Henryk Gorecki (1933-2010) became best known for his Third Symphony, the ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ that became a hit in the 1990s, tapping into a new hunger in the listening public for serious new music that was nonetheless melodically inspired and spiritual in sensibility. These qualities can be readily discerned in much of the rest of his small and fastidious output. The Kleines Requiem für eine Polka (1993) is itself at once a profoundly serious work and a curiously elusive one, a blend of warm expressive directness with almost Brechtian alienation. It is scored for a chamber ensemble: like Henze’s late masterpiece, it is an instrumental Requiem, in which words are felt to be otiose to the direct expression of grief and consolation.
The Lerchenmusik (1984) taps a similarly elegiac vein with smaller forces and Classical restraint: clarinet, violin and piano. The interplay of fast tempos with sections so slow as to be virtually motionless is highly characteristic of Górecki. Like his penchant for extremes of loudness and softness, it suggests a stylistic debt to Messiaen, whom Górecki got to know when he went to study in Paris in the early 1960s, and whom he often singled out as one of the supreme figures in his musical pantheon. ‘After Messiaen’, he once declared, speaking about modern music in a rare television interview, ‘it’s finished for me.’
New booklet notes by Bernard Jacobson, noted authority on Polish music of the 20th century.