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Gorecki: Symphony No. 3
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The subtitle "Sorrowful Songs" is lost a little in the Polish translation, where the sense of "Wordless song", "prayer and exhortation", and "elegiac and redemptive lullaby" are qualities involved in the literal translation. The unique orchestration (4 flutes, 2 piccolos, 4 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 4 trombones, harp, piano, and full string ensemble) give a full, rich, intimate, chamber sound, but the beauty of a solo soprano voice adds to the absolute quality of the instruments. In three movements, each conveys a prayer in a contrasting, yet peaceful manner. Ingeniously, the 26-minute first movement is dominated simply by a canon; based on a folk song, the tune is taken up by the double-basses in low tessitura, and each voice enters at a fifth. It begins rather muddy in the lower voices, but, the gently shifting, repetitious nature, as well as the natural crescendo (achieved by adding instruments and increasing register) comes to a powerful climax, of which the movement ends the opposite by subtracting voices. 13 minutes into the opening movement, the mood changes from the kaleidoscopic motion of shifting strings, to full chords, piano attacks, and a prayer sung by soprano over huge, lush string chords. The effects of the first movement are intriguing and intense, but highly satisfying. The nine-minute second movement's text was found on the wall of Cell No. 3 in "The Palace", a Gestapo's headquarters in Zakopane, written by an 18-year old imprisoned in 1944.Read more ›
I recommend this version over the alternatives for four reasons. First, the price is unbeatable. Second, I believe the performance is marginally better than its competitors. Third, the remarkable singing of Zofia Kilanowicz. Fourth, unlike some recordings of this symphony, the disc contains not only the symphony itself, but "Three Olden Style Pieces," which while not as interesting as the main piece are not without interest. In short, this disc features the best performance, is offered at the best price, and contains more music than its competitors.
I do want to question the logic behind one of the other reviews. A reviewer from Derbyshire has expressed his belief that this music is somehow intellectually inferior and that its effects can be as harmful as a drug. I'm sure this was meant hyperbolically, but even granting this, this seems to me to indicate some confusion. In fact, the point is confusedly made. He grants that in Ravel (in the Bolero, a piece that I like not only less than most of the rest of Ravel's corpus but far less than the Gorecki) repetition is effective, and also in Beethoven.Read more ›
gorecki's third is, to quote one of my old professors, 'heartbreakingly beautiful'. the raw, emotive phrases make the hair stand on end; the grayest windy-city mornings assume redemptively tragic proportions when this is your soundtrack.
i prefer this version to every other that i've heard, including the much-hyped, but kinda flat, nonesuch version with dawn upshaw. i'm uncertain about squishy notions like 'national character', but this presentation, performed by polish citizens, eclipses the exercise-like renditions of their american and british counterparts in depth and power. each movement develops slowly, taking its time and giving the listener an opportunity to find the right headspace. wit or whoever recorded this performance also downplayed the unnecessary french horn lines and gave more attention to the piano - the result is a much more striking and poignant piece.
The piece is broken down into three movements - Sostenuto Tranquillo Ma Cantabile opens the symphony - this portion is dominated by a 15th century Polish Prayer, sung by the ethereal Dawn Upshaw (with an incredible soprano voice), which is enveloped in strings that sound both maudlin and lush. The entire piece is incredibly soft, yet deeply stirring. This is the portion of #3 that is at the center of the movie "Fearless", one of a number of Hollywood productions that have used Gorecki's Third as a theme.
The Second and Third Movements ("Tranquillisiom and Cantabile Semplice) rework the central themes, and instrumentation of the First movement - Upshaw's heavenly vocals resurface in even more desperate pleas, and the strings slow in tempo, making the emotional effect of the piece even more stirring. One thing that is absolutely captivating about this piece is the way that the strings command your attention without being loud or overbearing.
It's impossible not to be deeply moved by Gorecki's Third. And this recording, with the London Symphony and the incredible Dawn Upshaw is an absolutely perfect recording.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Purchased as a gift for a friend who heard my c.d. -- he likes it a lot.Published 29 days ago by skeptic44
Heartfelt, soulful and sometimes even astonishing. A great attempt at expressing the incomprehensible cause and effect of the human experience.Published 1 month ago by Robert Q.
This new vinyl version is significantly better sounding than the cd.Published 4 months ago by D. Lennox
This 180 gm vinyl version of this achingly beautiful symphony is pristine in its pressing and well worth the money. Read morePublished 4 months ago by RJ
The music is beautiful. Unfortunately there seem to be quality control issues with the vinyl version. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mpov
It has been literally twenty years since I have played this CD, so it was with some curiosity that I took it down from the shelf and re-listened. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ralph Moore
I remember when this piece first started to receive press, a reviewer remarked that he was driving when he first heard this and he was so moved by the music and the soprano that he... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer