composer being featured in this edition.  The big change is that all the concerts will take place in the orchestra’s new home, barely ten minutes’ walk from Henryk Mikołaj Gorecki’s home.  The siedziba, as it’s called in Polish, not only includes the main symphony hall but the equally fine acoustics of the chamber hall.



Back in 2013, I listed the repertoire of the 5th Festival.  This year, such is the diversity and extent of Polish composition that 75% of the names are different.  This biennial event is a great initiative, arguably the most important showcase for new Polish concert music.  It demonstrates the cultural significance of publicly-funded bodies like radio orchestras (Radio France take note).  I do not know the schedule of live or deferred broadcasts planned by Polish Radio Dwójka (PR2).

6-festiwal-prawykonanThe ensembles featured include Camerata Silesia, conducted by Anna Szostak, Orchestra Muzyki Nowej (New Music Orchestra), conducted by Szymon Bywalec, NOSPR conducted by Alexander Humala, Szymon Bywalec and José Maria Florêncio, Kwartludium, Kwartet Śląski (Silesian Quartet) and the AUKSO Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Marek Moś.

Here’s this year’s repertoire, in alphabetical order by composer:

** World premiere   * Polish premiere
• Rafał Augustyn: String Quartet no.3 ‘Monadologia’**
• Zbigniew Bagiński: String Quartet no.5**
• Zbigniew BargielskiHierofania 2 for orchestra**
• Marcin BłażewiczVisions for soprano, violin and piano**
• Marcin Bortnowskiku dźwiękom nocy for string quartet and accordion**
• Stanisław BromboszczAir for instrumental ensemble and electronic media**
• Roman Czura: Piano Concerto ‘Kraftfelder’**
• Jacek DomagałaElegia for voice and ensemble**
• Zofia DowgiałłoKompozycja z ruchomym tłem for orchestra**
• Cezary DuchnowskiSymfonia zbiorów for instrumental groups and electronics**
• Grzegorz DuchnowskiW malinowym chruśniaku for soprano and piano**
• Jan DuszyńskiSfex for accordion and cello**
• Mikołaj GóreckiElegia for cello and string orchestra**
• Marek GruckaRetaeh for piano, strings and percussion**
• Maciej Jabłoński: Symphony no.6 ‘Oneirophrenia’ for orchestra, electronics and multimedia**
• Zaid Jabri (Syrian composer living in Kraków): Beati Pacifici for soprano and piano*
• Justyna Kowalska-Łasoń która wszystko tworzy, wszystko ochrania for mixed choir of soloists, chamber orchestra and live electronics**
• Hanna Kulenty: Trumpet Concerto no.3**
• Sławomir Kupczak: white over red for mixed choir**
• Andrzej Kwiecińskierschallen for double bass and orchestra**
• Krzysztof MeyerMuzyka świata i półcienia for orchestra*
• Piotr Mossgo where never before for choir and instrumental ensemble*
PRASQUAL (aka Tomasz Prasqual): Muqarnyas for accordion and two orchestras in six spatial groups**
• Zbigniew SłowikThe Motor Poem (Quo vadis homine) for orchestra**
• Joanna Szymała: Clarinet Quintet**
• Sławomir Wojciechowski…play them back for ansambl and electronics**
• Emil Bernard WojtackiZefiro torna for soprano and orchestra**
• Artur ZagajewskiMechanofaktura**

• New Górecki sculpture in Katowice

A ceremony took place today in Górecki’s home city to unveil a new memorial to the Polish composer, who died just under three years ago.  In the presence of his widow Jadwiga, his daughter Anna and her family, the new relief sculpture was seen in public for the first time.  The sculpture is located in Plac Grunwaldzki, north of the city centre and less than five minutes’ walk from where Górecki lived for many decades.  Górecki’s sculpture is the latest in a line of such annual commemorations in Katowice, designed to honour citizens who have made distinguished contributions to the artistic and cultural life of the city.  The sculptor is Zygmunt Brachmański, born three years after Górecki and in the same small town, Rydułtowy, where Górecki grew up.  Here’s a photo of both Brachmański (centre) and Górecki (right), looking at Brachmański’s bust of Szymanowski, on the occasion of the opening of the new building of the Szymanowski Music Academy in Katowice in 2008.  The photo is © Aleksandra Konieczna.


Back to today’s unveiling of Brachmański’s memorial to Górecki.  All the photos below are © Arkadiusz Gola.

