Henryk Gorecki, GORECKI: Symphony No 3 / Three Olden Style Pieces

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

This Polish composer, friend of the late Pope John Paul II, was minding his own business, writing scores that would be played in Poland and rarely anywhere else, when a mid-'80s French film called Police (starring Gerard Depardieu) used his Symphony #3 as its soundtrack. Essentially a set of three long laments, this lush, slow, heartbreakingly beautiful music had been written, and promptly ignored, years earlier. But when Dawn Upshaw and the Baltimore Symphony recorded it for the American market, "Gorecki's Third" became the surprise hit of the classical music world, hitting the pop album charts and landing in the record collections of millions of people who wouldn't otherwise know a symphony from an S&M club. Where, I was once told, the symphony first garnered fans… apparently they liked the almost unbearable tension of this massive, slowly-moving work, which always seems like it's about to collapse under its own weight.