WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Copernican); Beatus vir
PERFORMER: Zofia Kilanowicz (soprano), Andrzej Dobber (baritone); Polish Radio Choir, Silesian Philharmonic Choir, Katowice Polish National RSO/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555375
The man who placed the sun at the centre of things should not be mocked, and Górecki took him very seriously in his Second Symphony, composed in 1972 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Polish astronomer’s birth. This is no laughing matter – weighty chords as anchored, massy and insistent as the planets in their orbits make it clear right away. Like the buzzing brass ten minutes into the first of the Symphony’s two movements, this kind of thing was part of the ambient noise of Seventies Warsaw, strident sound of an oppressed artistic community and fitting means to honour a national hero in times of strife.
Four years later came the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, and in 1977, combining the virtues of both its predecessors, Beatus vir, written to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the murder of the Bishop of Krakow and performed two years later before another hero, Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), on pilgrimage to his homeland. Few more potent symbols of Polish pride can be imagined than the uplifting baritone solo at this work’s heart, resonantly sung by Andrzej Dobber. This, and the sonorous choral writing, beautifully realised, will pleasantly surprise any listener for whom Górecki stubbornly remains a ‘one-work’ composer. Nicholas Williams