The Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki died Friday in Katowice after a long illness, the Krakow Post reported. He was 76.
He started as an avant-garde stylist but moved toward more traditional music as he aged, according to the Krakow Post.
His most popular work was the 55-minute "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (1976), which musically describes a 15th-century monastic lamentation, a wall inscription by a Gestapo prisoner and a folk song from Poland's Opole region, according to the University of Southern California's Polish Music Center.
He resigned his professorship at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice in 1979 in protest of communist authorities, but just last month he was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest honor, the Krakow Post reported.
"I think that music is one of the domains that people really need, and its importance only depends on whether one knows how to receive it," Gorecki said in a 1997 interview, according to the USC site. "Every person needs to be prepared to know how to 'use' music. Not only music - also literature, painting, sculpture, and film."