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Album Review: Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 Symphony of Sorrowful Songs [Live] by Beth Gibbons
Excellent, Based on 6 Critics
Under The Radar - 90 Based on rating 9/10
As its title suggests, Polish composer Henryk Górecki's 1977 third symphony is a melancholy work of classical musical. Split into three movements, from the very beginning it's drenched with the sorrow of its title (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs): lugubrious cellos and double basses death-marching forward as violins and violas occasionally attempt to fight through the darkness of their shadows— with little success. It's a beautifully slow and sad composition, and one that's more than just funereal.
Christian Fennesz is a master of auditory illusion. Listening to his music is to step into a wholly self-contained environment with its own rules governing perceptions of space and distance, where small, subtle sounds trailed by reverberations can reveal cavernous expanses, and massive blocks of sound are overtaken by soft white noise. Where the listener is situated within this space is constantly shifting or unclear.
Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3 took 15 years to become a hit. After premiering in 1977, a 1992 recording gave the then-living composer an anomalous breakthrough — selling more than a million copies, placing it well beyond the usual sales targets of a 20th century composer. Doubly so for a weighty score that handily earn its parenthetical title, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. But there's something in its mesmerizing rawness, its patient eruptions, that seems to resonate beyond classical's usual orbits.
Maybe that's why it's drawn its ….
We will never be done with Henryk Górecki, the Polish composer whose Symphony No. 3 won some obscure cultural lottery by entering the popular consciousness in a way 99.999 percent of new orchestral works do not. The work is quite simply deathless: Just three years ago, avant-garde saxophonist Colin Stetson offered his own version. Stetson, normally associated with more pitiless and hair-raising stuff, like the score for the modern horror classic Hereditary, bowed before the solemnity and the soft curves of Gorecki's piece with a faithful interpretation, as does nearly everyone who approaches it.
Part of a remarkable 2014 project that united some of the greatest works by Polish composers with some of alternative music's most prominent artists, Portishead's Beth Gibbons joined the the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki in a performance of Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. " Though the symphony initially received a mixed response when it premiered in 1976 because it departed from the atonal avant-garde style of Górecki's previous work, it ultimately became one of the most popular classical works in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
T he Third Symphony by the cult Polish composer Henryk Górecki is one of the rare success stories in the world of contemporary orchestral music. Largely ignored or dismissed after its 1976 debut, it was revived by the Nonesuch label in 1992 and became a surprise hit, shifting more than a million copies and becoming the standard-bearer for a genre dubbed "holy minimalism". The second movement in particular was used on adverts, TV trails and film soundtracks and was a regular fixture on the newly launched Classic FM.