on 26 February 2004
Any recording of Gorecki's Third Symphony is going to have to come up against the Nonesuch release with the London Sinfonietta and Dawn Upshaw as Soprano for comparison.
This one not only stands the test but is the better recording.
It shows a greater understanding of the piece, delves deeper into it and is astonishingly well performed.
The Symphony is both a meditation on Poland's sufferings in the second world war and a love letter from the composer to his wife. Both of these theme's are expressed in this recording.
Each of the three movements - all in slow tempo's, has an accompanying poem sung by soprano. Whilst the Orchestra dominates the first movement the vocal part is of equal importance to it in the second and third movements.
In the first movement the strings gradually pull the piece out of the depths into the light. Finally, 18 minutes in, the music takes flight with the entry of the soprano before gently subsiding. In the second movement the soprano Zofia Kilanowicz really comes into her own. In the Third movement the strings coalesce into an esctatic lapping of waves on a shore, while the voice flys above them.
This is one of the best performances by strings I have ever heard, the textures they create are simply phenomenal. Zofia Kilanowicz proves herself to be a top class singer whose interpretation feels exactly right.
If you havent heard this before are there any comparisons ?
Although Gorecki has been lumped in with other 'Holy minimalists' his music is far richer than Arvo Part's and more deeply felt than John Tavener's. Some signposts would be (especialy for the first movement) The best of Elgar's string music and Metamorphosen by Richard Strauss. This work would also appeal to all lovers of Ralph Vaughan Williams Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and his Third (Pastoral) Symphony.
The 3 Olden Style Pieces are in a similar vein to the symphony and while they make a good filler you may find yourself stopping the CD after the symphony. It is enough in itself.
The previous reviewer is right to say that any version of this symphony will be compared to the 1992 David Zinman/Dawn Upshaw interpretation. But to say that this Antoni Wit/Zofia Kilanowicz version is better is, in my opinion, incorrect. Rather, it offers a slightly different but equally valid interpretation.
Whereas Zinman's has a clarity of line that is crisp and beautiful to behold, the Wit version is more lush. It has a greater depth but this does produce the occasional smudge. Wit produces a good balance between the high and low strings, but the joins between sections are not always seamless. For example, whilst Zofia Kilanowicz's singing is faultlessly beautiful, the return to the canon in the first movement produced no blaze of light, whereas with Zinman the hairs stand out on the back of my neck.
At 56 minutes, the symphony is also played slightly slower: Zinman's comes in at 52 minutes. The lushness and depth of the Wit version is perhaps due to the Polish orchestra, playing the work of one of their own. The performance feels that it is from the heart, genuine and sincere. But perhaps, instead, it is due to its being recorded in a concert hall rather than a studio.
I can highly recommend the extra "Three Olden-Style Pieces". Lasting three, two and four minutes respectively, they are reminiscent of miniatures that might have been composed by Grieg, Vaughan Williams and Vivaldi. They are really mere riffs, but beautifully constructed and played for all that. They appear, they disappear, they go nowhere, but whilst here they are an aural delight.
on 14 November 2010
i have nothing to add to the above reviews, except to say that although the nonesuch release is the more famous rendition, gorecki himself loathed it and preferred this rendition by his fellow pole antonio wit. So if you want to hear what gorecki meant now that he has sadly passed away, then look no further then gorecki's preferred version.
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. I recall "serious" music buffs being snooty about it because of its modish reliance upon its repetition of mantra like themes and it appearing to be a marketing product of that ghastly Classic FM slogan "music to relax to" - when of course it is anything but, if one responds to its searing, soaring progressions. On the other hand, neither can it be viewed simply as some kind of memorial token, emblematic of the Holocaust. Indeed I think it unfortunate if it is deemed great music simply because it treats of such deeply tragic and resonant historical themes; the music still has to be good, too, surely? Its mesmeric, hypnotic qualities reminded me of music by a composer who was similarly in vogue for the "spiritual" content of his work; John Tavener, whose style also had its roots in ancient forms and modalities.
Certainly I rediscovered its power to move and engage; it has greater substance, better sound, a more searching conductor and, to my taste, a more satisfying soprano soloist than Dawn Upshaw on the London Sinfonietta best-seller - all at a super-bargain price. The playing is first-rate and Wit's ability both to master the Polish idiom and handle long,arcing lines has often been demonstrated by his many recordings for Naxos of large-scale works by a variety of national composers, Mahler, Strauss and others.
