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Like wisps of smoke rising from smoldering mass graves, March 12, 2001

I have to confess; I resisted this work for a long time, for reasons of anti-fashion. The idea that such an achingly spiritual work like this should become mood music for zinfadel-tippling yuppies was disgusting to me. Of course, to do just the opposite is also to follow fashion. I was only depriving myself, so when I finally sat down and paid serious attention to it, I was as deeply affected as most every other listener was.

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I have to confess; I resisted this work for a long time, for reasons of anti-fashion. The idea that such an achingly spiritual work like this should become mood music for zinfadel-tippling yuppies was disgusting to me. Of course, to do just the opposite is also to follow fashion. I was only depriving myself, so when I finally sat down and paid serious attention to it, I was as deeply affected as most every other listener was.
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Written for the 50th anniversary concert of Hitler's invasion of Poland and the ensuing tragedies, Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 is a powerful, prayer-like setting of memories of those events. While considered a modern composer, the work is firmly rooted in the tonal world, often creating a mantra/meditative feel; the 1976 composition is as emotional today, as it was in its own time.The subtitle "Sorrowful Songs" is lost a little in the Polish translation, where the sense of "Wordless song", "prayer and exhortation", and "elegiac and redemptive lullaby" are qualities involved in the literal translation. The unique orchestration (4 flutes, 2 piccolos, 4 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 4 trombones, harp, piano, and full string ensemble) give a full, rich, intimate, chamber sound, but the beauty of a solo soprano voice adds to the absolute quality of the instruments. In three movements, each conveys a prayer in a contrasting, yet peaceful manner. Ingeniously, the...
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I certainly don't have the skills to write a critique of classical performances - but I know what sounds amazing to my own ears, and Gorecki's 3rd draws you in and captivates you like no other music I have ever heard.The piece is broken down into three movements - Sostenuto Tranquillo Ma Cantabile opens the symphony - this portion is dominated by a 15th century Polish Prayer, sung by the ethereal Dawn Upshaw (with an incredible soprano voice), which is enveloped in strings that sound both maudlin and lush. The entire piece is incredibly soft, yet deeply stirring. This is the portion of #3 that is at the center of the movie "Fearless", one of a number of Hollywood productions that have used Gorecki's Third as a theme.The Second and Third Movements ("Tranquillisiom and Cantabile Semplice) rework the central themes, and instrumentation of the First movement - Upshaw's heavenly vocals resurface in even more desperate pleas, and the strings slow in tempo, making...
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