on 18 May 2001
If you came to Gorecki from the 3rd Symphony (and let's be honest most of us do) be prepared for a shock. The opening assault of the Copernican Symphony is quite brutal: an unholy organ and kettle drums creating a dark vision. The effect is quite unsettling, in keeping perhaps with the world of superstition that Copernicus inhabited. For this is a tribute to the Polish astronomer, a scientist in a world ruled by religion. Gorecki seems to straddle both worlds - a devout Catholic aware of the dangers of blinkered ideology, whether totalitarian oppression in the twentieth century or religious dogma in the fifteenth. The Beatus Vir that accompanies the Second Symphony is more familiar, although in this a baritone fulfils the dominant role taken by a soprano in the Third Symphony. An excellent addition to the disc, and an interesting comparison to the Copernican Symphony.
on 26 April 2007
"Beatus Vir", 1979, after the election of Pope John Paul II, the first Polish Pope, the first non-Italian Pope for quite a long time. This fundamental work is supposed to express through some verses chosen in the Psalms the full confidence and trust of man in God. That was a time when Poland had to live through several difficult periods, and even one full decade of agitation, submission or resistance. The communist order was running on its very last leg and the road had not been paved lately, so the trip to the gate out of this pseudo-socialism was rough, chaotic and definitely full of discomfort and pain. This "Beatus Vir" expresses this atmosphere, this desire and dream that was no promise in 1979 though it was an absolute certainty. The choice of a baritone to sing these verses is one of the best choices that could be made. It is deep enough to reverberate with the suffering and the sadness of reality. And yet it is not too deep to become unfathomable and desperate. The choir of course provides the baritone with the deep and versatile forest of life, of a life under some kind of limited freedom. And it creates the continuo the baritone needs to go up and reach the sky of hope and the future. At times, for instance with "Domine Deus meus es tu", Gorecki recreates some of the darkest pages of Bach's "Saint John's Passion", and yet you can feel a modernity that was not present in Bach's music. The modernity of the holocaust, of the sudden realization that there is no truth left, nothing but points of view, no search possible for truth, only the cultivation of our points of view in self-righteousness and absolute tolerance and cooperation. Who could have thought that after the fall of communistic fundamentalism, a new narrow-minded fundamentalistic policy would fall onto Poland and this time within and from the Christian inspiration, which is a pure treachery against Jesus, a twist in the road to light and even a rent in the fabric of life. This music reminds us of the fact that suffering must lead to light, light for everyone and salvation for all, Even for the Saul centurions who may meet with divine inspiration on the road to Damascus. Unluckily in our new unipolar world one fundamentalism is pushed aside by another. Too bad. Gorecki's music is still perfectly pertinent, to the point, true to the core of life today in a completely new situation. New Berlin Walls have to fall. Jericho is always standing somewhere self-justified within its fortified walls that some divine or human trumpets will have to make fall and crumble. Gorecki is the voice from beyond Auschwitz and Jericho. Symphony N°2 leads us even beyond these walls and back to Lot's house in which a stranger, a visitor is dining, wanted by the populace outside in the street against the laws of hospitality. What can Copernicus and his re-devising of the cosmos mean to us to day? Do we need a new copernican cosmic revolution of the mind? For sure, and music can express the dire straits we will have to go through to get there, in that unknown country. The most frightening thing about any wall is that beyond it lies or stands the unknown and this may frighten many who could help push the wall down. What and who may this wall fall onto? We don't know. What and who may this wall liberate in its fall? We don't know. What legions of hostile fiends or loving friends may overrun us and choke or crush us to death with hatred or with love of a species we do not even know? Beyond the gate of the future will we enter and cross Auschwitz anew or some messianic Jerusalem? And what proportion of the human race will have to perish in burning sulfur for that maybe messianic or maybe Shoahic Jerusalem to let us come in? The music of this symphony is so deeply somber that we just wonder if the world is not once and for all covered up by some lead lid that leaves no escape not even to the mind. Yet Gorecki composed this symphony in 1972 when the Poles were not even dreaming of Solidarnosc or Lech Walesa. So why should the road and the gate not lead to some better world? Maybe after all work makes you really free, in spite of all the perversions of this idea, be they fascistic or communistic. Let's believe this in our postmodern dream of what reality could lead to. The alliance of the baritone and the soprano is a superb embodiment of all this sadness in front of an unknown and unknowable future. Music is trying to dominate history with beauty. But, though the beauty will survive, the music will never make history.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine & University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne