Until 1992, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki had remained recognized only by a small group of contemporary music connoisseurs. The situation changed immeasurably when his Third Symphony (the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) was released by Nonesuch. On the fifth anniversary of the composer’s death the American publisher reminded us of Górecki’s works.
The Third Symphony’s world premiere took place in 1977 and raised huge controversies – some took it as a masterpiece, some others complained that it didn't contribute in any way to contemporary music. Górecki himself referred to the work as the most avant-garde of his career. In the late 1990s the symphony was recorded by the American singer Dawn Upshaw with London Sinfonietta, conducted by David Zinman. The album came out to be a real winner (with more than million copies sold and appearances on the charts in the UK and the United States), got good publicity, and may now be ascribed to mass culture. We can hear parts of the album in some hip-hop samples (Lamb’s Górecki) and films, including those directed by Peter Weir and Paolo Sorrentino.
Twenty-four years after the Górecki’s debut with Nonesuch, people all over the world may buy a seven-disc box set containing the most important works done by the Silesian composer. The set opens with The Fourth Symphony’s Tansman Episodes, the last piece written by Górecki which he did not manage to finish. Górecki left a reduction (meaning a shortened version of a score) with precise drafts concerning orchestration, dynamic and tempo. The song was prepared for realization by Mikołaj Górecki, the author’s son. The first performance of the last Górecki symphony took place in April 2014 in Katowice.
A Nonesuch Retrospective also features: Lerchenmusik (1986), String Quartets No. 1 (1988), 2 (1990-1991) and 3 (1999-2005), Miserere (1981-1987), Small Requiem for a Certain Pole (1993), Concerto for Harpsichord – or piano – and String Orchestra (1980) and Three Lullabies (1984, 1991). Songs are performed, among others, by: Andrzej Boreyko, David Zinman, Kronos Quartet and London Sinfonietta. The album also includes an essay written by Adrian Thomas, a retired Cardiff University School of Music professor and one of the greatest authorities on Polish music around the world. The essay is available online as well. The Third and Fourth Symphonies will be released on separate albums. Additionally, the publisher prepared a special edition of the Third Symphony that will be released for the first time on vinyl.
Heryk Mikołaj Górecki: A Nonesuch Retrospective, Nonesuch Recordings, 2016 (7 CD box set)
Author: Filip Lech, translated by Antoni Wiśniewski, February 2016.