GÓRECKI: Miserere, Op. 44.
Choros! for 56 Strings. Totus Tuus, Op. 60
Ever since Henryk-Mikolaj Górecki's 1993 recording of his Third Symphony (featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw) topped the charts with million-plus sales, a curious public no, more a cult followinghas demanded more of his musicespecially the early works. Thanks to this recent Koch release, three works representing different periods and styles receive performances solid enough to delight the most demanding of Górecki fans.
The most provocative of the three, the 1964 Choros! for 56 Strings, comes across as an agitated tour de force full of snarling and thumping, with sections that sound like swarming bees. It's surprisingly quite effective as an exercise in orchestral hysteria.
More calming and conservative is the 1981 Miserere, Op. 44 for a cappella choir featuring music that is basically tonal though "modernized" in the minimalistic mold of repeating phrases a la Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Dark and foreboding in the beginning with only mens' voices, it suddenly soars in joy and optimism with the entrance of sopranos and altos.
Finally, there is the powerful Totus Tuus, Op. 60, again a cappella, composed for the third return visit of John Paul II to his homeland. It builds via a slow but steady crescendo to a glorious finale as the 8-part chorus repeats the one word, "Maria!."
Excellent performances, and highly recommended.
K.S. (May 2000)