Beatus vir op. 38
Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, Archbishop of Kraków, commissioned Górecki in 1977 to write a piece for the 900th anniversary of St. Stanislaus’ martyrdom. The composer was preparing for the task, collecting texts – as was his habit – and looking for a musical idea that would suit the subject and occasion. In the meantime, on 16 October 1978, Wojtyła was elected pope. Górecki, like the majority of people in Poland, was in but also brought Górecki, like the majority of people in Poland, into a state of euphoria. dotyczącej sierpnia moje mozliwoś a state of euphoria on hearing this news. But he was also faced with a dilemma: What should his music, commissioned when Wojtyła was still a cardinal, sound like now? What is more, the premiere of the new composition was scheduled for 9 June 1979 – the day of John Paul II’s visit to Kraków during his first pilgrimage to his home country. After some consideration, the composer decided to draw again on The Book of Psalms, but it was only in April 1979 that he began to work intensively on the piece. The resulting work, Beatus vir for baritone, mixed choir and orchestra, was dedicated to the pope. Górecki conducted the premiere of the work in Kraków’s Franciscan Church in the presence of the pope, who thanked the composer in person after the concert. Górecki was deeply moved and frequently recalled that day as the most important event in his life. In its character and atmosphere, Beatus vir is related to both of Górecki’s earlier symphonies: No. 2 “Copernican” (to its second movement) and No. 3 “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”. The work is imbued with the mood of devout contemplation and its solemn character is emphasised by the monumental performing forces: a large choir and a full symphony orchestra that accompany the soloist. The music is dominated by frequently repeated chords, above which the solo voice presents its melody: quiet, but not devoid of more expressive accents. The choir either engages in a dialogue with the soloist, or supports the solo part. This composition, over 30 minutes long, develops without haste, allowing the listener to immerse in the focused atmosphere of arduous, humble prayer – an expression of complete trust in God. Notably, accepting the commission from Cardinal Wojtyła and the decision to complete the composition when he was elected pope put Górecki in trouble with the political authorities, which led to his giving up the position of vice chancellor of Katowice’s State Higher School of Music.