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Jadwiga Górecka unveiling the memorial to her husband.

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Górecki oldest grandson, after laying a bouquet at the foot of the memorial.

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A close-up from the left side of the bas-relief – it’s a pretty good likeness!

For Arkadiusz Gola’s full online sequence of photos, you can follow this link to Katowice’s regional daily newspaper, Dziennik Zachodni.  Here’s a translation of an excerpt from the accompanying report:

This year there was a choice of eleven candidates.  Those nominated were Grzegorz Fitelberg – conductor and composer [one of Poland’s most significant musical figures of the last century], Andrzej Seweryn Kowalski – artist and teacher, Tadeusz Michejda – architect, Theophilus Ociepka – painter and representative of Polish naive art, Stanisław Ptak – stage and film actor and operetta singer, Bolesław Szabelski – composer, organ virtuoso  and teacher [he was Górecki’s teacher too], Andrzej Szewczyk – artist, Stefan Marian Stoiński – ethnographer, conductor, composer and teacher, Witold Szalonek – outstanding composer and teacher [he also lived close by], Andrzej Urbanowicz – artist and cultural animateur, and Górecki.

• 5th Festival of Premieres, Katowice


Festiwal Prawykonań (Festival of Premieres) is a biennial celebration of new pieces by Polish composers of all generations.  This year’s event runs over the last weekend of next month, 26-28 April 2013 (the Polish website is complete but the English is still under construction).  It’s organised in Katowice by NOSPR (Narodowa Orkiestra Symfoniczna Polskiego Radia – National Symphony Orchestra of Polish Radio; or as NOSPR bizarrely prefers to translate it – Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra).  The festival started in 2005 and a full list of previous festival concerts is available under its Archiwum tab.

There’s a mix of chamber and orchestral concerts (seven in all).  Some are free, the others have a one-price tag of 10zł (c. £2).  How’s that for a bargain?  I’m sure that most if not all of these concerts will be broadcast online by Polish Radio Dwójka (PR2), either live or delayed.  Here’s this year’s repertoire, in alphabetical order by composer:

** World premiere   * Polish premiere
• Marcin Bortnowski: Miserere for chamber choir and percussion ensemble**
• Michał Dobrzyński: Three Songs to words by Rilke**
• Ryszard Gabryś: Voyelles de Arthur Rimbaud**
• Mikołaj Górecki: Symphony no.2**
• Aleksandra Gryka: 10, 12, 13, -31 for string quartet**
• Paweł Hendrich: Ertytre for cello ensemble**?
• Rafał Janiak: Symphony no.2**
• Dobromiła Jaskot: Elferiae for string quartet**
• Krzysztof Knittel: Partita for saxophone, orchestra and electronic media**
• Benedykt Konowalski: Nowa pieśń chwały for clarinet and mixed chamber choir**
• Włodzimierz Kotoński: Arietta e i fiori for trombone and synthesized sounds**
• Justyna Kowalska-Lasoń: String Quartet no.3**
• Zygmunt Krauze: Canzona for instrumental ensemble*
• Stanisław Krupowicz: Piano Concerto**
• Hanna Kulenty: String Quartet no.5*
• Andrzej Kwieciński: Canzon de’ baci for tenor and orchestra**
• Mikołaj Majkusiak: Pulsaciones for accordion, classical guitar and string orchestra**
• Maciej Małecki: Concertino for cello and orchestra**
• Krzysztof Meyer: Piano Quartet op.112 (new version)**
• Piotr Moss: Cavafy Verses for baritone and orchestra**
• Aleksander Nowak: Z górnego piętra for violin and percussion**
• Tomasz Opałka: L.A. Concerto for violin and orchestra**
• Ryszard Osada: Double Reflection for cello octet**
• Bronisław Kazimierz Przybylski: Lofoten, Concerto-Symphony for viola and orchestra**
• Dariusz Przybylski: Cello Concerto**
• Marta Ptaszyńska: Of Time & Space, concerto for percussion, electronics and orchestra**
• Adrian Robak: Vocal Concerto ‘Camerata’**
• Marcin Rupociński: Non possumus for choir, chamber ensemble and electronics**
• Wojciech Widłak: Festivalente for orchestra**
• Sławomir Wojciechowski: Fingertrips for eight prepared cellos**
• Agata Zubel: Pomiędzy odpływem myśli a przypływem snu for voice and string orchestra**

• Lunch on the grass

While posting yesterday on the planned new concert hall in Katowice, I remembered a couple of walks I took with Górecki’s daughter and her family while I was visiting him in 2010.  One was to Nikiszowiec, which I’ll post about sometime soon.  The other was on Sunday morning, 1 November, in the birch forest and parkland on the southern outskirts of the city.

