Polish composer Gorecki "re-discovered"

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Music lovers will remember the unprecedented commercial success, just over ten years ago, of Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki's Third Symphony. Now this Polish composer is again in the news. The recording of his Third String Quartet by the American Kronos Quartet, now in music shops around the world, is a re-discovery of Gorecki after quite a long period of silence.

It was the Third Symphony - subtitled The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs - that made Gorecki world famous in the early Nineties. Written in the late Seventies, it remained obscure until a Nonesuch recording that sold over a million copies, rose high on the pop charts and was used on film soundtracks. Since that commercial success, Gorecki has written several choral works but, as one critic put it, nothing that said to the world: I'm still here! In actual fact, however, back in 1995 he composed a major piece but it was only ten years later that he sent the score to the Kronos Quartet, which commissioned the piece and for which it was written. It is the Third Quartet. The dedication reads: To the Kronos Quartet, which has waited patiently for this quartet for so many years'. Premiered in Poland at the end of 2005, it has just been released by Nonesuch.

Adrian Thomas, British musicologist and author of a study on Gorecki, attended the work's first performance.

"It's the longest of the three string quartets. It's about an hour long, roughly the same length as the famous Third Symphony and like the Third Symphony which is all slow music the Third String Quartet is very slow. The middle of the five movements is a faster one but at the same time we have the feeling that it wants to be a slow movement. There's something about the atmosphere of this piece which is very reflective, very internalized and often very melancholic."

The Kronos Quartet has played a great role in the promotion of Gorecki's music. For first violinist David Harrington, the contact with Gorecki, which goes back to the 1980s and the First String Quartet 'Already It Is Dusk', is very important.

"Henryk Mikolaj Górecki is not a man who would define his music or control the way a listener would experience it but I can say as a listener that there's no piece in the entire string quartet repertoire, and I would count Beethoven, Schubert, Bartok and Berg here, like the Third String Quartet. It takes me to the centre of loss and even death and I believe it also defines life as well."

Now 73, Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki spends most of his time in his house in a beautiful village near the Tatra resort of Zakopane. The lovers of his music worldwide are waiting for his new pieces, hoping that their patience will not be tried too hard.