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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This would be the best version even at non-bargain prices
This disc is truly the best of both worlds: an amazingly cheap (cheap! not merely affordable) classical disc of a fascinating piece of musical magnificently performed. Despite the presence of premium priced versions of this haunting piece of music (as well as at least one other very good bargain version), Antoni Wit directing the Polish National Radio Symphony...
Published on Jan. 25 2004 by Robert Moore

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Unique Simplicity Illustrates a deeper Sorrow
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...
Published on July 9 2003 by E. Walling


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This would be the best version even at non-bargain prices, Jan. 25 2004
By 
Robert Moore (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Symphony No. 3 (Audio CD)
This disc is truly the best of both worlds: an amazingly cheap (cheap! not merely affordable) classical disc of a fascinating piece of musical magnificently performed. Despite the presence of premium priced versions of this haunting piece of music (as well as at least one other very good bargain version), Antoni Wit directing the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra manages to outshine the competition. I knew two previous versions of this before, the famous Nonesuch with David Zinman and Dawn Upshaw, and the Philips with Joanna Kozlowska undertaking the vocals.
I recommend this version over the alternatives for four reasons. First, the price is unbeatable. Second, I believe the performance is marginally better than its competitors. Third, the remarkable singing of Zofia Kilanowicz. Fourth, unlike some recordings of this symphony, the disc contains not only the symphony itself, but "Three Olden Style Pieces," which while not as interesting as the main piece are not without interest. In short, this disc features the best performance, is offered at the best price, and contains more music than its competitors.
I do want to question the logic behind one of the other reviews. A reviewer from Derbyshire has expressed his belief that this music is somehow intellectually inferior and that its effects can be as harmful as a drug. I'm sure this was meant hyperbolically, but even granting this, this seems to me to indicate some confusion. In fact, the point is confusedly made. He grants that in Ravel (in the Bolero, a piece that I like not only less than most of the rest of Ravel's corpus but far less than the Gorecki) repetition is effective, and also in Beethoven. Why Gorecki's use of repetition is supposed (I emphasize "supposed") to be less effective is not made clear. Is it because the symphony is popular? Personally, I find the symphony haunting. The music strikes the listener with the simplicity of simple folks tunes and simple masses. Yes, it produces a stunning emotional reaction and can be almost mesmerizing. I personally do not see how this is a negative.
Although this is almost without question the most popular symphony of the past few decades, it has been subject to some criticism because it isn't sufficiently "modern." I worked for a couple of years at Symphony Center in Chicago, where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performs. I was fascinated to hear backstage the intense hatred a significant number of the orchestra members had for the work of most recent composers. Someone like Gorecki, however, they liked. To me it seems like a perfect instance of the musicians themselves knowing that the emperors had no clothes. We have, I believe, at present something of a gap between fans of orchestral music and musicians on the one hand, and composers and composition teachers on the other. Contemporary orchestral compositions have been plummeting in popularity in the period following Stravinsky and other composers of the early twentieth century, and I would argue that the impossibility of enjoying these compositions on more than an intellectual level has been one of their greatest problems. I am not arguing that orchestral music should be anti-intellectual, but it can't be merely intellectual, as too much of it is.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Minimal and intensely moving, June 24 2004
By 
Bruce Hodges (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Symphony #3 (Audio CD)
When this recording emerged in the early 1990's, it not only shot to the top of the classical charts, but to the top of some pop charts as well, an unusual phenomenon. It's not hard to see why; the composer's simple, but eloquent language here speaks to many types of listeners, even those who might not usually listen to so-called "serious" classical music.
The symphony is in three slow-moving sections, all labeled "Lento" and with heartbreaking texts. As a sample, here are the words to the second movement, based on a message found scrawled on a Gestapo prison cell wall in 1944 by an 18-year-old girl:
No, Mother, do not weep,
Most chaste Queen of Heaven
Help me always.
Hail Mary.
The music accompanying these sometimes agonizingly sad words is shining, gleaming, radiant -- transforming what could be heard as unremitting despair into something more spiritually uplifting. Dawn Upshaw, singing in Polish, sounds gorgeous here, with the simple purity of her voice adding a great deal to David Zinman's unforced interpretation of the work. The renowned London Sinfonietta plays with a delicacy that suits the music, and the recording quality allows all this transparent peacefulness to shine through.
