Henryk Górecki was born in the village of Czernica, Poland, on 6 December 1933.
Górecki was a firm champion of his country, and the diversity of peoples and cultures within it. He is quoted as saying: 'When you look at the history of Poland, it is precisely the multiculturalism, the presence of the so-called minorities that made Poland what it was. The cultural wealth, the diversity mixed and created a new entity.'
He saw this diversity first hand in the teaching profession.
After completing a four year music teacher course in just three years of intensive study in 1952, Górecki took work teaching young students to perform. This occupation - while far from lucrative - gave him the means and materials to compose his own pieces.
With these meagre earnings Górecki was also able to continue to refine his style under the composer Boleslaw Szabelski at what is now the University of Music in Katowice.
The First Symphony was completed in 1959 - a year before Górecki's graduation from Katowice. It was described as being 'the most colourful and vibrant expression of the new Polish wave' and showed the influence of his teachers.
Górecki's wrote his transitional Second Symphony in 1972 to mark the 500th anniversary of Copernicus's birth. Like the astronomer's finding that the Earth revolves around the Sun, the work divided opinion. It was markedly different to Górecki's earlier work and showed the composer moving away from the dissonance of his previous works.
The Third Symphony - also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs - composed in 1975 brought Górecki worldwide acknowledgement... eventually. The work was performed internationally and even found its way into a 1985 French film, but it was not until the 1991 recording - with Dawn Upshaw, the London Sinfonietta and David Zinman conducting - that Gorecki became a household name.
Radio play of the release struck a nerve with listeners, who called stations requesting to hear the symphony again and again. This was of some surprise to the composer, almost twenty years after the piece was written. Górecki pondered: 'perhaps people find something they need in this piece of music... Somehow I hit the right note, something they were missing. Something, somewhere had been lost to them. I feel that I instinctively knew what they needed.'
The Symphony of Sorrow went on to sell more than a million copies, reaching No. 6 on the UK pop chart - remarkable for any classical composer let alone one born in the 20th Century.
Górecki continued to develop his compositional style following the Third Symphony, and - even during its resurgence in the 1990s - did not sacrifice his integrity with a second Symphony of Sorrow.
The composer's Fourth Symphony was due to be premiered in London in 2010, by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, however the composer's ill health meant that the event had to be cancelled.
In October 2010, one month before his death, Poland recognised Górecki's contribution to the nation's culture by awarding him the Order of the White Eagle, the country's highest honour.