Gorecki dies at 76
Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki passed away
"We are sorry to confirm the news that Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki has passed away," said Beata Jankowska-Burzynska, an official with Polish Radio's National Symphony Orchestra in the southern city of Katowice.
Gorecki was born December 6, 1933 in Czernica, near Poland's gritty coal-mining city of Katowice. He was orphaned at the age of two when his mother, a pianist, died.
He studied music at the Katowice Music Academy, where he went on to hold a professorship and became its rector from 1975-1979.
Known for his trademark simple yet monumental musical style, Gorecki was regarded as being at the forefront of Polish avant-guard classical composers through the 1950's to 1970's, exploring Polish folk music and medieval themes.
Focused on motherhood and the ravages of war, Gorecki's Symphony No 3 or Symphony of Sorrow Songs, gained critical acclaim and worldwide popularity after its 1992 re-release featuring American soprano Dawn Upshaw.
Having topped the charts in both Britain and the United States, it sold more than a million copies worldwide, becoming one of the world's best-selling pieces of contemporary classical music.
Divided into three movements, the monumental work is inspired by a 15th century lamentation, a Polish folksong and words scrawled by a prisoner held by the Nazi German Gestapo on the wall of a cell in the southern Polish mountain town of Zakopane.
"Gorecki's work is like a huge boulder which lies on our path and forces us to make a spiritual and emotional effort," Professor Eugeniusz Knapik, Gorecki's friend and current head of the Katowice Music Academy said, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency.
More recently Gorecki also composed works especially for the US string ensemble, the Kronos Quartet.