Issue 11: Making Górecki Part of the Polish Heritage

By Gabriel Rom

On the final night of the Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (HMG) festival, the composer’s music filled Kraków’s Church of St. Anne. In front of a magnificent altar depicting Christ's birth, the Lutosławski Quartet performed the final piece of the festival, Górecki’s first string quartet. The audience was an eclectic mix. In the pews, toddlers clapped their hands to the music, hipsters listened studiously, and some early attendees for the coming Mass, bundled in shawls, looked on with curiosity. When the piece ended, a little girl waddled on stage looking for her father, violinist Marcin Markowicz. She found him and wrapped herself around him. He tucked his violin underneath his arm, took a bow, and picked her up. Another year of the Henry Mikolaj Górecki festival had just come to an end.

For the fourth year in a row, an eclectic mix of Polish musicians, music scholars,and audiences gathered in Kraków to take part in the HMG Festival. Now considered one of the giants of 20th century music, the late composer’s work still doesn’t receive as much attention within Poland as some of his contemporaries. The HMG Festival is the only one in the world dedicated to this Polish classical musicicon. For 10 days in late October, distinguished Polish musicians performed concerts for audiences around Kraków free of charge. The festival also included conferences on music theory and the state of contemporary Polish music, featuring scholars and music critics.

In early 2010, festival director Michał Kwiatkowski wrote a letter to Jadwiga Gorecka, Górecki's wife, with a simple question: would Jadwiga accept a festival in honor of her late husband? She liked the idea and gave her consent, though the request surprised her.

"You want a festival in Kraków," she asked Kwiatkowski, "but why? He lived in Silesia." Kwiatkowski responded, "If they won't do it there, I'll do it in Kraków. I want to celebrate his name here."

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