Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki, best known for his Symphony 3 "Sorrowful Songs," has died in his home city of Katowice following a serious illness. He was 76.
Joanna Wnuk-Nazarowa, director of Polish Radio orchestra in Katowice, told the Associated Press that Gorecki died Friday (Nov. 12) in the cardiology ward of a hospital in the city, in southern Poland. He was suffering from a number of ailments, chiefly a lung infection, she said.
Wnuk-Nazarowa said she and another Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki, had visited Gorecki in the hospital on Wednesday.
"Penderecki insisted on seeing him," Wnuk-Nazarowa said. "We tried to joke, make plans for the future. Penderecki promised he would direct [Gorecki's] 'Beatus vir' for the 80th birthday" that both would celebrate in 2013.
Gorecki was best known internationally for his Symphony 3, "Sorrowful Songs," for soprano solo and orchestra, which was published in the United States in 1994. It later became a best-selling recording, with more than one million copies sold.
Although his early works were more avant-garde, Gorecki was later influenced by traditional Polish music and themes of his nation's history, as reflected in works such as Symphony 3. In the second movement, the composer set to music a prayer inscribed by a prisoner on the wall of her cell in a German Nazi police prison during World War II.
"Beatus vir" - the work mentioned during the visit to Gorecki's hospital room - was commissioned by Karol Wojtyla before he became Pope John Paul II to mark 900 years since the death of Roman Catholic martyr, Stanislaw, bishop of Krakow - whom Pope John Paul II later made a saint. The composition, completed in 1979, is a psalm for baritone, choir and orchestra.
In awarding him an honorary fellowship in 2008, Cardiff University praised Gorecki for "his independence of thought and independence of spirit. His work is grounded in a profound humanity and is rooted in the folk and religious culture of his native Poland."
Gorecki was born Dec.6, 1933 in Czernica, near Rybnik in the coal mining Silesia region in southern Poland.
He is survived by his wife Jadwiga, a piano teacher, daughter Anna Gorecka-Stanczyk, a pianist, and son Mikolaj Gorecki, a composer.