Few choral recordings of choral music can hold a candle to this warmly glowing selection of music by Henryk Górecki as captured during a live performance in the Walt Disney Concert Hall by Grant Gershon conducting the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The album (and performance) consists of three of the composer's a cappella works.
The opening work is a brief but very exciting Lobgesang (Song of Praise) written in 2000 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the birth of Johann Gutenberg, inventor of movable-type printing. Punctuated by boisterous cries of "lobet" (praise), the chorale's mighty sound eventually gives way to some terrifically soft, low and sustained notes, over which Górecki magically introduces chromatic pings from a solitary glockenspiel - a manner of allowing the music to slip away into the enter of the hall and of the universe in a most spiritual manner.
The primary work is of course the title piece - Miserere - written for eight-part chorus.'Górecki wrote the piece in response to an incident of police brutality in the city of Bydgoszcz. It was in 1981, at the height of the conflict between the Solidarity movement and the communist government. A few months later, martial law was declared and Górecki's music lay silent. The piece finally premiered in 1987. Like the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs," Górecki's Miserere is simple in its construction but not simpleminded. The entire text consists of just five words -- "Domine Deus noster, Miserere nobis" (Lord our God, have mercy on us). He builds the piece slowly, in layers, beginning with low tones in the basses and eventually rising to the sopranos. The repeated phrase "Domine Deus" washes over in peaceful waves -- its meditative mood about as far as you can get from a ferocious police beating.' Not only does this technique of writing create a strong impact visually as each section gradually joins the initial voices until the entire chorus is tutti, but is also allows the sense of the spread of sound in a manner that suggests one simple voice speaking out against the horrors of the world is gradually made more strong by the coming together of mankind to struggle against suppression. It is a most appropriate piece for our troubled times.
The Five Marian Songs (Piesni Maryjne) in are sung in the original Polish. They represent Górecki's love for the folk music and liturgical music of his country. They prove interesting but not nearly as compelling as the first two works. The Los Angeles Master Chorale is in peak form here - the sound is lush and radiant and serves the acoustic of Walt Disney Hall well. This is a most rewarding recording and a fine homage to the long life of Henryk Górecki who died in 2010. Grady Harp, September 12