Gorecki: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs - 1000 Years of Classical Music, Vol. 97 (CD)

ABC Classics & Jazz
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Yvonne Kenny, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Takuo Yuasa

‘Perhaps people find something they need in this piece of music, something they were missing. Something, somewhere had been lost to them. I feel that I instinctively knew what they needed.’
– Henryk Górecki

The first performances of Górecki’s ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ were greeted largely with scorn outside the composer’s native Poland. It took 16 years for the international musical community to change its mind, thanks to a recording by Dawn Upshaw and the London Sinfonietta, conducted by David Zinman: in the UK, the album reached the top ten of not only the classical charts, but also the pop charts, beating Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Like the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and the Englishman John Tavener, Górecki is sometimes described as a ‘holy minimalist’; it’s not an expression that he ever embraced, but it does capture something of qualities that make this symphony so appealing: simplicity, richness of repetition, and a deep spiritual engagement.

One of the techniques Górecki explores in this symphony is the use of drones: it’s an unfortunately unappealing name for a very beautiful sound! Drones are a feature of the traditional musics of many cultures: a single, low-pitched note, or perhaps two notes, held unchanging for a long time, while a melody is played or sung over the top. You can hear drones being used at the beginning of the second movement.

Another musical technique featured in this symphony is the use of rounds, or ‘canons’: a way of creating harmony using a single melody. In a canon, the same tune is played by simultaneously by several different performers, but each starts at a different time.

This album is part of 1000 Years of Classical Music – a series of 100 volumes charting the history of music to be released on ABC Classics. Click here to view other titles in this series on our website.

More information can be found at the project’s website 1000 Years of Classical Music.

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Symphony No. 3, Op. 36 ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’
1 I. Lento (Sostenuto tranquillo ma cantabile)
2 II. Lento e largo (Tranquillissimo – cantabillissimo – dolcissimo – legatissimo)
3 III. Lento (Cantabile – semplice)

Yvonne Kenny soprano
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Takuo Yuasa

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