Like so many people, I first heard this unique symphony circa 1993 in the Nonesuch recording by Zinman with the radiant voice of Dawn Upshaw singing the vocal part. I could hardly believe my ears. I can well understand how this music answered some need in many listeners, and it is a shame perhaps that Gorecki has been lazily lumped in with the other `faith minimalists` (not my label) such as Tavener and Arvo Part. This work, at least, deserves better. The wonder is that it was composed as long ago as 1976, when the composer was 43.
I used to only know the more famous recording, but now I tend to marginally prefer this all-Polish one from Naxos, made only a few months after the Nonesuch, oddly enough. I think the greater authenticity of Antoni Wit and the Polish NRSO, with the lovely voice of Zofia Kilanowicz, swings it.
There is not much to say about this heartfelt music if you haven`t yet heard it - and what a rare treat you have, in that case. Gorecki uses repetition of phrases, pauses, and a hypnotic mood of constant contemplativeness to evoke in the hearer pity and a sense of both serenity and disquiet. It is the most unusual symphony, three movements of unequal length, with a different text in each one for the soprano to sing, two of them solemn, sad pleas by a mother mourning her child, the central text a brief prayer found scratched by a young girl on a wall at Gestapo headquarters in Zakopane in 1944. All of the music is Lento, which never seems laboured, as the composer has structured his work with such care as to hold the attention throughout.
Sometimes when I listen to it, it feels as if it`s over sooner than I expected, at other times it feels more languorous. I play it about twice a year, which is just enough. It is a very special piece that I wouldn`t wish to over-play.
Rounding off the disc in appropriate complement to the main event are the characterfully woody Three Olden Style Pieces. They are almost light relief after such mournful intensity.
An atmospheric recording, beautifully played, of a now-classic piece of music.
I've just listened to this CD on my new hifi and I have been reminded of how brilliant it is. The Upshaw version is lovely, a real work of art, and in no way to be derided but it's this version that touches my heart. There is an emotional intensity about the orchestral playing and Wit's conducting and in Zofia Kilanowicz's voice that isn't matched elsewhere in my opinion. It's also a splendid recording, clean and with great presence.
At this price how could you go wrong? If you already have and love the Upshaw I would still recommend that you buy this as an alternative, it would be 4 quid well spent.
Antoni Wit adopts much slower tempo than the famous Zinmman / Upshaw version. First, I felt it's too slow, however, once I understood the conductor's intention to bring the elegiac quality of the work in more contemplative atmosphere, I've come to appreciate this performance. Zofia Kilanowicz proves to be a great match to Dawn Upshaw. The transparent quality of her voice fits the music and her singing is profoundly musical without wallowing in sentimentalism.
on 10 February 2015
A must for every collection, this symphony of sorrowful songs relieves the troubled soul with the sense of mutual grieving that heightens the importance of the ties we have and those we have lost with suffering. The music has a religious accent that transcends the earthly and gives place to a kind of reverence.
on 23 February 2012
Bought this music as it was one of the stand out pieces in The Tree of Life, and on the strength of it being Gorecki's preferred interpretation. Have not been disappointed.
Delivered promptly and in good condition.
This is a terrific bargain. The symphony builds from an incredibly low (initially inaudible) register, and gradually builds on the same haunting refrain until it reaches a plateau, then slowly declines to return to its start point (imagine this musical journey as a pyramid); a wonderfully deep and soothing first movement. Thereafter, Kilanowicz's rich, creamy tones cascade over the haunting and wistful orchestral colour, to deepen the elegiac and emotional sense of loss and regret. The power of this section is deeply heartfelt, and superbly sung. By contrast, the 'Olden style Pieces', sensitively played, and in no way a 'makeweight', allow the listener to ease gently back to present reality, rather as a strong coffee might cut through the richness of a dark and golden dessert. An essential purchase for anyone who loves quality music-making, who enjoys a darker-toned emotional register, or even someone beginning to explore modern classical music. An absolute treat for the senses, the heart, and a dark and golden meditation for the head!