Henryk Górecki: Totus Tuus


Composed in 1987, Totus Tuus (‘Totally Yours’), is perhaps one of Henryk Górecki’s most treasured works. The work was composed to celebrate Pope John Paul II’s third pilgrimage to Poland. During the Pope’s pilgrimage, Totus Tuus was performed twice – once at the start in June 1987 in Warsaw, the second a few days later at High Mass in Warsaw Victory Square. The words were written by Maria Boguslawska, and they directly address the Virgin Mary, who is the patron saint of Poland. 


The Lyrics


Totus tuus sum, Maria,

Mater nostri Redemptoris,

Virgo Dei, virgo pia,

Mater mundi Salvatoris.

Totus tuus sum, Maria!


The Music

Honing in one his earlier, much simpler style Totus Tuus displays homophony between the voices throughout. Górecki uses this technique to make sure that the words of Boguslawska shine through and aptly tell the story of pilgrimage. When performed the work lasts over 11 minutes in duration, and this is because Górecki slowly builds up the texture, which is representative of a musical affirmation of faith. 

The deathly quiet sections are sensitive and the “Holy Minimalism” style Górecki is aiming for is portrayed effectively. The dense textures are rooted deep in the cause, with each part adding a crucial line of harmony to the overall effect of the piece. The last few minutes of Totus Tuus is hauntingly quiet, with the voices moving in unison – representing reaching the ultimate goal. Over time the choir becomes quieter until the final few bars are so quiet that you can barely hear the words. The lasting effect of this is heart wrenching, with the music pulling the listener in and becoming “Totally Yours”. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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