- Symphony No. 3 (Górecki)
Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, also known as the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" ( _pl. Symfonia pieśni żałosnych), is a
symphonyin three movements composed by Henryk Góreckiin Katowice, Poland, between October and December 1976. The work is indicative of the transition between Górecki's dissonantearlier manner and his more tonal later style.
sopranosings a different Polish text in each of the three movements. The first is a 15th-century Polish lament of Mary, mother of Jesus, the second a message written on the wall of a Gestapocell during World War II, and the third a Silesian folk song of mother searching for son killed in the Silesian uprisings.Ellis, David. " [http://www.mahlerarchives.net/archives/ellisevocations.pdf Evocations of Mahler] " (PDF). "Naturlaut" 4(1): 2–7, 2005. Retrieved 22 June, 2007.] The first and third movements are written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, and the second movement from that of a child separated from a parent. The dominant themes of the symphony are motherhood and separation through war.
Until 1992, Górecki was known only to connoisseurs, primarily as one of several composers responsible for the postwar Polish music renaissance.Steinberg (1998), p. 171.] That year, Elektra-Nonesuch released a recording of the 15-year-old symphony that topped the classical charts in Britain and the United States. It has now sold more than a million copies, vastly exceeding the expected lifetime sales of a typical symphonic recording by a 20th-century composer. This success, however, has failed to generate interest in Górecki's other works. [Steinberg (1998), p. 170.]
Despite a political climate that was unfavorable to modern art (often denounced as "formalist" by the communist authorities), post-war Polish composers enjoyed an unprecedented degree of compositional freedom following the establishment of the
Warsaw Autumnfestival in 1956. [Thomas (2005), pp. 85-86.] Górecki had won recognition among avant-garde composers for the experimental, dissonant, and serialist works of his early career; he became visible on the international scene through such modernist works as "Scontri", which was a success at the 1960 Warsaw Autumn, and Symphony No. 1, which was awarded a prize at the 1961 Paris Youth Bienniale. [Howard (1998), p. 134.] Throughout the 1960s, Górecki continued to form acquaintanceships with other experimental and serialist composers such as Pierre Boulezand Karlheinz Stockhausen.
During the 1970s, Górecki began to distance himself from the serialism and extreme dissonance of his earlier work, and Symphony No. 3, like the preceding choral pieces "Euntes ibant et flebant" (Op. 32, 1972) and "Amen" (Op. 35, 1975), starkly rejects such techniques. The lack of harmonic variation in Symphony No. 3, and its reliance on repetition, marked a stage in Górecki's progression towards the harmonic minimalism and the simplified textures of his more recent work. Because of the religious nature of many of his works during this period, critics and musicologists often align him with other modernist composers who began to explore radically simplified musical textures,
tonality, and melody, and who also infused many of their works with religious significance. Like-minded composers, such as Arvo Pärtand John Tavener, are frequently grouped with Górecki under the term " holy minimalism," although none of the composers classified as such have admitted to common influences.
In 1973 Górecki approached the Polish folklorist Adolf Dygacz in search of folk melodies to incorporate in a new work. Dygacz presented four songs which had been recorded in the
Silesiaregion in south-western Poland. Górecki was impressed by the 19th-century melody "Where has he gone, my dear young son" ("Kajze mi sie podzioł mój synocek miły"), which describes a mother's mourning for a son lost in war, and probably dates from the Silesian Uprisings of 1919–21. Górecki had heard a version of the song in the 1960s and had not been impressed by the arrangement, but the words and the melody of Dygacz's new version made a lasting impression on him. He said "for me, it is a wonderfully poetic text. I do not know if a 'professional' poet would create such a powerful entity out of such terse, simple words. It is not sorrow, despair or resignation, or the wringing of hands: it is just the great grief and lamenting of a mother who has lost her son." [Thomas (1997), p. 81.]
