1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Who can explain Perception? I listen to a lot of music. I attend a lot of concerts, including some in which I perform myself. I've performed and heard a fair amount of music by living or recently deceased composers. It's often a discouraging chore to attract listeners to concerts of "modern" music, and it's not always enjoyable to hear what they think of it. Henryk Górecki is not a "household name" anywhere except, perhaps, in Poland, but he's as well known a "Modern Composer" as anyone, in the milieu of modern-music makers. But I swear I was unaware of the phenomenal acclaim for his Symphony No. 3, his "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs", especially among people who don't ordinarily listen to music of this genre. There are at least nine different recordings of it available on CD. One of them, the interpretation by singer Dawn Upshaw with the London Sinfonietta, is listed by amazon as the #4 best seller among CDs of 20th C music and has received 136 reviews, including mine of a few days ago. 117 of those reviews are five-star ratings. All of the various interpretations draw a majority of five-star reviews, and all of them are declared "best" by somebody.
Well, dear friends, there's a lot of music in the world, and I haven't heard more than a minor portion of it yet, though my CD collection is endangering the foundation of my house. When I listened to the Upshaw/Sinfonietta performance, I recognized at least some of the qualities that make this composition appealing -- chiefly a kind of unwavering emotional gravity -- but I had an uncertain instinct that other interpretations might reveal more. This, therefore, is my second Górecki Third review, and I intend only to compare the performances without analyzing the work itself.
Listening to the two recordings on the same day, I find that I "trust" this one, performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic with Polish soprano Joanna Kozlowska, more in terms of affect. It isn't that Kozlowska is a better singer than Upshaw. She isn't, but she sounds to my ears more attuned to the "national spirituality" -- I suppose that's risky description -- of Górecki's chosen texts and folk themes. Upshaw is a multi-faceted performer, as eager to sing Handel, Weill, Debussy, or Sondheim as Górecki, and just as excellent at all of them. In this case, her voice sounds more generically artistic, while Kozlowska sounds specifically Polish in her lamentations. Conductor Kazimerz Kord takes the movements of the symphony just a fraction slower than the London Sinfonietta's David Zinman, and he extracts more clarity from the inner instrumental voices. To be metaphorical, Kord etches while Zinman chalks. Any preference would be a matter of personal response. This recording, however, has some engineered distortion, some metallic burr, on the sections of greatest acoustic density, that I find unpleasant. You'll find that I've given both performances four rather than five stars, as a token that I don't consider either of them "definitive".
Beware of the MP3 samples, by the way. Put yellow caution tape around your speakers. The MP3 offered on this product page is NOT this performance. It's the CD by Ernest Bour & Symphonieorchester des Südwestfunks-Baden-Baden.