Andrey Boreyko Conducts Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 4

Performed by London Philharmonic Orchestra.

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COMPOSERS: Gorecki
LABELS: Nonesuch
ALBUM TITLE: Henryk Górecki
WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Andrey Boreyko
CATALOGUE NO: 7559795034

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Though Górecki wrote his Third Symphony in 1976, it was not until the 1992 London Sinfonietta/David Zinman release that it became a phenomenal success. Eighteen years later the Fourth was scheduled for unveiling in London, but the premiere was postponed because of Górecki’s ill-health. He left only a piano score at his death in November 2010. The piece was completed by his son, Mikolaj, following orchestration notes the composer made on the score, and finally premiered in London last year. It’s that performance that is chronicled on this release.

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Many critics condemned the Third as sentimental and populist. The Fourth, a return to a more-or-less Modernist stance, is likely to horrify listeners who only know the Third and Totus Tuus. Using letters from the name of Polish composer Alexandre Tansman, it opens with brutal, relentless chords, disconcerting pauses and Kancheli-like violent dynamic contrasts. There’s a degree of relief in gentle passages in intervening movements but the finale’s folk-influenced dance-music is expelled by a return of the dark, discordant, forbidding material. Under Andrey Boreyko’s sober control the LPO negotiates these contrasts with aplomb. Barry Witherden