Discover Symphony of Sorrowful Songs

Poignant, moving and musically striking, witness one of contemporary music’s finest works that has captured the British public’s heart for a generation: Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs).

Its three movements are sung by a solo soprano with a full orchestra with texts in Polish, taken from sources spanning the centuries. The result is a musical masterpiece that explores the themes of loss, grief and the vulnerability of motherhood. Symphony of Sorrowful Songs depicts the pain of a mother over the loss of her child, as well as feelings of hope and comfort in the face of tragedy. 

Learn more about Symphony of Sorrowful Songs and the 2023 production by the ENO, including details of this touching composition’s story and key audience questions around the performance


Three women, three short scenes about death.
Any time. Could be now, could be 2,000 years ago.

Scene 1
The first woman is grieving for her dead adult son. She sings to him. He does not hear her.

Scene 2
A second woman is grieving for her own impending death. She attempts to comfort her mother, although she is not with her.

Scene 3
A third woman is searching for the body of her son who was lost fighting in a civil war. She does not find him.

She mourns the wasted lives of soldiers.

Symphony of Sorrowful Songs at the ENO’s London Coliseum is roughly 55 minutes with no interval.

Symphony of Sorrowful Songs was composed by Polish composer, Henyk Gorecki , 1933-2010) who became internally renowned upon the release of his Symphony No. 3.

Symphony of Sorrowful Songs was written in 1976, and after a recording from London Sinfonietta in 1991, it became one of the most beloved pieces of classical music of the modern era.

Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) is a meaningful meditation on motherhood, love and loss. Across three movements, this touching work of art gives perspectives from a mother having lost their child to a child separated from their parents.

Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is set in Poland. The opera’s second movement is set in a Gestapo prison.

Henryk Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs has been used in films, television shows and commercials. In 1985, a section of the third movement featured in the credits of Maurice Pialat’s film, Police. Additionally, the Symphony has been used in the soundtracks of several other films including Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique (1991), Peter Weir’s Fearless (1993), Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat (1996). More recently, Symphony No. 3 has been used in the popular Netflix series The Crown (season 2, episode 7) and in Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life (2019).

Read the introductory guide to Symphony of Sorrowful Songs