Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s String Quartets and the Tradition of Genre Cover Image

Kwartety smyczkowe Henryka Mikołaja Góreckiego wobec tradycji gatunku
Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s String Quartets and the Tradition of Genre

Author(s): Teresa Malecka
Subject(s): Music
Published by: Akademia Muzyczna w Krakowie

Summary/Abstract: The category of genre occupies an important place in the process of significant change that underwent in the ideas and the aesthetics of Polish composers of the 20 th century. The problem of existence of genre is also present in Western-European music, although the conditions of that presence seem somewhat different. Carl Dahlhaus claims that genre has always been associated with tradition, which, in his opinion, ...‘“offers’ musical genres as something readymade. And yet in the postmodern age people no longer live in a society of one tradition but of several and possibly conflicting traditions.”Górecki’s views on tradition are fairly well known: “I dwell deeply rooted in tradition and this is where I search for a key to the present, a key that would let me to render what I am now and what is around me.” The three quartets (1988, 1990, and 2005), with Recitativa and Ariosa “Lerchenmusik” (1984) and Kleine Requiem fuer eine Polka, can be seen as belonging to a special and specific chapter in Górecki’s oeuvre, so called late style.The quartet represents a genre that has been treated throughout musical history as the epitome of pure music; in fact, according to C. Dahlhaus, it was “the paradigm of pure, absolute musical art.”The quartets however become programme pieces in Górecki. Their titles – Already it is Dusk, Quasi una fantasia, They Sing Songs – usher in a variety of semantic fields. The first two relate to a musical reality: the first to a song by Wacław of Szamotuły, the other to Beethoven’s Piano sonata in E flat major Op. 27 No. 1. Both connote with the artist’s own earlier work, which is a feature of late style. The musical title of the third quartet refers to the poetry of Velimir Khlebnikov, and in fact, with the lyrics “When horses die, they breathe, / When grasses die, they wither, / When suns die, they go out, / When people die, they sing songs,” to an existential situation, also close to the concepts of last style.

  • Issue Year: II/2014
  • Issue No: 4
  • Page Range: 53-69
  • Page Count: 17
  • Language: Polish