13 Nov 2010

Polish composer Gorecki dies aged 76

10:18 am on 13 November 2010

Polish composer Henryk Gorecki has died at the age of 76 after a long illness.

Gorecki is best known for his contemplative Third Symphony or "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs", composed for orchestra and solo soprano and exploring the themes of war and loss.

The symphony, which won Gorecki international renown in the 1990s, includes a Polish religious lament, a message written on the wall of a Nazi prison cell by a young Polish woman and a Silesian folk song of a mother searching for her son.

His later work, often religious in inspiration, has earned him comparisons with other composers of sacred music such as Britain's John Tavener and Estonia's Arvo Pärt.

Gorecki's works ranged from dissonant modernist compositions to traditional choral hymns.

In his early career, he was influenced by avant-garde composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Bela Bartok and cultivated an austere, cerebral style.

His monumental Second, or "Copernican", Symphony marked a transition to a more traditional mode of expression.

Composed in 1972 and featuring a choir and texts from biblical psalms, it celebrated the 500th anniversary of the birth of Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who established that the earth circled the sun and not the other way round.

Gorecki combined composing with an academic career.