Those familiar with Arvo Pärt or John Tavener's slow-moving, spiritual style should find this work quite rewarding. (Note to prospective Gorecki fans: his style is eclectic, and not all of his work is as placid as this piece.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Melancholic Prime, Jan. 4 2001
By 
Jeremy Whitman (Lafayette, Louisiana United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Symphony No. 3 (Audio CD)
For quite some time, this has been one of my most played albums. Henryk Gorecki certainly possesses the power to pen some very moving, albiet dreary symphonies, while disregarding the bouncy aesthetics of most composers, and, in turn, utilizing more emotion and less pretense. What words would be best used to describe such a piece? Brilliant, yes. Sorrowful, definitely.
I actually prefer this version of the symphony more than any others I've heard, as the really slow tempo enhances the overall power of the piece. A clean recording and wonderful presentations also compliment the music within, as well as some terrific linear notes that provide both information on the composer and "The Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs", Symphony no. 3.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, April 19 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Symphony #3 (Audio CD)
When I first picked out this CD at a local library, I thought I was being very brave. I had never heard of Henryk Gorecki, and his symphony was dated from 1976. I prepared to listen to some really strange avant garde music, and after hearing the basses and cellos "drone on" for 5 minutes, I thought this was minimalism at its worst. I decided to be patient enough to finish listening to the first movement. I found myself listening to the rest of the entire symphony, wanting to hear it again.
Although(and because) it is extremely slow and repetitious, this symphony will have a memorable effect on you the first time you listen to it. Unlike other music which you have to listen to several times before you come to enjoy it, this piece will immediately get to you. It is so different from any music I have ever heard, yet so easy to understand. Also, the soprano sings Polish, which I think is the perfect language to use for this symphony. It fits the mood of the music perfectly, and is penetrating due to its beautiful use of consonants.
I proudly recommend this music to everyone who is willing to listen to a new kind of music, and say that if this symphony indeed crosses my boundaries of musical tolerance by employing minimalism and tone clusters, it is a grand exception.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What is music really about?, Feb. 18 2004
By 
A. Reader (Boise, Idaho United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Symphony #3 (Audio CD)
There are people who will hate this cd, and people who will love it. It all depends on what music is about. Personally, I bought this cd on a whim, having never heard of Gorecki and being less than fond of soprano soloists in general. If music is about technique and style and details, then perhaps you will be disappointed in this cd. If music is about touching something--a feeling, a memory, a thought--inside the listener, if music is about the expression of emotion, then listen to this cd. The words are in Polish, and I have never cared what they meant--the music means different things to me each time I hear it. Sometimes it's about loneliness, or about sadness, sometimes it's about finding the will to live on through tragedy, and sometimes it's about nothing at all. When Dawn Upshaw's voice soars in the second movement, I can close my eyes and appreciate the power of the music and her voice and that particular moment in time. Is it the greatest music ever written--probably not. But if music touches something deep inside you, isn't that what greatness is about?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Upshaw!, Oct. 4 2003
By 
"lois_c" (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Symphony No. 3 (Audio CD)
This is an absolutely wonderful recording from the Naxos label.
The recording quality is exemplary and the dynamic range powerful in its progressive
climb through the first movement -- but not so great as to necessitate changing the
volume part way through if driving or doing other activities while listening to the
piece.
Zofia Kilanowicz is breathtaking in her skill. Her clarity of tone is, to my ear, much
greater than Dawn Upshaw's. Further, her ability to partially suspend vibrato is a
great asset in this piece, emphasizing the deep sorrow that lies just beneath the
beauty of the presentation and lending to the crisp minimalist, modern feel of the
piece.
Lastly, to include the 3 Pieces in Olden style is simply a wonderful bonus on an
already shockingly well priced CD. The second of the three pieces was inspired by
the same folk melody that Gorecki again returns to in his chamber piece "Already it
is Dusk".
This is simply the best recording of this piece, at the best price and then topped off
with a bonus piece of music -- you can not go wrong.
Antoni Wit also does a fantastic job conducting the Polish National Radio
Symphony Orchestra (PNRSO) in the Naxos recording of Smetana's Ma Vlast --
also the best recording available of that piece (except possibly Rafael Kubelik on
DG -- but, it is roughly $20 and the Naxos is roughly $9).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Unique Simplicity Illustrates a deeper Sorrow, July 9 2003
By 
E. Walling (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Symphony #3 (Audio CD)
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As Emotional As Music Gets, May 28 2003
By 
Karl Miller "kemspeaks" (Phoenixville, PA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Symphony #3 (Audio CD)
I certainly don't have the skills to write a critique of classical performances - but I know what sounds amazing to my own ears, and Gorecki's 3rd draws you in and captivates you like no other music I have ever heard.
