Gorecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)

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LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)
PERFORMER: Joanna Kozlowska (soprano)Warsaw PO/Kazimierz Kord
This is, to my knowledge, the third recording this year of Górecki’s Third Symphony (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), making six currently available. An article on the symphony in a recent issue of the London Magazine manages to take in ‘sexual come-ons from blondes with figures good enough, in Woody Allen’s phrase, “to cause cardiac arrest in a yak”’. Clearly, there’s more in this cultural phenomenon than even a Building a Library feature could encompass.


Meanwhile, back at the funny farm, I’ve listened to all six discs. At 59 minutes, Kord is the slowest of the lot. I admire his boldness; but the control, of dynamics as well as tempi, varies and it does drag a bit. (Kamirski, Schwann, 1988; first issued on vinyl and recorded in 1982, is 14 minutes faster, the fastest of all.) Perhaps mercifully, Kord, at full price, has good, clear sound: you can hear more of the counterpoint in the first movement than on most other discs.

I like the affecting purity and restraint of his soprano, Joanna Kozlowska. Of the other sopranos employed, Stefania Woytowicz (Olympia, 1988) is too conventionally operatic; even Dawn Upshaw’s ardour – keeping company with occasionally over-indulgent rubato from Zinman (Elektra Nonesuch, 1992) – seems overdone by comparison with Kozlowska. Or with Zofia Kilanowicz (Belart, 1994 and, more secure, on Naxos, 1994).


The last-named performance clocks in at 55:54 – closer to the composer’s timing of 54 minutes than anyone except Zinman. This Naxos disc is, like the Belart, at budget price; and, like Schwann and Olympia, it adds Górecki’s Three Pieces in the Olden Style. Though the sound isn’t quite as good, I’d go for the Naxos right now. Keith Potter