WORKS: Old Polish Music; Totus Tuus; Beatus Vir
PERFORMER: Nikita Storojev (bass); Prague Philharmonic Choir; Czech PO/John Nelson
CATALOGUE NO: 436 835-2 DDD
Now we’re over the pinnacle of fashion, both those who know only Górecki’s Third Symphony and those who have heard at least a few other works of his are currently being given the chance to explore a commendable range of his output. While a good deal of it was previously available on LP, its distribution was generally lamentable.
Only Old Polish Music (1969) for brass and strings predates the symphony and thus might be suspected of abrasive Modernist tendencies. It’s austere all right – brass and strings alternate considerably transformed, even serial, versions of old Polish melodies – but this work has an immediacy of impact, a hieratic simplicity, which both lovers and haters of the Third Symphony will recognise.
The short Totus Tuus (1987), written for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland, seems to me the kind of choral exercise any competent student should be able to turn out; but then some accuse all Górecki of pastiche.
Beatus Vir (1979) is closest in style as well as date to the symphony. Written for the Pope’s first visit to his home country after his election, this psalm setting doesn’t require knowledge of its specific religious and national context to appreciate its powerfully cumulative expressions of supplication and contemplation. Some of Górecki’s individuality comes from his sheer audacity, but this work also demonstrates a masterly command of word setting, modal inflection and timing. Czech performers and an English recording team do him good justice. Keith Potter