Later that year Górecki learned of an inscription scrawled on the wall of a cell of a
Gestapoprison in the town of Zakopane, which lies at the foot of the Tatra mountainsin southern Poland. The words were those of 18-year-old Helena Wanda Błażusiakówna, a highland woman incarcerated on 25 September, 1944. It read "O Mamo nie płacz nie—Niebios Przeczysta Królowo Ty zawsze wspieraj mnie" (Oh Mamma do not cry—Immaculate Queen of Heaven support me always). The composer recalled, "I have to admit that I have always been irritated by grand words, by calls for revenge. Perhaps in the face of death I would shout out in this way. But the sentence I found is different, almost an apology or explanation for having got herself into such trouble; she is seeking comfort and support in simple, short but meaningful words".Thomas (1997), p. 82.] He later explained, "In prison, the whole wall was covered with inscriptions screaming out loud: 'I'm innocent', 'Murderers', 'Executioners', 'Free me', 'You have to save me'—it was all so loud, so banal. Adults were writing this, while here it is an eighteen-year-old girl, almost a child. And she is so different. She does not despair, does not cry, does not scream for revenge. She does not think about herself; whether she deserves her fate or not. Instead, she only thinks about her mother: because it is her mother who will experience true despair. This inscription was something extraordinary. And it really fascinated me." [Górecki, Henryk Mikołaj. " [http://www.usc.edu/dept/polish_music/PMJ/issue/6.2.03/GoreckiThird.html Remarks on Performing the Third Symphony] ". "Polish Music Journal", Vol. 6, No. 2, Winter 2003. ISSN 1521 - 6039. Retrieved on 29 May, 2007.]
Górecki now had two texts: one from a mother to her son, the other from a daughter to her mother. While looking for a third that would continue the theme, he decided on a mid-15th century folk song from the southern city of
Opole. Its text contains a passage in which the Virgin Maryspeaks to her Son dying on the cross: "O my son, beloved and chosen, Share your wounds with your mother …" ("Synku miły i wybrany, Rozdziel z matką swoje rany …"). Górecki said, "this text was folk-like, anonymous. So now I had three acts, three persons … Originally, I wanted to frame these texts with an introduction and a conclusion. I even chose two verses (5 and 6) from Psalm93/94 in the translation by Wujek: 'They humiliated Your people, O Lord, and afflicted Your heritage, they killed the widow and the passer-by, murdered the orphans.'"Thomas (1997), p. 83.] However, he rejected this format because he believed the structure would position the work as a symphony "about war". Górecki sought to transcend such specifics, and instead structured the work as three independent laments.
Instrumentation and score
Symphony No. 3 is constructed around simple harmonies, set in a neo-modal style [Kertesz, Imre. " [http://www.andante.com/article/article.cfm?id=25383 Górecki's Symphony no.3, 'Symphony of Sorrowful Songs'] ". "Le Chercheur de traces". Retrieved on 7 July, 2007.] which makes use of the
medieval musical modes, but does not adhere strictly to medieval rules of composition. The symphony is written for solo soprano, four flutes—two players doubling on piccolo—four clarinets, two bassoons, two contrabassoons, four horns, four trombones, harp, piano and strings. Performances typically last about 50 minutes.
musicologistAdrian Thomas notes that the symphony lacks dissonance outside of modal inflections (that is, occasional use of pitches that fall outside the mode), and that it does not require nonstandard techniques or virtuosic playing. Thomas further observes that "there is no second-hand stylistic referencing, although if predecessors were to be sought they might be found, distantly removed, in the music of composers as varied as Bach, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and even Debussy." [Thomas (2005), p. 265.] Ronald Blum describes the symphony as "mournful, like Mahler, but without the bombast of percussion, horns and choir, just the sorrow of strings and the lone soprano". The work consists of three elegiacmovements, each marked "Lento" to indicate their slow tempi. [Han-Leon, Chia. " [http://inkpot.com/classical/goreckisym3.html Symphony No.3, op.36 (1976)] ". "The Flying Inkpot", 9 December, 1999. Retrieved on 22 June, 2007.] Strings dominate the musical textures and the music is rarely loud—the dynamics reach " fortissimo" in only a few bars.
