http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/no ... recki-dies
Polish composer Henryk Górecki dies, aged 76
Classical musician who achieved unlikely fame with Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, composed in memory of the Holocaust
The Polish composer Henryk Górecki, whose desolate Symphony of Sorrowful Songs became an unlikely crossover hit, has died in Katowice, aged 76.
He had been ill for some time, but lived long enough to be awarded the Order of the White Eagle, the highest honour of his country, which was presented last month. He was due to attend a performance in London earlier this year of his fourth symphony, but it was cancelled owing to ill-health.
Górecki's international reputation grew through his work with orchestras like the London Sinfonietta and the Kronos Quartet, in the years after he resigned his post as professor of composition in Katowice, in protest against the communist authorities' refusal to welcome a visit by the Polish pope John Paul II.
He had been regarded as a pioneer of modernism in his own country, though later adopted a more pared-down, minimalist style and became noted for religious music. In 1992, a recording of his then 15-year-old third symphony, also known under the title of the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, was released to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust: it became a worldwide critical and popular success. The material he incorporated included a 15th-century lament, a Silesian folk song, and words written by a teenage girl on the wall of her Gestapo prison cell. At one point, the disc reached number 6 in the general album charts, and it became a staple at funerals. It has since sold more than a million copies.
He was born in 1933 in Silesia, in south west Poland, to two talented amateur musicians, and first studied violin. He studied composition and then joined the staff of the state academy of music in Katowice, where his students regarded him as brilliant but extremely demanding. When they asked him what and how to write, he later recalled, his reply invariably was: "If you can live without music for two or three days, then don't write – it might be better to spend the time with a girl or with a beer."