Henryk Górecki, RIP

It is said that when a Los Angeles classical radio station first played the Symphony No. 3 ("Symphony of Sorrowful Songs") by the Polish composer Henryk Grecki in the early 1990s, cars could be seen pulling to the side of the freeways because the drivers' eyes were full of tears. The symphony, which incorporated included a 15th-century lament, a Silesian folk song, and words written by a teenage girl on the wall of her Gestapo prison cell, brought Grecki international acclaim.Grecki has often been grouped with composers like Arvo Paert and John Tavener--they've been called the "holy minimalists." But Grecki's music ranged beyond minimalism and cannot be so easily pigeon-holed.He resigned his university teaching post when the communist authorities in Poland refused to welcome a visit by Pope John Paul II. Many years later Grecki would write "Totus Tuus" for the pope's third trip to Poland. (Back in 1979 Grecki had written "Beatus vir," on the life of St. Stanislaw, for then Archbishop Karol Wojtyla.)Last month while he was in the hospital Grecki was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, the highest honor given by the Polish state. RIP.

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