A clear, crisp morning, with a couple of unusual sights: a red squirrel at close quarters

and …

something strangely reminiscent of a certain French painting.  Although it has all the facial hallmarks of socialist-realist imagery of the early 1950s, I think that it must be from a later period, possibly the 1970s.  I can’t work out whether it’s tongue-in-cheek or oh-too-serious … or both.

• New Concert Hall for Katowice

Not before time, and after several years of planning, the building contract was signed today for a new concert hall in Katowice, Poland.  Its ambitious completion date is by the end of next year.  It will be the home of the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra (NOSPR) and will also include a chamber-sized hall.

The new hall will be situated to the north of the city centre, not far from where the composers Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Witold Szalonek lived, as well as the conductor Jan Krenz.  Its near neighbours will be the monument to the three Silesian Uprisings of 1919-21

and the Flying Saucer arena (Spodek), below.  I remember being taken aback by both the monument (1967) and this space-age construction (1971) as I walked to my first meeting with Górecki in Spring 1972.

The new concert hall will seat 1800, the chamber hall 300.  Here’s a promotional and rather stylish virtual tour of the new building, with both the monument and the arena appearing in the final image. The building’s columnar exterior seems to be a reference to the architecture of the brown-brick miners’ community built outside Katowice at Nikiszowiec at the start of the 20th century.  It is well worth a visit.

Although the video’s sound-track uses Brahms, I’m told that the huge music relief on the curved wall in the atrium will be from the manuscript of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

• On What Would Have Been His 78th Birthday

On what would have been Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s 78th birthday, his daughter Anna has sent me a photograph of his newly installed gravestone (nagrobek).  One of the words which I have long used to describe his music is ‘granitic’, so I am fascinated by the sculptural use of this material above what looks like a smooth, dark-slate grave cover.  It conveys the character of the man and his creative outlook brilliantly: rugged, imposing and unconventional, yet warm-hearted, touching and touchable.

• A Last Amen for Górecki

I had not intended to post so much on Górecki over the past few days, but events and memories have rather taken over.  Not least of these are my recollections of the funeral, which took place in Katowice on this date last year.  I hope that my account below will give some sense of the occasion.

I caught an early train from Warsaw along with Polish friends and colleagues.  The cloud hung grey and dismal over the central lowlands.  Katowice looked the same as it had two weeks earlier, when I’d come to see Górecki for what turned out to be the last time.  Katowice, too, was grey and dismal, but then it often looks that way.  There was time for a reviving cup of tea and a sandwich, time for my friend to collect a bouquet, and time to buy the new edition of Tygodnik Powszechny, which had published my appreciation of Górecki along with those of others.  We walked to the Arch-Cathedral of Christ the King, whose huge dome sits squatly atop the cruciform building.  The dome should have been higher, but the post-war communist authorities did not want a Christian building dominating the area.  It was just as well that we arrived early, because the Cathedral was packed long before the scheduled start at 13.00.

Górecki had been cremated the previous day, in a private ceremony.  I was told that the Roman Catholic church in Poland barely tolerates cremation and would not countenance a funeral service beforehand, which is customary here in the UK.  (I recollect that, in 1994, Lutosławski’s ashes were brought to the chapel in Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw for the funeral service.  He had been cremated in the (then) only crematorium in Poland, in Poznań in the centre of the country.)  Urns are always buried, as the scattering of ashes is illegal in Poland.  Most of the close relatives, including his daughter Anna and her family, arrived at 12.45, his widow Jadwiga and son Mikołaj on the dot of 13.00.  They were followed by the funeral directors bearing wreaths and Górecki’s funeral urn, which was placed, gently sloping, on its back, with a large central candle behind and the funeral plaque in front.

The ceremony was in two parts, designed to last about two hours.  Almost inevitably, it overran, by almost an hour. First there was a concert, then the service proper.  The musical institutions of Katowice and further afield had pulled out all the stops.  Górecki’s former pupil, Eugeniusz Knapik, who is the senior figure at the Academy of Music in the city, where both Górecki and he studied, had played a key role in bringing everything together.  Three of Katowice’s orchestras performed – the National SO of Polish Radio, the Silesian PO and the AUKSO CO – alongside soloists and choirs from Katowice and Kraków.

The concert began with Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater, a work with which Górecki had a deep affinity.  Unfortunately, the Cathedral has a ballooning acoustic with a reverberation time of almost 10″.  The a cappella fourth movement, however, sounded well.  There followed a performance of Górecki’s Beatus vir (1979), the last of the three monumental works that he composed in the 70s – it had been preceded by the Second Symphony ‘Copernican’ (1972) and Third Symphony ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ (1975).  It sounded as strong and imposing as it must have done at its first performance, which Górecki conducted in Kraków in front of the newly elected John-Paul II.

The mass, which began at 14.15, was presided over by Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, a close family friend.  There were addresses by other church figures, by the Minister of Culture and by the President of the Polish Composers’ Union.  In the congregation were composers of Górecki’s generation – Krzysztof Penderecki (Kraków) and Wojciech Kilar (Katowice) – and younger ones too, including Górecki’s pupils Knapik and Rafał Augustyn.  As far as I am aware, I was the only person from abroad, which I found rather sad, given how significant had been the relationship between the composer and major broadcasting, concert, publishing and recording institutions outside Poland.

There were a couple of musical surprises too.  A performance of Totus Tuus was to be expected, but Penderecki conducting Amen was less so.  And I was not the only one to be taken unawares, at the start of the communion service, by the performance of an excerpt from Strauss’s Metamorphosen.  According to his widow, this had been the one musical request for his funeral that Górecki had made.

The ceremonies came to a close at 15.45.  This must have come as a blessed relief for the representatives of organisations from Katowice and the Polish mountains who had stood with their banners at the far end of the Cathedral for the preceding three hours (see the photo above).  They now moved down to the aisle, leading the procession out of the main doors.  Górecki’s oldest grandchild, still in his mid-teens, carried the urn, flanked by his father and his uncle.  Then began the walk to the cemetery.  It took some 15′ for everyone to leave the Cathedral, and by this time dusk was falling fast.  We proceeded slowly up the side street, just a few hundred metres, and into the cemetery, but such was the crush of people that I had to look on from some distance.

En route, a miner’s band played solemn music and the urn was carried in relay, concluding with a trio of mourners from the mountain town of Zakopane (also carrying the plaque and a heart-shaped carved box containing soil from the mountains).  Most of Górecki’s happiest moments had been spent in this region since the late 1950s.  He honeymooned there and for many years in the 1970s and 80s rented a log cabin in the little village of Chochołów, before finally buying his own house in the 1990s in the village of Ząb, on a high ridge facing the magnificent jagged peaks of the Tatra Mountains.  He revelled in the views and the culture of the place.

At the graveside, further prayers and blessings were said, the urn placed in the ground and the mountain soil poured over.

There was then a patient wait to greet the family, a process further lengthened by the many mourners who carefully placed their wreaths and bouquets, creating a waist-high bank of flowers around the grave.  I became aware, beyond the low murmuring about me, of distant music.  It seemed familiar.  50 or so metres away, indistinguishable in the shadows, was a folk kapela, a string ensemble from the mountains.  They were playing a melody from the Tatras, keening and unbelievably poignant.  Earlier, they had walked from the Cathedral in daylight.  Now, they were paying a final tribute to their adopted son as night closed in.


At the reception afterwards in the Academy of Music, his widow Jadwiga told me about her husband’s last moments. She has now repeated the story in public in an interview, ‘Dom na dwa fortepiany’ (Home for Two Pianos), in the Polish Catholic weekly Gość Niedzielny (Sunday Guest, 13 November 2011, 58-59):

Father Krzysztof Tabath, the hospital chaplain for Katowice-Ochojec, … came to the hospital half an hour later than usual.  At my request, he movingly described those last moments: “Eventually, I reached Mr Gorecki.  I began with “Our Father”, then “Hail Mary”, and then “Soul of Christ, sanctify me” “.  And there, the whole time, above the bed, were flashing the monitors to which my husband was connected.  During the saying of the prayer the display panel gradually dimmed, then went out altogether, and he died. During the prayer, he had crossed over into the other world.  I cannot imagine a better death.  It was simply wonderful.  I am happy that it was like that.

When Jadwiga told me the story, she added the resonant detail that Henryk had died as the priest uttered the final ‘Amen’.

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