Recitatives and Ariosos "Lerchenmusik" op. 53
After the difficult early 1980s, when Górecki withdrew almost completely from active musical life and, to a large extent, also from creative work, the composer received an unexpected impulse that prompted him to write a large-scale work. The impulse came in December 1983, in the form of a surprising telephone call from Denmark. The caller was Countess Louise Lerche-Lerchenborg, widow of the composer Poul Rovsing Olsen, who had been holding contemporary music festivals and workshops on her family estate for years. She had decided to present Górecki’s music in 1984, so she invited him to Lerchenborg for the festival, asking him to take part in workshops and audience meetings, and to write a new piece for clarinet, cello and piano, which would be played during the festival by the Danish Trio. The invitation and commission led to the writing of the atmospheric, contemplative Recitatives and Ariosos “Lerchenmusik”, and, above all, re-energised the composer and, as a result, directed him toward a new path in his work.
The 40-minute Lerchenmusik consists of three large movements. Each is a slow meditation, a feature emphasised by chord-based playing of the piano and multiple repetitions of individual phrases and motifs by the three instruments. The work is devoid of virtuoso features, with the instruments as equal partners in carrying powerful expression.Each movement is dominated by a different instrument – first the cello, then the clarinet and finally the piano.
The litany-like final movement begins with a quotation from the melody of Sunday vespers “O God, come to my assistance”, developed and repeated as the movement progresses. At the same time the theme alludes to the initial fragment of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, extraordinarily similar to the melody of vespers sung in Polish churches. In addition, as the movement develops, the composer introduces a “lark-like” theme in reference to the Countess’ surname and the name of the Lerchenborg estate, interweaving it with the main litany material.
Lerchenmusik, marked by slow progression and repetition of simple motifs and chord connections, requires great concentration and huge emotional engagement from the performers – only then can it move the listeners with the depth of its expression and the force of its spiritual contemplation.