Juvenilia

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Opis materiału
  • Composer:Henryk Mikołaj Górecki
  • Original title: Utwory młodzieńcze
  • year of completion: 1955
  • instrumentation: various

Before he took up composition studies with Bolesław Szabelski in the State Higher School of Music in Katowice, Górecki had composed a sizable collection of juvenilia. Most of these pieces he later destroyed but, as we learn from his biographer, Adrian Thomas, he left behind 10 of the scores in manuscript.

These surviving pieces are Legend for orchestra, Five Mazurkas for piano, Ten Preludes for piano, Two Songs for voice and piano to words by Maria Konopnicka, Terzetto quasi una fantasia for oboe, violin and piano, Romance for piano, a string quartet, Poetic Images for piano, and a piano concerto, the largest form among the juvenilia. Only the Two Songs to words by Maria Konopnicka have been presented in public. The composer wrote a third song, By the Window, in 1995, and the cycle was then first performed as Songs to words by Maria Konopnicka.

Most of Górecki’s juvenilia were written for piano, an instrument the composer was intimately familiar with. They also include the Legend, his first attempt at an orchestral piece,,  and a string quartet, a genre the composer would return to in the late 1980s to write his String Quartet No. 1 “Already It Is Dusk”, commissioned by Kronos Quartet in the U.S.

These youthful compositions generally maintain the neoclassical style that was then dominant in Polish music, and are characterized by vigorous rhythms and clear form. Thomas asserts that in these pieces Górecki drew on modes and rhythms typical of folk music on one hand, especially for the mazurkas and Poetic Images, and on the other on the tradition of great Romantic piano music (Rachmaninov, Scriabin and others) with its chromatic turns and virtuosic textures, particularly for the preludes. The juvenilia, especially the Romance and the mazurkas, also possess much atmosphere derived from the music of Szymanowski, whose work Górecki continued to admire throughout his life.

We can discover features in these very early compositions that would be typical in the composer’s later works, such as the preference for violent contrasts resulting from juxtaposing turbulent, energetic, even aggressive-sounding fragments with peaceful sections that frequent exude deep melancholy. The Piano Concerto, the most ambitious of these works, follows the traditional three-part model. Its opening and closing movements are energetic and vigorous and contrast with the lyrical, highly poetic Interlude.