Lento—Sostenuto tranquillo ma cantabile
Typically 27 minutes in duration, the first movement equals the combined length of the second and third movements,McCusker, Eamonn. " [http://www.cdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=150 Symphony No.3: Sorrowful Songs] ". "CD Times". Retrieved on 19 June, 2007.] and is based on a late-15th century
lamentof Mary from the "Lysagora Songs" collection of the Holy Cross Monastery in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains. Comprising three thematic sections, the movement opens with a canon in ten parts using a 24-bar melody in the Aeolian modeon E. It begins with double basses, and each succeeding entry occurs one measure later (i.e., a new entry begins every 25 measures), starting a fifth above the last. After the canon reaches a full 10 parts, it works its way back to a single pitch. The soprano enters in the second section and builds to a climax on the final word, at which point the strings enter forcefully with the climax of the opening canon. The third section of the movement ("Lento—Cantabile semplice") is a long " dénouement" that also winds down to a single pitch.
Lento e largo—Tranquillissimo
The nine-minute second movement is for soprano, clarinets, horns, piano and strings, and contains a
librettoformed from the prayer to the Virgin Mary inscribed by Blazusiakówna on the cell wall in Zakopane. According to the composer, "I wanted the second movement to be of a highland character, not in the sense of pure folklore, but the climate of Podhale… I wanted the girl's monologue as if hummed … on the one hand almost unreal, on the other towering over the orchestra."Thomas (1997), p. 91.] The movement opens with a folk drone, A–E, and a melodic fragment, E–G♯–F♯, which alternate with sudden plunges to a low B♭–D♭ dyad. Thomas describes the effect as "almost cinematic … suggest [ing] the bright open air of the mountains". As the soprano begins to sing, her words are supported by the orchestra until she reaches a climaxing top A♭. The movement is resolved when the strings hold a chord without diminuendo for just over two minutes. The final words of the movement are the first two lines of the Polish Ave Maria, sung twice on a repeated pitch by the soprano.
The tempo of the third movement is not as slow as the previous two, and subtle changes in dynamism and mode make it more complex and involving than it may at first appear. It comprises three verses in
A minorand, like the first movement, is constructed from evolving variations on a simple motif. The melody is established in the opening verse, and the second and third verses revisit the cradling motifs of the second movement. As in the second movement, the motifs are built up from inversions of plain triads and seventh chords stretching across several octaves. As the soprano sings the final words, the key changes to a pure diatonic A majorwhich accompanies, in writer David Ellis's words, the "ecstatic final stanza":blockquote|O sing for him / God's little song-birds / Since his mother cannot find him.
And you, God's little flowers / May you blossom all around / that my son may a sleep happy sleep. [Mason Hodges, John. " [http://www.ransomfellowship.org/articledetail.asp?AID=144 A Polish Composer Makes Minimalism Meaningful] ". "Critique", 1993. Retrieved on 22 June, 2007.]
The orchestra returns to A minor before a final postlude in A major. In Górecki's own words: "Finally there came that unvarying, persistent, obstinate 'walczyk' [on the chord of A] , sounding well when played piano, so that all the notes were audible. For the soprano, I used a device characteristic of highland singing: suspending the melody on the third [C♯] and descending from the fifth to the third while the ensemble moves stepwise downward [in sixths] ".
