GORECKI: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of sorrowful songs); Canticum graduum – Ingrid Perruche, soprano/Sinfonia Varsovia/ Alain Altinoglu – Naïve

by | Apr 14, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

GORECKI: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of sorrowful songs); Canticum graduum – Ingrid Perruche, soprano/ Sinfonia Varsovia/ Alain Altinoglu – Naïve Multichannel SACD V 5019, 64:05 ****:

The Nonesuch CD of this mystical minimalist work about 15 years ago moved its Polish composer into the ranks of the most popular  classical composers of today.  Dawn Upshaw’s clear and unaffected voice was part of the appeal of the work, though she was singing Polish texts.  The music of Henryk Gorecki is clearly contemporary but not atonal or corny.  It has a wide appeal to a variety of listeners, including many who ordinarily wouldn’t listen to a modern symphony.

The new offering from Naïve brings the work, composed in 1976, to hi-res surround sound, and adds the world premiere recording of a strictly instrumental Gorecki work – the Canticum graduum. In the note booklet – in addition to the English translation of the song – an English translation is printed of a short story titled The Sleuth, by Imre Kertesz.  The connection between it and the Symphony is that both artists embody grief and mourning over the same horror: the composer’s song is a lamentation at the gates of Auschwitz and the Hungarian author of the story was deported to Auschwitz and is author of the novel (now a feature film) Fateless.

The Canticum is an interesting approach to minimalism. Scored for quadruple woodwinds, brass and strings, it uses four saxophones.  It begins on a central note of D and then slowly adds notes above and below it – using two whole-tone scales – until a dense walls of sound ensues.  Although the recording is only 4.0 channels without the LFE, the lowest basses and celli here and in the beginning of the Symphony are reproduced with great power and extension. The three slow movements of the Symphony are difficult to bring off, but Gorecki’s skillful use of chant, folksong and modal keys achieves a compelling spiritual and emotional feeling.  I found the spatial distribution of the sounds made the work more involving than I recall the original CD release to have been. (I know I have it somewhere but frankly couldn’t  find it.) However, soprano Perruche lacks the heartfelt emotional impact of Upshaw which I recall from the Nonesuch recording.

– John Sunier

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