Symphony No. 2 (Górecki)
Symphony No. 2, the "Copernican," Op. 31 (II Symfonia "Kopernikowska") ( sample (help·info)) is a choral symphony composed by Henryk Górecki in 1972 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. Composed in a monumental style for solo soprano, baritone, choir and orchestra, it features text from Psalms no. 145, 6 and 135, along with an excerpt from Copernicus' book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.
The symphony was commissioned by the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York and presented to Górecki as an opportunity to reach an audience outside his native Poland. Typically, he undertook extensive research on the subject, and was particularly taken by the philosophical implications of Copernicus' discovery, not all of which he viewed as positive. Norman Davies commented: "His discovery, of the earth's motion round the sun, caused the most fundamental revolutions possible in the prevailing concepts of the human predicament."
Adrian Thomas writes in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Second Edition, "The second movement marks an important stage in Górecki's conversion to a more consonant language since the late 1960s, a process which was clarified in several choral pieces and the Third Symphony." The symphony is written in two movements, following a binary design Górecki had followed in several previous works, "where the fortissimo dynamic, long silent pauses and rapid, chromatic motifs of the first movement are counterbalanced by a comparatively calm second movement.... The thunderous cosmic vision of the mostly orchestal first movement is answered by a second movement whose proportions are considerably expanded in order to release the earlier tensions."
The second symphony has been performed and recorded less than some of his other work (certainly less than his Symphony No. 3), in part because it demands a particularly large orchestra, soprano and baritone soloists, and a large choir. However, more than one interpretation of Symphony No. 2 is available on compact disc. The most readily available is the Naxos Records CD of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Katowice, the Polish Radio Choir and the Silesian Philharmonic Choir with soloists Zofia Kilanowicz and Andrzej Dobber, conducted by Antoni Wit, which includes Beatus Vir.
- Thomas (1997), 74
- Davies, Norman. God's Playground: A history of Poland. Oxford, 1981. 150
- Thomas, New Grove (2001), 10:160.
- Perlez, Jane. "Henryk Gorecki". New York Times, 27 February 1994.
- Thomas, Adrian, "Górecki, Henryk Mikolaj," The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Second Edition (London: Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2001), 29 vols. ISBN 0-333-60800-3.
- Thomas, Adrian. Gorecki (Oxford Studies of Composers). Clarendon Press, April 1997. ISBN 0-19-816394-0
- Excerpt from the 1st movement
- Excerpt from the 2nd movement
- Article on Copernican Symphony and Text Translation