You may not know who Henryk Górecki was. A Polish composer, he passed away today at the age of 76.
Most people may have never known who he was if it were not for the issuance of his Symphony Number 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. It was composed in 1977, and it sort of languished until it was recorded and released in 1992, with the soprano performed by the incomparable Dawn Upshaw. It sold over a million copies, a figure unheard of for a 20th century composer.
I remember hearing this for the first time, and being so moved by the utter sadness of the piece. From the Wikipedia entry:
The libretto for the first movement is taken from a 15th century lament, while second movement uses the words of a teenage girl, Helena Błażusiak, which she wrote on the wall of a Gestapo prison cell in Zakopane to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary.
The third uses the text of a Silesian folk song which describes the pain of a mother searching for a son killed in the Silesian uprisings. The dominant themes of the symphony are motherhood and separation through war. While the first and third movements are written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, the second movement is from that of a child separated from a parent.
If you have an opportunity, I strongly suggest you listen to this piece. Górecki was for a portion of his career a minimalist, so many figures are repeated for long stretches in each movement. But I think that minimalism is what lends weight to the despair of the piece. Here’s the third movement, “Lento e largo.”
No, this isn’t strictly voiceover related. But this music speaks both to the power of music and the power of the human voice. It doesn’t matter that you cannot understand the words: you can feel it. So go have a listen. And remember that spoken or sung, our voices can move people, when put in the hands of transcendent talent.
Thank you Maestro Górecki for all of your work, especially this soul shaking piece.