The piece is broken down into three movements - Sostenuto Tranquillo Ma Cantabile opens the symphony - this portion is dominated by a 15th century Polish Prayer, sung by the ethereal Dawn Upshaw (with an incredible soprano voice), which is enveloped in strings that sound both maudlin and lush. The entire piece is incredibly soft, yet deeply stirring. This is the portion of #3 that is at the center of the movie "Fearless", one of a number of Hollywood productions that have used Gorecki's Third as a theme.
The Second and Third Movements ("Tranquillisiom and Cantabile Semplice) rework the central themes, and instrumentation of the First movement - Upshaw's heavenly vocals resurface in even more desperate pleas, and the strings slow in tempo, making the emotional effect of the piece even more stirring. One thing that is absolutely captivating about this piece is the way that the strings command your attention without being loud or overbearing.
It's impossible not to be deeply moved by Gorecki's Third. And this recording, with the London Symphony and the incredible Dawn Upshaw is an absolutely perfect recording.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The most moving piece of music I have ever heard..., Feb. 21 2003
By 
J. Matthews - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Symphony #3 (Audio CD)
... and I've heard many. I'm a composer myself, and if I ever write anything even a tenth as expressive as this I will consider my existence justified beyond any doubt... If I had to compile one of those desert island lists, this would probably be at the top.
I only first heard this last summer (2002) while driving home over the Newport Bridge here in RI, on the Univ. of RI station in Kingston, RI. Others here have written how it steadily draws you in - by the time I got home, I had to rush in and turn on the stereo - the shopping bag could wait to be unpacked. When it was over, I was just awestruck, but still had the presence of mind to call the station and ask "What was that?!" It turned out they'd had many similar inquiries... (I can't believe I'd never heard it before this! Are stations afraid to play it because it might stun their listeners into an awed stupor? ;-)
Others have also written that it will move you to tears. I can attest to that... There's a quote from one of the members of the band New Order, in reference to his time in the earlier band Joy Division, if I recall correctly:
"There's a kind of beauty in sad things, don't you think?"
If any piece of music epitomizes this, it's this one. The sense of resolution, of release in working through pain rather than suppressing it or abstracting it away, is palpable by the end of this piece.
This European symphony, this performance, achieves the goal that is at the heart of the musical philosophy and practice of the Indian classical raga tradition: to convey a mood, a feeling, an emotion ("rasa", lit. "flavor" in Sanskrit) so perfectly, in such a focused way, that it has a consistent, profound, universal effect on its listeners.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ...Profound, Aug. 5 2002
By 
David (Spruce Grove, AB Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Symphony #3 (Audio CD)
This recording is so monumental to Gorecki's career, that it would take a movie to make it as popular than what it was. The central theme for "Fearless" minus the text sung by Dawn Upshaw, in which Jeff Bridges flashes back to the tragic plane crash...an unforgettable scene.
Symphony No. 3 is divided up into three movements that are set to laments on the theme of motherhood with the first movement lasting 26 minutes. It begins in a slow canon with double basses that would gradually rise in pitch and volume and eventually receding back down to a slow pitch. The text would be taken from a 15th century Polish prayer, known as the Holy Cross Lament.
The second movement takes it's text from an inscription a 18 year old woman left on the prison wall in a Gestapo headquarter. This movement will again be slow, there isn't a lot of developement in the movement...it's reduced to minimalism. The third movement drawing it's verse from a Polish folksong, a mother's plea for her lost son to sleep happily.
Although the pace is slow through out the whole symphony and it isn't joyful music to be sure, the momentum draws you into a sense of calm and peace. The affectiveness would not be the same without Dawn Upshaw, she radiates what little part she has in the symphony...she holds a ray of sunlight for each verse she sings. David Zinman and the London Sinfonietta do a admirable job in totally capturing Henryk Gorecki true essence in this important work, a recording that should be included into everybody's classical collection. There are other recordings of Symphony No. 3, they don't compare and it would be hard for them to measure up to the Elektra Nonesuch, David Zinman, Dawn Upshaw and London Sinfonietta recording because after all it was this that catapulted Gorecki to his fame.
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Symphony #3
Symphony #3 by Henryk Gorecki (Audio CD - 1992)
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