Variations op. 4
Górecki’s early works were written mostly for instruments the composer knew very well and could play himself – the piano and the violin. In childhood, he had taken violin lessons with a local teacher, but the piano remained his true love. His own performance practice had given him intimate knowledge of both instruments, and the Variations op. 4 for violin and piano are his first composition in which these two perform together.The cycle was composed in the period of Górecki’s studies with Bolesław Szabelski and was his first attempt at a large-scale musical structure – in the form of a theme with variations. The opening theme, of folk character, is subsequently transformed in nine brief variations, and the cycle ends with a finale. This short but colourful and highly diversified composition is dominated by variations in slow tempi, lyrical and rather pensive, at times assuming the grave tone known from his previous songs. These are contrasted with alternating, more energetic and faster variations, which come close in character to a mazurka. The atmosphere of the cycle strongly resembles one we know from the music of Górecki’s beloved Szymanowski. The influence of Szymanowski is also evident in echoes of highlander folklore found in the Variations.