Critical and cultural reception
Symphony No. 3 was written in 1976, when Górecki was, in the words of the music critic Jane Perlez, "a fiery figure, fashionable only among a small circle of modern-music aficionados".Perlez, Jane. " [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C07E6DF153BF934A15751C0A962958260 Henryk Górecki] ". "
New York Times", 27 February, 1994. Retrieved 29 March, 2008.] The symphony was first recorded in Poland in 1978 by the soprano Stefania Woytowicz. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, recordings and performances of the work were widely criticised by the press outside Poland. [Howard (1998), p. 136.] The symphony drew hostility from critics who felt that Górecki had moved too far away from the established avant-garde style and was, according to Dietmar Polaczek (writing for "Österreichische Musikzeitschrift"), "simply adding to the decadent trash that encircled the true pinnacles of avant-gardism". [Polaczek, Dietmar. "Neue Musik in Royan", "Österreichische Musikzeitschrift", July–August, 1977. p. 358.] The world première at the Royan Festival, Ernest Bourconducting, was reviewed by six western critics, all of them harshly dismissive. [Howard (1998), p. 136.] Heinz Koch, writing for "Musica", said that the symphony "drags through three old folk melodies (and nothing else) for an endless 55 minutes". [Koch, Heinz. "Mit wichtigen bundesdeutschen Beiträgen". Musica 31, no. 4. 1977. p 332. "Da schleift einer drei alte Volksliedmelodien (und sonst nichts) 55 endlose Minuten lang."]
In 1985, the French filmmaker
Maurice Pialatfeatured a section of the third movement in the ending credits of his movie "Police". When the work was later repackaged as a " soundtrack album", it sold well, although the sleeve notesprovided little information about the work, [Howard (1998), p. 137.] and Górecki's name appeared in smaller type than those of the main actors. [Wierzbicki, James. " [http://pages.sbcglobal.net/jameswierzbicki/gorecki.htm Henryk Górecki] ". " St. Louis Post-Dispatch", July 7, 1991. Retrieved 29 May, 2007.] In the mid-1980s, British industrial musicgroup Test Deptused Symphony No. 3 as a backdrop for video collages during their concerts, recasting the symphony as a vehicle for the band's sympathy with the Polish Solidaritymovement, [Howard (1998), p. 138.] which Górecki also supported (his 1981 piece "Miserere" was composed in part as a response to government opposition of Solidarity trade unions). [Thomas, Adrian. "Górecki, Henryk Mikolaj". " The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians", ed. Stanley Sadie. (London): Macmillan, 2001, v.10, p. 160.] During the late 1980s, the symphony received increasing airplay on US and British classical radio stations, notably BBC Radio 3. The fall of communism helped to spread the popularity of Polish music generally, and by 1990 the symphony was being performed in major cities such as New York, London and Sydney. A 1991 recording with the London Sinfonietta, conducted by David Zinmanand featuring the soloist Dawn Upshaw, was released in 1992 by the Elektra imprint Nonesuch Records. Within two years, the recording had sold more than 700,000 copies worldwide;Blum, Ronald. "The Impact of Górecki's Symphony No. 3". " Chicago Sun-Times", 26 June, 1994.] the recording climbed to number 6 on the mainstream UK album charts, [Howard (1998), p. 144.] and while it did not appear on the US Billboard 200, it stayed at the top of the US classical charts for 38 weeks. [Howard (1998), p. 145.] The Zinman/Upshaw recording has sold over a million copies. [cite journal | title = Top 10 Discs of the Decade | journal = BBC Music Magazine| date = 2002-11-01 | pages = pp. 27–28]
The writer Michael Steinberg described the symphony's success as essentially a phenomenon of the
compact disc, and while live performances are still given, they do not always sell out. Some critics, wondering at the sudden success of the piece nearly two decades after its composition, suggest that it resonated with a particular mood in the popular culture at the time. Stephen Johnson, writing in "A guide to the symphony", wondered whether the commercial success of the work was "a flash in the pan" or would turn out to have lasting significance. [Layton (1995), p. 401.] In 1998, the critic Michael Steinberg asked, " [are people] really listening to this symphony? How many CD buyers discover that fifty-four minutes of very slow music with a little singing in a language they don't understand is more than they want? Is it being played as background music to Chardonnay and brie?" Steinberg compared the success of Górecki's symphony to the " Doctor Zhivago" phenomenon of 1958: "Everybody rushed to buy the book; few managed actually to read it. The appearance of the movie in 1965 rescued us all from the necessity." Górecki was as surprised as any one else at the recording's success, and later speculated that "perhaps people find something they need in this piece of music…. Somehow I hit the right note, something they were missing. Something, somewhere had been lost to them. I feel that I instinctively knew what they needed."
