Sunday, April 15, 2012

Szeroka Woda - Broad Waters

Henryk Gorecki "...offered Szeroka woda, Op. 39, in 1979. This last-named work, which translates as "Broad Waters," is actually a set of five pieces, and is a departure for the composer in that it consists of arrangements of existing folk melodies. Górecki had long been interested in the traditional folk and religious music of his native Poland, but he did not begin integrating these materials into his own music until Old Polish Music, Op. 24, from 1969.

Szeroka woda takes its melodies and texts from a pair of illustrated story books for children. All the texts have some connection, more or less direct, to water -- particularly the first, second, and fifth songs, which evoke the Narew and Vistula rivers. The settings are simple and unaffected. The harmonies flow naturally without being traditional. Górecki creates textures that match the texts and are gratifying to sing. In short, these are wonderful little pieces, and they launched a whole series of choral settings that Górecki composed over the next several years, many of which have yet to be published." --James Harley

Henryk Gorecki, Pope John Paul II and St. Faustina form a sort of trio of Divine Mercy. The connection between the two latter is obvious enough, since Pope John Paul himself considered the main mission of his pontificate that of the Divine Mercy. The connection with Gorecki - other than that he was also Polish and was commissioned by Pope John Paul to compose the Beatus Vir Opus 38. - has to do with the span of his musical development: his transition from complex dissonance to the kind of simplified harmony and rhythmn later on is like the sinner being incorporated into God's infinite mercy.

The dissonance was not simply dropped and another form of music taken up; not like the harmony and tranquility of Raphael where tensions are absent and you begin to sniff the artist at his own game. Rather it is of tensions brought into resolve, as it is with icons; as it is with with those drowned in Christ's inexhaustible Divine Mercy.

People want their own devices to go on as though they were the symphony, rather than their devices being ended in Christ's mercy. People today do not see sin; they see progress. This is why the opened floodgate of Divine Mercy is reserved for our days.