40 years on, Gorecki’s grandson conducts his 3rd symphony

40 years on, Gorecki’s grandson conducts his 3rd symphony


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2016

Not many know that a symphony which went on to sell a million records had its first performance in October 1976 in a church in Bielsko-Biała, with the composer conducting.

Next week, the symphony will be reprised by Bielsko-Biała Festival Orchestra, conducted by Jan Stańczyk, the composer’s grandson, who is making his podium debut.



  • John Borstlap says:

    A cheap and primitive piece, not for a classical music audience but for people whose ears are ‘muddied by pop music, its body starved of rhythm…’ This is what Roger Scruton writes about the emerging of a new audience in his Aesthetics of Music (Oxford University Press, 1997, 1999). He continues: ‘We should not be surprised if this new audience prefers easy homophony to complex polyphony, endless repetition to continuous development, block chords to voiced harmonies, regular beat to shifting accent, and boundless chant to bounded melody. For such are the expectations fostered by popular culture. Nor should we be surprised if the new audience is animated by a religious longing, while being unable to distinguish the religious from the religiose, content with a sentimental image of a faith that, in its real version, stands too severely in judgement over the postmodern world-view. Such an audience finds in the morose spirituality of Gorecki the perfect correlative of its musical taste. For his is serious music, with a promise of release from the alienated world of populair culture, yet composed as pop is composed, with monodic chanting over unvoiced chords. It is as though serious music must begin again, from the first hesitant steps of tonality, in order to capture the postmodern ear.’

  • Siegfried says:

    Poor Roger Scruton. Is he determined to give mindless pedantry a bad name?
    Three cheers for Gorecki, the 3d Symphony is a truly moving and effective work whose
    success can never be forgiven in certain circles.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Actually, Scruton is positive about music like Gorecki’s, because it forms a bridge, however simplistic, towards serious music: http://www.futuresymphony.org/the-post-modern-ear/

      Since the comment appears to come from a member of the audience that Scruton describes, thereby vindicating his observations, it is to be wholeheartedly recommended to take notice of the potential future hidden in the trajectory towards serious music.

      • David Osborne says:

        Thanks for the link, interesting article. I just don’t buy the ‘Schönberg was a great tonal composer’ thing. He was damned ordinary, on a par with Zemlinsky, Schmidt, Marx… Maybe Furtwängler. His early period atonal work is his great achievement. A wonderful much needed enema for an at the time bloated and constipated art. It must have sounded amazing back then. The best argument for Schönberg was composers like Reger. But then of course he had to figure out ‘what next’. I’m sure he’ll get back to us on that some time in the next 100 years.

  • Milka says:

    Siegfried should realize from whence Scruton and Borstlap come……they would be
    left overs from any age .. enlightenment has not yet found them , they both are all
    about a mythical past and suffer a form of musical messiah complex .One might notice
    others are always found wanting when a difference of opinion is offered .It is a form
    of shoot the messenger our minds are made up.They do not understand at all what
    they claim to understand.

    • John Borstlap says:

      With all due respect, it would be very easy to either ignore or dismiss such irritated comment as again another miniature fart from under the rock, but why should we be offensive? More interesting and instructive would be to meditate for a moment from which kind of mind set such burb may arrise. It should be clear to anybody with a residu of intelligence who has taken the trouble to investigate the writings of Roger Scruton, that he is a formidable mind, covering more than one territory. One does not have to agree with everything such people bring into the world (as anybody knows who has serious objections to Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Foucault, Derrida and lots of other people writing incessantly), to appreciate the immensily wide scope and sharp analytical insights of someone like Scruton. In the territory of serious Western music, Scruton’s Aesthetics is a monumental standard work, which is increasingly accepted as such, also when the reader wholeheartedly feels the need to embrace the opposite of Scruton’s arguments and analyses – but that is equally stimulating and rewarding. If such writings are dismissed as meditations about a mythical past, then forgotten is that the Italian Renaissance resulted from just such nostalgia, creating the modern world. Scruton’s analysis of the Enlightenment is one of the most concise and clear explanations of this multifarious movement (in ‘Modern Culture’). But Scruton is not merely romanticizing a lost paradise, he analyses present and past from an objective point of view, and draws the obvious conclusions. For instance, he made extensive analysis of pop music phenomenae, one of which got him entangled in a legal conflict with the Pet Shop Boys – he knows where he is talking about. Protestations of the sort as the above, can only be understood as the defense mechanism against a felt pressure to develop, and to take notice of view points which may initiate changing one’s mind. It is not merely objection, but expression of aggressive hatred when confronted by something that seems to pose a threat. No such threat is forthcoming, so it is entirely a result of irrational projection.

      In other words: don’t despair… there is a musical life out there.

    • Cyril Blair says:

      What specifically do you disagree with in Scruton’s criticism of Gorecki? Seems to me like he nailed it.

  • David Osborne says:

    Back in the days when I had my albeit brief job (no don’t laugh, I really did) working in arguably Australia’s leading classical record store, I clearly remember when we first started getting asked for this. Around 1987. Not something you’d forget because outside of academic syllabus enquiries we were never asked for contemporary music, ever. So of course I was curious. It was the days of so-called ‘New Age’ music (how quaint and naive that sounds now) and really this piece slots right in with that. I just heard it again for the first time in yonks, and you know what? Not a bad tune, but talk about repetitive… Still, for a while there it did draw some serious interest from the punters. And for that he certainly deserves some credit.

    • Milka says:

      It is a lament and constructed as such ,and laments often are repetitive.
      The first part is a lament the others follow..it is neither cheap or primitive
      as some ignorants would have but seemingly a personal attempt at the most basic
      level to express great sorrow.