Undoubtedly my favorite contemporary
composer, Górecki often vies for "best
composer of all time" in my opinion —
it all depends on when you ask. It was his
music, particularly his Third Symphony (subtitled"Symphony
of Sorrowful Songs" — more
information here) that was a major factor
in my choosing Poland when I joined the Peace
Corps back in 1996.
Cross Church, Zakopane
Since then, my appreciation of his music has
only grown, particularly with my improved Polish
and the ability to understand the texts of
his vocal works.
When I was about to leave for Poland, I joked
with someone that I was going to meet Mr. Górecki
no matter what it took. I had my chance this
weekend, in the most auspicious of occasions:
Górecki conducting his Third Symphony in celebration
of his seventieth birthday. In the end, I'm
ashamed to say, I chickened out. I couldn't
think of anything to say that wouldn't
make me sound like a babbling teen meeting
some superficial movie star.
It's enough, I suppose, that I got to experience
his Third Symphony, under his own baton (well,
no — he didn't actually conduct with
a baton), in a location that was intimately
connected with the text of the second movement.
The whole adventure was blessed by luck from
the beginning. Kinga and I left at 1:40 in
the afternoon, not knowing when we had a bus
or even how long it would take us to get there.
We arrived at the bus stop just as a bus to
Nowy Targ was pulling up. The chances of that
happening are miniscule. We made it to Nowy
Targ, waited half an hour for a bus to Zakopane,
with me babbling like a little girl going to
meet The Back Street Boys. Hopped off the bus
in Zakopane, took a cab to the church, and
arrived half an hour before the concert started.
Those without invitations had to sit in the
small balcony. Though we arrived only half
an hour before the concert was to begin, the
balcony was virtually empty. We ended up standing
at the railing of the balcony to get the best
view, and by the time the concert started,
there was quite a crowd.
The concert itself was something of a blur. At
60+ minutes, the symphony could, I suppose,
be called "moderate" by some standards,
but for me, it seemed to last about ten minutes.
I blinked and the first movement was over,
with an outbreak of coughing and sneezing in
the audience — the backlog of half an
hour silent, respectful listening, I suppose.
The second movement, at only nine minutes,
seemed a flash. And the third moment, at about
twenty minutes, seemed about a tenth that.
I didn't take any pictures because the concert
coordinator politely asked that we not.
After the concert, the orchestra performed "Sto
Lat" ("100 Years"), the traditional
Polish well-wishing song. Mid-way through,
Górecki jumped onto the podium again and directed
everyone, audience and orchestra alike.
some well-wishing and chatting, the orchestra
came back out and they did a playback recording
session, as this is intended to be a DVD released
sometime later. It was a strange thing —
they were basically making a music video, playing
along with their earlier performance. They
played for a bit — most of the first
movement — then suddenly the director
stopped everything just as the music reached
it's most emotional point. Strange how art
can so easily succumb to commercial needs.
Mr. Górecki and reflecting on
his the warmth he exhibited
while chatting with friends
and acquaintances, I can't stop
wondering why I simply didn't
walk up to the man and introduce
myself. Childish insecurity,