Review Summary: This symphony is the aural form of resplendence.
Genericness has plagued our society for an epoch now. Original ideas seem to become bigger rarities every day. And furthermore, if an original idea is produced, oftentimes it rejects beauty and/or enjoyability in the process. Oftentimes this subtraction is intended, or necessary for the idea to prosper, but occasionally, it is
comforting to hear a piece like Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3
. Compositions such as this show that an original idea can be accessible.
Beginning with “Lento―Sostenuto tranquillo ma cantabile”, Symphony No. 3
shows why it acquired the moniker, “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”. The aforementioned first movement is based off a late-15th century lament found in Lysagora Songs
. The morose lyrical content is matched by a minimalist instrumental arrangement. Starting with a recurring canon that spans twenty-four bars, this movement toys with the adding of constantly adding new instruments into the soundscape. The canon consists of eight parts and gradually eliminates the voices of the song one by one before the instruments take flight. Eventually the canon ends, and the strings stop on a sorrowful note. From here, the second movement commences.
“Lento―Tranquillisimo” also portrays a sense of hopelessness and despair. The lyrical content of this album is based off a prayer to the Virgin Mary that was inscribed by a child in Zakopane.* It presents a sense of ascension throughout the movement, which could indeed present the supposed ascension of the character to heaven. The way this is portrayed in “Lento―Tranquillisimo” is fascinating, to say the least. By increasing the intensity of the music gradually, the listener's interest is always piqued. When the soprano busts out that climaxing note, it's like witnessing the aural personification of bliss. Soon after, the strings stall for over a minute before the vocalist sings four more lines (which I believe are the two lines repeated) in the same pitch. The movement ends, and the listener is swept into the third and final movement, “Lento―Cantabile-semplice.”
This finale resembles the opposite version of the canon from the first movement and it also features a simplistic motif. By presenting the melody in the first verse, the second and third verses are able to explore different variations of notes and include nuances that cradle the listener before a postlude takes place. This ends the symphony on a high note, and proves that Górecki's Symphony No. 3
is consistent and astounding throughout these three movements. It's a rare occasion when a musical composition such as this comes out, but Górecki's Symphony No. 3
is the auditory manifestation of this rarity.
*A small town in South Poland that served as a bridge between Hungary and Poland for a time.