He was best known for his Third Symphony, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs(1976), of which the 1991 recording, featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw, has sold more than a million copies.
Born in the Polish village of Czernica, Górecki began composing in his late teens and attended the Katowice Academy of Music. Although his early works reflected the modernist style of many of his contemporaries, he later came to adopt a more Romantic mode of expression. Karol Wojtyla, prior to
becoming Pope John Paul II, once commissioned the deeply religious Górecki to compose a work in
celebration of the 900th anniversary of Stanisław Szczepanowski’s martyrdom. The composer actively opposed Poland’s Communist government, forming a branch of the Catholic Intellectuals Club and dedicating his 1981 Miserere to the Solidarity movement.
Górecki continued to compose into his final days. In April 2010, the premiere of his Fourth Symphony was cancelled by the London Philharmonic Orchestra due to the composer’s ill health. Having waited for nearly a quarter of a century, Górecki’s fans will be anticipating the arrival of his latest, and last, symphonic offering.