Chorale in the Form of a Canon

Recording not available.

Opis materiału
  • Composer:Henryk Mikołaj Górecki
  • Original title: Chorał w formie kanonu na kwartet smyczkowy
  • year of completion: 1961
  • instrumentation: string quartet (I violin, II violin, viola, cello)
  • commission: Tadeusz Ochlewski
  • Premiere: Warsaw, 14.02.1961, „Wywołanie” Quartet
The three-minute Chorale in the Form of a Canon for string quartet was commissioned by Tadeusz Ochlewski, head of the music publisher PWM Edition, for performance during an Evening of Early Polish Music and Poetry in the Warsaw Philharmonic. Likely because of this performance context, the composer decided to draw on early music, using a quotation from the Renaissance song Already It Is Dusk by Wacław of Szamotuły.

The Chorale in the Form of a Canon, though unpublished, remains a significant document of Górecki’s growing interest in early music. With time, melodic quotations from selected Polish early-music works came to play key roles in his compositions. The song Already It Is Dusk was used again in Old Polish Music and String Quartet No. 1. In the case of the Chorale, the composer used Wacław of Szamotuły’s song as a kind of series, entrusting a version of the tune to each of the four instruments. The viola plays the basic variant, the cello performs it in retrograde (backward), the first violin inverts it (with the opposite direction of intervals, for example a descending semitone instead of the original ascending one), and the second violin in an inverted retrograde (the inversion played backward). In this way, the quoted melody permeates the structure of the whole and the piece – as musicologist Adrian  Thomas has suggested - takes on a spiritual character.

Górecki returned to this composition in 1984, when he revised it for the Italian composer Goffredoompozytora włoskiego – Goffreda 1984, when he revised it for the 80th rogradation (backwards)rly music, using a quotation from  Petrassi’s 80th birthday. The revised version was not performed at that time, however, and the piece remains unpublished.