Symphony No 3, Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Jacek Kasprzyk, Zofia Kilanowicz, soprano

Miserere and other choral works, Chicago Symphony Chorus/Chicago Lyric Chorus, cond. John Nelson

It is sad that this composer is not more appreciated.

Görecki was sixty years-old when the Nazis and Russians invaded Poland, and twelve when, at Stalin’s behest and with the acquiescence of the Western allies, Poland was abruptly shifted westwards, and the communists took over. He had a typical modern musical education, according to which music has progressed from harmonic to atonal, and all his early compositions were under that influence. But his Catholic upbringing and the music of the real liturgy he would have heard when growing up and in early manhood (before Vatican II) enabled him to free himself from this arid, formatory approach to music. Music is meant for the heart – not only for the heart, for it is for the whole, but if it does not touch the heart, directly and deeply, it cannot be for the whole.

During the composition of his second symphony, Görecki returned to harmony, and having broken free, there was a real flowing in the third, and in his choral pieces such as Miserere. His major works are obviously religious and this is an additional reason why the music critics do not like him: they find him boring, repetitive and of course, old-fashioned. The fact that at one time Classic FM promoted the third symphony does not endear him to them either. But the recording promoted by radio is not actually the best: beg, borrow or steal (it is no longer on sale) the only live recording that has been made of the third symphony. Listen to it and to Miserere with all the attention you can find – let it enter, and see what happens in you.