The remarkable Polish composer Henryk Gorecki, little known beyond his native country until the 1992 recording of his Symphony No. 3 caused a global sensation, died Friday at the age of 76. According to news reports, the end came in a hospital in Katowice after a long illness.
I like this phrase by Paul Griffiths describing Mr. Gorecki's work: "There was always a monumental simplicity about his music." This was especially true of that affecting Third Symphony from 1976, also known as the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs." In three broadly paced movements, the composer creates a poignant sound-world, with a soprano soloist intoning a time-suspending chant; the texts, dealing with loss, include a message found scrawled on a Gestapo cell during World War II. (The Nonesuch recording that eventually sold over a million copies featured soprano Dawn Upshaw and the London Sinfonietta, and was conducted by former Baltimore Symphony music director David Zinman.)
To mark Mr. Gorecki's passing, here are two examples of his distinctively mystical style. First, the a cappella choral work from the 1980s, "Tutus Tuus," and then a movement from that well-known Symphony No. 3 in an extraordinary performance filmed at Auschwitz: