3.0 out of 5 stars
Unique Simplicity Illustrates a deeper Sorrow, July 9 2003
As a composer and musician well acquainted with the work of Henryk Górecki, familiar enough perhaps to allow the free convention of using only his last name, it gives me great sense of pleasure to impart my thoughts on the most popular of his large scale works.
But before I continue, I will amorously confess now that this particular recording has always disappointed me copiously after I became besotted with another recording by Zofia Kilanowicz and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Despite its 'budget' quality (replete with a highly audible background hubbub of coughs and creaking stools), there is for me rarely a promising counterpart for the radiance of Kilanowicz's devastatingly authentic voice. Kilanowicz bows with a beauteous humility, tears out her truly despairing heart and exhales every movement with an effortless strength as if it were her very own dying breath. Upshaw's effort is evidently different. Lighter perhaps, or more technically precise even, but largely it still retains a disappointing weakness.
Generally, Her intonation and pronunciation is too crystalline and calculated for what should be, in my eyes, a naturally irrepressible emotional inundation. To understand what is really crucial for the soloist, one only has to consider the blood in which all of the text is symbolized. Similarly one must regard the undulating strings which haul and sigh like some vast ocean of tears at the command of a mothers sorrow, her voice, soaring and echoing in an inconsolable, universal mourning.
Alas, the London Sinfonietta do a predictably good job but still I fail not to wince as upon the most integral climaxes of each movement, Upshaw cruelly bends her notes with an over-controlled operatic wistfulness inappropriate for both the context and a piece highlighting the Post-war modernist era.
But enough! In order to make some valuable imprint upon this page I do not wish to make mere comparisons in sound quality or to disgrace Upshaw's otherwise crystalline demeanour.
It is the sublime perpetuity of this divine composition that entices and ensnares the listener into vast drifts of nostalgic sorrow....
Imagine if you will a blithe child playing alone in the subtle serenity of a Polish Winter. As he rolls a ball of glittering ice between his tiny mittens and goes to throw he is, all of a sudden, startled by an effervescent bloodstain in the snow beneath his feet.
This omnipresent statement by Górecki on behalf of the victims of the Holocaust and indeed the anguish of the Mother of Christ is somewhat unmatched by anything else (bar his Miserere for scalic purposes) of the composer's work and clearly stands as an island, or rather a plateau at which no note, no mark in the near perfect score is conducive to opposition.