as Symphony No. 1 and Scontri shocked the earlier Warsaw
Autumn Festival audiences, so did the first performance of Ad Matrem in 1972 prove a real shock for the audience of that
edition. In Górecki’s development, this was a groundbreaking composition. Its
narration, based on the accumulation of powerful repeated phrases marked by
piercing outbreaks of brass and by recitative choral entries, with a lyrical
central fragment played by the strings, leads to the final soprano solo,
introducing a simple, warm, even soothing phrase with text from the medieval
liturgical sequence Stabat Mater –
“Mater mea, lacrimosa dolorosa”. It was Górecki’s first piece in which the
words – sacred words, at that – were assigned such an important role.
studying the composer’s oeuvre claim that Ad
Matrem inaugurated the religious period in Górecki’s music. All his later
works relate more or less directly to the sphere of the sacrum. Górecki frequently said that he wrote his music “for Lord
God” – and Ad Matrem was the first
example of this attitude.
opening, emerging from a pianissimo
and gradually gaining intensity, has a powerful effect on the listener. It is
almost like the desperate cry of a child who lost his mother (the piece is
dedicated to the memory of the composer’s mother, who died when he was 2).
Consolation only comes with the final phrase of the solo female voice, which
symbolically confirms perpetual help and motherly care, identified, as later in
Symphony No. 3, with the presence of
the Mother of God.
incredible directness of the emotional message combined with ascetic musical
material was, in the early 1970s, something shocking, and he was even accused
of kitsch. In avant-garde music,
emotions were concealed, and music was to work on the audience through its very
components, as was the case with Górecki’s earlier music. Now, however,
expression derived from musical material no longer satisfied the composer. Ad Matrem was a clear breakthrough that
led his music toward both man and God.