Slow, mesmerising, and unforgettable – Gorecki Symphony No. 3 “Sorrowful Songs”

For the first time since its liberation, permission was granted for music to be heard in Auschwitz.

The Music

This forms the central section of a three-part symphony by the Polish composer Henryk Górecki. He was relatively unknown until 1992 when the whole symphony including this piece was released and went on to become a sensation, with over a million sales, topping the classical charts in both he UK and the US.

In 1973 the Polish composer Henryk Górecki learned of an inscription scrawled on the wall of a cell in a German Gestapo prison in the town of Zakopane, which lies at the foot of the Tatra mountains in southern Poland.

The words were those of 18-year-old Helena Wanda Błażusiakówna, a woman incarcerated on 25 September 1944. It read:

O Mamo, nie placz, nie. Niebios Przeczysta Królowo, Ty zawsze wspieraj mnie
(Oh Mamma do not cry, no. Immaculate Queen of Heaven, you support me always).

The composer recalled,

“I have to admit that I have always been irritated by grand words, by calls for revenge. Perhaps in the face of death I would shout out in this way. But the sentence I found is different, almost an apology or explanation for having got herself into such trouble; she is seeking comfort and support in simple, short but meaningful words”.

He later explained,

“In prison, the whole wall was covered with inscriptions screaming out loud: ‘I’m innocent’, ‘Murderers’, ‘Executioners’, ‘Free me’, ‘You have to save me’—it was all so loud, so banal. Adults were writing this, while here it is an eighteen-year-old girl, almost a child. And she is so different. She does not despair, does not cry, does not scream for revenge. She does not think about herself; whether she deserves her fate or not. Instead, she only thinks about her mother: because it is her mother who will experience true despair. This inscription was something extraordinary. And it really fascinated me.”

The YouTube clip

Soprano: Isabel Bayrakdaraian, Sinfonietta Cracovia, conducted by John Axelrod.
Taken from “HOLOCAUST – A Music Memorial Film from Auschwitz”.

Source: This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “Symphony No. 3 (Górecki)”, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

About Noel G

My sites are a mélange. A collection; a library; a museum: of things I like, or find thought provoking. To make them easy for me to find if nothing else.

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