12. Górecki : 'Symphony #3, Op. 36' (1992)

Henryk Mikolaj Górecki is a contemporary classical music composer who became a leading figure of the Polish avant-garde during the post-Stalin period. His initial dissonant approach subsided to a less complex sacred minimalist sound, exemplified by the transitional Symphony No. 2 and then the most well-known - Symphony No. 3 ('Symphony of Sorrowful Songs').

Until 1992, Górecki was viewed as a remote and fiery figure but In that year, 15 years after it was composed, a recording of 'Symphony of Sorrowful Songs' with soprano Dawn Upshaw was released to commemorate the memory of those lost during the Holocaust - it became a worldwide commercial and critical success, selling more than a million copies and vastly exceeding the typical lifetime sales of such recordings. Somehow he hit the right note. As surprised as anyone at its popularity, Górecki said, "Perhaps people find something they need in this piece of music .

Agreed. Górecki's third is one of those very emotive pieces that you need to be in a particular frame of mind to listen to and enjoy - those quiet, reflective moments. There are certain pieces of music you can't put on in the car for example, and this would be one of them. The work is slow and contemplative, with each of the three movements designed for orchestra and solo soprano. You can hardly hear the first three minutes, even if you turn your speakers up to 11, but it gradually builds, draws you in and transports you.

The libretto for the first movement is taken from a 15th century lament, while the second movement uses the words of a teenage girl, Helena Blazusiak, which she wrote on the wall of a Gestapo prison cell in Zakopane to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary. The third uses the text of a Silesian folk song and describes the pain of a mother searching for a son killed in the Silesian uprisings. Dominant themes of the symphony are motherhood and separation through war, and while the first and third movements are written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, the second movement is from that of a child separated from a parent.

For me it is sometimes refreshing to listen to music that has a completely different pace and is from another world. If you're in the right mindset, it can be something deeply moving.

Despite the success of the Third Symphony, Górecki has resisted temptation to compose again in that style, His Symphony No. 4 was to be premiered in London in 2010 but the event had to be cancelled due to the composer's ill health.

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12. Górecki : 'Symphony #3, Op. 36' (1992)
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