Symphony No. 3, by Gorecki
Suggested by Stuart Taylor
As I’ve mentioned before, Classical music largely leaves me cold.
As an artform, it’s mannered and cerebral, rewarding a foreknowledge that takes a lifetime to assemble. As a sound, it’s so engrained in our wider culture that it merges into one. It’s pomp and bluster, or it’s strings and serenity, but at its heart we’ve heard it all through dint of history, And as a genre, it’s massive. So many composers, so many symphonies. Couple this with the fact that there’s no real way of hearing the original, only indenti-kit cover versions by folk wit their own interpretations and artistry slathered on like Stork Margarine atop a fresh croissant, and you can see why I’d much rather listen to Dee-Lite than Debussy, thank you very much.
But Contemporary Classical? New Classical music crafted with the implements and idiosyncrasies of the great masters past? Will the work of Poland’s Gorecki juice my berries, or will it be a cheap knockoff, Chopin Lite or Mozart Fanfic?
In three distinct movement, Symphony No. 3 sees a solo soprano voice singing Polish texts. The first is from the 15th century, while the others are from World War 2 and the Silesian Uprisings of 1919-1921. Each deals with the theme of motherhood, in particular that of separation from a child.
Musically, the symphony is for a variety of wind and stringed intstruments, with flutes and clarinets doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Interestingly, there’s little use of percussive sounds, and there are no oboes or trumpets to be heard anywhere. The sound itself is rather pastoral, swelling beautifully from near silence into passages that are mournful and deep and tranquil. There’s no dissonance here, and it seemingly springs from simple arrangements and styles. It’s uncomplicated and
I got most of this from Google, of course. As usual, I feel unequipped to comment on such considered and intelligent design, as all I can say seems fatuous in the face of dedicated artistry and intelligence. I mean, what can I say? “Yeah, I liked the bit where it slowed down and the woman started singing. Wait, was it a woman? I dunno. Y’know, the bit that’s just after the stringy bit?” My god, I’d sound like an oaf. I do wish I was more cultured. Without having to put the work in, obviously.
Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 is definitely a beautiful piece, and its mellifluous progressional flow eschews the overwrought pomp and ceremony that’s a personal genre-killer for me. Of the three movements, the first is likely the best, but I could just think that because there was a lot of it, so it therefore contained more variety than the others.
I give Symphony No.3 a middling 5/10, and move on with the stickiness of shameful stupidity tacking the hairs to the skin of my reddening cheeks.