Kronos Quartet's David Harrington Remembers Henryk Górecki
David Harrington, the founder, artistic director, and first violinist of Kronos Quartet, offers these remembrances of composer Henryk Górecki, who passed away earlier today at the age of 76. Kronos has graciously shared several archival photographs of the group with Górecki, which you can see in a photo gallery at nonesuch.com/media:
The three string quartets Henryk Górecki wrote for Kronos are a totally unique body of work. With Already it is Dusk, Quasi una fantasia, and ...songs are sung, Górecki extended a tradition that includes Bach and Beethoven, among many others. When we rehearsed with Henryk, the experience was as close as we have ever been to witnessing the raw, impassioned core in the heart of Europe's great invention: the string quartet. When he demonstrated phrases on the piano for us I was always reminded of Beethoven: his fortes were shattering, his pianissimos unfathomably inward. From us, he always wanted as much as our bows could handle and more.
Górecki represented a totally independent voice. He only listened inward. There was no amount of pressure that ever pulled him away from his ideals. He was known for his cancellations, as even the Pope discovered. Kronos waited 12 years for a piece that was so personal he couldn't let it out of his sight until the right moment mysteriously arrived. And I always loved him more for that devotion to his muse.
I learned that Henryk was a skilled furniture maker known for his beautiful chairs. I once asked him if he would consider making me a chair. He said, 'David, you can have the chair or you can have String Quartet No. 4. You choose.’ I chose String Quartet No. 4. But it looks like I will have to wait.
There is no one who can replace Henryk Górecki in the world of music. Many others have created beautiful, passionate, even exalted music. But Henryk found a way forward and beyond, through thickets of styles and fashions, that resonates of the single human being in communion with the power of the Universe. I miss him immensely.