In Honor of Henryk Górecki

Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

On the one-year anniversary of Henryk Górecki’s death, November 12, 2010, Soli Deo Gloria has posted a tribute page featuring clips and historical photos from the North American premiere of his beautiful, haunting Miserere, which SDG was privileged to sponsor in Chicago in 1994.

One year ago, the music world mourned the passing of Henryk Mikolaj Górecki (November 12, 2010). At the time of his death, this renowned Polish composer was 76 years old and in the midst of writing his Fourth Symphony. His Third Symphony (subtitled “Symphony of Sorrowful Song”) is the work that put Górecki on the musical map. Fifteen years after it was composed, a recording was released to commemorate the memory of those lost during the Holocaust, and it ended up selling more than a million copies.

John von Rhein, music critic for the Chicago Tribune, wrote that Górecki's music “seems to have tapped into a kind of mass longing for spiritual transcendence.” Górecki, himself, was as surprised as anyone, saying, “Perhaps people find something they need in this piece of music […] somehow I hit the right note, something they were missing. Something somewhere had been lost to them. I feel that I instinctively knew what they needed.”

In April 1994, Soli Deo Gloria had the privilege of sponsoring the North American premiere of a major Górecki work, the 32-minute a cappella Miserere, Opus 44. Under the direction of John Nelson, the Artistic Director of SDG, this significant occasion was also the first-ever joint appearance of the choruses of the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera of Chicago. The results were “serenely beautiful and deeply moving” (John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune).

From this concert, the first-ever recording of Miserere was made and is available on CD (see below).

Górecki Misere poster

Poster for the North American premiere of Górecki's Miserere

Górecki Misere premiere

North American premiere of Górecki's Miserere
St. Mary of the Angels Church, Chicago

Conductor John Nelson with Górecki

Conductor John Nelson with Henryk Górecki

Both the performances and the recording took place in Chicago's beautiful St. Mary of the Angels Church, and Elektra/Nonesuch released this first-ever recording of the Miserere in 1994. By February of 1995, the Miserere CD had made it to the top 15 on Billboard’s Top Classical Albums (right along with the Benedictine Monks and Anonymous 4), and the recording has now sold over 100,000 copies worldwide.

On hearing of Górecki’s death, Eugeniusz Knapik, the head of the Katowice Music Academy, where Górecki studied and later taught for many years, said, “Górecki’s work is like a huge boulder that lies in our path and forces us to make a spiritual and emotional effort.” David Harrington, violinist and Artistic Director of the Kronos Quartet, for which Górecki wrote three string quartets, reflected:

"Górecki represented a totally independent voice. He only listened inward. There was no amount of pressure that ever pulled him away from his ideals ... There is no one who can replace Henryk Górecki in the world of music. Many others have created beautiful, passionate, even exalted music. But Henryk found a way forward and beyond, through thickets of styles and fashions, that resonates of the single human being in communion with the power of the Universe. I miss him immensely." - David Harrington


Górecki Misere CD


Miserere. Op. 44
Amen, Op. 35
Euntes Ibant et Flebant, Op 32
Wislo Moja, Wislo Szara (“My Vistula, Grey Vistula”), Op. 46
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus
John Nelson, conductor

Szeroka Woda (“Broad Waters”), Op. 39
A Ta Nasza Narew
Oj, Kiedy Na Powislu
Oj, Janie, Janie
Polone Róze Rwala
Szeroka Woda

Lira Chamber Chorus
Lucy Ding, conductor

1994 Electra/Nonesuch


“An intensely spiritual, imploringly prayerful work . . . intellectually demanding and emotionally compelling.”—Gramophone

“Starkly beautiful.”—CD Review

Conductor John Nelson with Henry Górecki at rehearsal

Conductor John Nelson speaking with Henryk Górecki
at a rehearsal for the Miserere premiere


“The vocal and emotional range of the piece are beyond description as it takes listeners from the depths of their souls.”

[The Miserere nobis] is the purest, most emotional moment in music history I ever heard. It simply is breath-taking.”

“An atmospheric, intense and utterly compelling piece.”

“Conductor John Nelson is the perfect fit for this deeply spiritual work … His intuitive feel for the message heightens the complexity and subtlety of the expressiveness of this benchmark work.”

“This album contains some of the most emotionally heart wrenching music that I have ever heard.”