Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s road to the Oratorio “Sanctus Adalbertus” in the context of the composer’s fascination with the person and teaching of St. John Paul II




Słowa kluczowe:

Górecki, John Paul II, Saint Adalbert, oratorio, Bogurodzica


Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s profound personal religiousnessbecame the source of his deep spiritual bond with the personality of Karol Wojtyła – Saint John Paul II. The relationship between the composer and the Pope was of a special nature. In 1977, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła commissioned a work from Henryk Mikołaj Górecki to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the death of St Stanislaus. The result was the oratorio Beatus Vir Op. 38, a psalm for baritone, mixed choir and orchestra. Since its premiere, the composer has been urged by the Pope to compose further works of religious music. This was to be a larger cycle dedicated to Polish saints. Only the oratorio on St Adalbert was written, the fate of which was unknown during the composer’s lifetime. Its manuscript was found in materials left behind by his son. The text of Sanctus Adalbertus is laconic, building up already at the level of words a specific drama typical of the composer. It is sung in Latin alternating with Polish (there is also a Czech variant, which is understandable given St Adalbert’s nationality), and, as so often in Górecki’s work, is based on thoughts taken from the Psalms. While the first three parts of the work can be said to be composed as a whole by ‘juxtaposing’ different sound models, different idioms repeated many times in an irregular manner peculiar to Górecki, the fourth part, with its clear three-part structure, is built in a processual manner. Górecki’s Gloria is derived, as it were, from the song Bogurodzica and tends towards it. In the maximally muted ending of the work, the melody returns, this time as if a reminder of it in the single, delicate strikes of the bells and grand piano leading to the utterance of the saint’s name: “Sanctus Adalbertus”. The work can be interpreted as a journey towards the quotation from the oldest Polish hymn – Bogurodzica (Mother of God), as a journey to the source – to the roots of a Polish national identity in times of rebirth.


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