At least a dozen recordings were issued in the wake of the success of the Nonesuch recording, and the work enjoyed significant exposure in a number of artistic media worldwide. The work was repeatedly used by filmmakers in the 1990s to elicit a sense of pathos or sorrow, including as an accompaniment to a plane crash in
Peter Weir's "Fearless" (1993), and in the soundtrack to Julian Schnabel's " Basquiat" (1996). [Howard (1998), p. 152.] An art gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexicoopened an exhibit in 1995 dedicated entirely to visual art inspired by the piece. [Howard (1998), p. 152.] In 1997, the symphony was sampled for the song "Gorecki" by the English trip-hopact Lamb, which peaked at number 30 on the UK singles charts in 1997. [" [http://www.gorecki.co.uk/discography/gorecki.htm gorecki] ". gorecki.co.uk. Retrieved 19 June, 2007.] In 1999, the symphony was featured prominently in the track " Finished Symphony" by the English progressive breaks act Hybrid.
Symphony No. 3 is dedicated to Górecki's wife Jadwiga Rurańska. When asked why, Górecki responded, "Who was I supposed to dedicate it to?" [Howard (1998), p. 133.] Górecki has never sought to explain the symphony as a response to a political or historical event. Instead, he has maintained that the work is an evocation of the ties between mother and child. Some critics have seen the symphony as a memorial to victims of the
Nazis in Poland during the Holocaust, particularly in the light of Górecki's choice of texts. (Interestingly, the 2nd movement plays on a constant loop in the "Holocaust" exhibition room of the Auckland Museum, New Zealand.) Górecki was commissioned to write music in response to the Holocaust in the 1960s but was unable to finish any of the pieces he started for that purpose. [Howard (1998), p. 134.] While Górecki has stated that for many years he sought to produce a work specifically in response to Auschwitz, he has resisted that interpretation of Symphony No. 3, which he prefers to be viewed in a wider context. Other critics have attempted to interpret the symphony in spiritual terms, an approach which Górecki has also dismissed.
Górecki has said of the work, "Many of my family died in concentration camps. I had a grandfather who was in Dachau, an aunt in Auschwitz. You know how it is between Poles and Germans. But Bach was a German too—and Schubert, and Strauss. Everyone has his place on this little earth. That's all behind me. So the Third Symphony is not about war; it's not a "Dies Irae"; it's a normal Symphony of Sorrowful Songs." [Jacobson (1995), p. 191.]
filename=Górecki Symphony no 3 movement 1.ogg
title=Symphony No. 3, 1st movement
description=Sample of opening coda from the 1st movement.
filename=Górecki Symphony no 3 movement 2.ogg
title=Symphony No. 3, 2nd movement
description=Sample from the 2nd movement
filename=Górecki Symphony no 3 movement 3.ogg
title=Symphony No. 3, 3rd movement
description=Sample from the 3rd movement
*Howard, Luke (1998). "Motherhood, "Billboard", and the Holocaust: Perceptions and Receptions of Górecki's Symphony No. 3". "
The Musical Quarterly" 82, pp. 131–159.
*Jacobson, Bernard (1995). "A Polish Renaissance". (London): Phaidon. ISBN 0-7148-3251-0.
*Layton, Robert, editor. (1995) "A Guide To The Symphony" (Oxford): Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-1928-8005-5.
*Steinberg, Michael (1998). "The Symphony: A Listener's Guide". (New York): Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-1951-2665-3.
*Thomas, Adrian (1997). "Górecki (Oxford Studies of Composers)". (Oxford): Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-1981-6394-0.
*Thomas, Adrian (2005). "Polish Music Since Szymanowski" (London): Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-58284-9.
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