GORECKI, HENRYK Tony Palmer’s Masterpiece. The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Dawn Upshaw and the London Sinfonietta / David Zinman. Tony Palmer Films DVD NTSC

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Gorecki Henryk Tony Palmer S Tony Palmer Films Dvd Ntsc

HENRYK GORECKI

The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs

Tony Palmer’s Masterpiece

Although written in 1976, the 3rd Symphony by Henryk Górecki only came to real prominence in 1992, with Dawn Upshaw and the London Sinfonietta, conducted by David Zinman via Elektra Nonesuch records. No.1 in the UK Classical Record Charts for 26 consecutive weeks.

Tony Palmer, director of music-related documentaries and films, went to Poland to shoot this work in 1992. It involves a complete, uninterrupted, performance of the 3rd Symphony, with camera attention moving between the orchestra, Dawn Upshaw the soprano, and the Composer interviewed in his home setting and silently wandering through the empty camp at

Auschwitz, which is near to his home.

The film was originally screened on The Southbank Show, and such is its gravitas that ITV relented by allowing it to run without adverts. This was exceptional.

“I wanted to express a great sorrow”, Górecki says. “The war...the rotten times under Communism...our life today...the starving. What madness! This sorrow, it burns inside me.

I cannot shake it off”

Tony Palmer says: “My film is a personal view of a great Symphony which is itself a towering monument to all that we have done and are continuing to do in the name of humanity”

“A Witness and a Warning” Gorecki

“This film is a major work of art in itself.” The Guardian

Tony Palmer Films NTSC DVDTP102

Customer Reviews
Gorecki Henryk Tony Palmer S Tony Palmer Films Dvd Ntsc
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Rate: 5

"I have no words to say what I mean"

By Nicholas

The fifty-two minutes of this thought-provoking documentary are virtually entirely spent with Henryk Gorecki’s third symphony playing in full, either in the fore- or in the background. This is performed by David Zinman conducting the London Sinfonietta with Dawn Upshaw as soprano. The film is incredibly moving, and a credit to the skills of the editor merging sound with image.

In the meantime Tony Palmer pushes the seemingly quiet and self-effacing composer to describe his experiences as a boy growing up in and around Katowice and as a creative artist in Cold war Poland – “I was deleted from Polish culture.” The film includes visits to Auschwitz (of course) as well as to beautiful Zakopane in the Tata Mountains in the south of the country.

Gorecki says in the film that, “My third symphony is tragic but not in the sense of tragedy. I wanted to express a great sorrow. I have no words to say what I mean.” Palmer has a go at trying to convey a message. There are visual references to Bosnia, another sight of European genocide or, at least, ‘ethnic cleansing’ (the film was made in 1993), but Palmer also chooses scenes from Iraq and Ethiopia to convey his message, the bodies of the Ethiopians mirroring the emaciated forms of those who died at Auschwitz.

Worth five stars without a doubt.

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