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  Górecki: Symphony No. 3 - RPO/Simonov
  Górecki: Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs", 3 Pieces in the Olden Style

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Yuri Simonov (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 1

Reviews: 2

Review by brenda April 14, 2005 (16 of 16 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
What a find,- easily the best of the RPO discs Iíve heard so far and a performance which doesnít deserve to have fallen from the catalogues in the first place. For those who donít know this (almost ubiquitous) work, it was written in soviet-era Poland in 1975s and is characterised as a Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. It is based on Orthodox lament as well as folk song and uses minimal(ist) material to create tapestries of sound, sometimes soaring and sometimes dark and reverberant, which feature long sustained notes as well as gently dissonant clusters of notes. Imagine the Tallis fantasia accompanied by a Slavic Basso Profundo-sound (from the double basses and cellos) and suggestions of tolling bells (by the strings) and youíll be on the right track, but its only a partial picture. The Symphony features three song sections, one in each movement: a motherís lamentation, the words of an 18 year old female prisoner of the Gestapo and a motherís confirmation of the loss of her son.

Of course, thereís strong competition (on RBCD) from the original Nonesuch recording with Zinman and Dawn Upshaw and the Wit (on Naxos), both of which Iíve heard, and from another half-dozen recordings I havenít heard. In the face of that competition, Iím not sure that Simonov has anything new to ďsayĒ but he provides no less of a performance than either Zinman or Wit. Indeed, he falls about half way between the two, being less sweet and glossy than Zinman and less austere than Wit. His pulse is just about right, except towards the end of the first movement after the sopranoís first song, where I felt the tension winding down, something not helped by the very abrupt arrival of the second movement (something thatís a real pain about all these RPO releases). A shame in view of the marvellous build-up of tension before the song.

Zinmanís slightly quicker tempi are beautiful, but Simonovís slower tempi are marvellously tense (up until the end of the first song, anyway). The wind and brass creep in from the first song onwards, and Simonov uses them (and the piano and harp) with subtlety.

The second and third movements are even more successful, maintaining more disciplined, clear headed tempi and tread. After all the sorrow, pain, death and repression of the rest of the Symphony the work ends on a gentle A major chord, - a sort of ďdare to hope for betterĒ message in 1975 for an end to repression. Alas, this wonderful conclusion is followed immediately on the disc by the three Songs in the Olden Style, which, whilst lovely in their own right, prevent you (the listener) from completely absorbing what youíve just heard. My recommendation is to program and play only the Symphonyís three tracks, let it stop, let yourself pause for breath (youíll need it) and then press play and go straight to track 4 and the three songs (which are, despite the title, movements for string orchestra.

The Soprano in the Symphony is the marvellous Susan Gritton, making her first recording after winning the Ferrier prize in the previous year. She is excellent, dark toned and Polish sounding, - not in diction, which I couldnít comment on, but in mood. She is perhaps a little severe at times, such as in the opening of the second movement, where more tenderness would not have gone astray, but I think that her choices are legitimised by the basis of the work in antique Orthodox chant and folk music and a universal humanity which underscores all three songs.

The sound is also by far the best of the series (i.e. of the four Iíve heard so far). The double basses provide the right canonic depth and rumble without being over-reverberant and balances and soundstaging seem very real, especially in Surround. The disc is cut at a good volume too, which permits warmth and overcomes the shrillness of the other releases.

All in all, this is the equal of the Zinman and Wit, with some swings and roundabouts. I would have been happy to have paid a lot more than my 5 euros (at jpc), and that makes up for other disappointments in the RPO series. If you only get one of these re-releases, this would have to be my recommendation, despite all my minor caveats.

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Review by raffells May 26, 2005 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Ok only criticism of Previous previous is the comment Original ? version... Dawn Upshaw,etc,,Nonesuch,,,IT WASNT...and the genuine original is/was even deeper...however on a night of genuine celebration It feels weird to state that the cheapo sacd of a depressed theme is probably even better than the previous reviewer has stated..I prefer this lighter version..... .Dont worry its excellent all three singers are fabulous.....only concern is the will love it or hate it...Its certainly better than other versions of which there are not many... Total GO OUT AND BUY super sound quality.....even if you ignore the filler...If all these discs are this quality or therabouts then Naxos are going to have to get there act together in the near future,,,,what a prospect...I can see my vinyl collection gathering dust....

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Works: 2  

Henryk Gorecki - 3 Pieces in the Olden Style
Henryk Gorecki - Symphony No. 3, Op. 36 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"