Beth Gibbons: Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No 3 review – Sublime
Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)
Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
To use music industry parlance, Henryk Gorécki’s Symphony No 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) is the epitome of a sleeper hit. When premiered in 1978, it had little impact, but a 1992 re-release brought it to an international audience. To date it has sold more than a million copies and become the bestselling contemporary classical album in recent history.
Beth Gibbons of Portishead hasn’t released any music since 1998, but she was invited to front a performance of this modern masterpiece in Warsaw 2014.
Fortunately, Domino Records has ensured that such a spectacular one-off doesn’t fade into the annals of time, and only seen and heard by those lucky enough to have been present, as an accompanying film will also be unveiled in the coming weeks.
Under the baton of Krzysztof Penderecki, who is widely regarded as Poland’s greatest living composer and conductor, Gibbons delivers a masterful vocal rendition of a symphony that captures the horror, desolation and catastrophic loss of war.
Despite singing in Polish, Gibbons’s singular voice is unmistakably Bristolian. This is a world away from the early Mercury Music Prize winning blockbuster album Dummy, which became the dinner party soundtrack du jour of the mid-1990s, but it makes perfect sense.