Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gorecki, sorrowful symphonist

With yesterday's news about the death of Polish composer Henryk Gorecki (1933-2010), this makes a logical tribute. His style has gone through various phases, but he is best known for the sacred minimalist sound he embraced in the seventies. His choral music is beautiful, his string quartets the best this side of Shostakovitch, but he will always be remembered by the immensely successful third symphony (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) from 1976, available on one of the best selling classical albums of the previous century. Exploring this composer is very rewarding, but you will have to start with his third, which I personally rank amongst the ten best symphonies of all time. For further information on this masterpiece, I refer to yesterday's post on this theme in the fascinating blog Unsung symphonies. The Naxos CD I link to has one of the best performances of this composition, by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra under Antoni Wit with soprano Zofia Kilanowicz in the crucial vocal parts. A small but interesting bonus is the inclusion of his Three Olden style pieces. Essential.