September 16, 2012

Gorecki's 'Miserere,' An A Cappella Oasis Of Calm (TOM HUIZENGA, 9/11/12, NPR)

Like the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs," Górecki's Miserere is simple in its construction but not simpleminded. The entire text consists of just five words -- "Domine Deus noster, Miserere nobis" (Lord our God, have mercy on us). He builds the piece slowly, in layers, beginning with low tones in the basses and eventually rising to the sopranos. The repeated phrase "Domine Deus" washes over in peaceful waves -- its meditative mood about as far as you can get from a ferocious police beating.
The Miserere is bookended by the short Lobgesang in German and a set of Five Marian Songs (Pieśni Maryjne) in Polish.

Górecki wrote his Lobgesang (Song of Praise) in 2000 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the birth of Johann Gutenberg, inventor of movable-type printing. Punctuated by boisterous cries of "lobet" (praise), the chorale's mighty sound eventually gives way to some terrifically soft, low and sustained notes, over which Górecki magically introduces chromatic pings from a solitary glockenspiel.

In the Marian songs, it's Górecki's simple approach that touches the heart. Inspired by Polish folk and church music, he sets these sweetly melodic songs in uncomplicated harmonies with subtle splashes of dissonance. "Most Holy Mother," the second and longest of the songs, shows off the ensemble's lustrous blend, handsomely recorded in Walt Disney Concert Hall's warm but precise acoustic.

Posted by at September 16, 2012 8:08 AM

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