DONALD RUNNICLES and CHRISTINE BREWER – CD, “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”

Telarc releases definitive version of Henryk Górecki’s, Symphony No. 3

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

A new recording of one of the most surprising popular hits in the orchestral repertoire, Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, is now available from Telarc. Featuring Donald Runnicles conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with soprano Christine Brewer, the CD was recorded live at Atlanta’s Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center in June 2008 following acclaimed performances in May.

“Any new recording with the Atlanta Symphony is quite special to me,” said Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles. “Working also with my dear friend Christine Brewer is one of my greatest joys, particularly on such a profoundly spiritual piece as the Górecki. Christine and I treasure a long history of collaboration, and we look forward to sharing this new adventure with audiences worldwide.”

DONALD RUNNICLES and CHRISTINE BREWER

DONALD RUNNICLES and CHRISTINE BREWER

Written in 1976, the symphony, which is also known as the “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” is a setting of three Polish texts with the theme of separation through war: The first is a 15th century Polish lament in which Mary speaks to her son Jesus as he is dying; the second is a message written on the wall of a Gestapo cell by a teenage girl during the Second World War; and the third is a folk song in which a mother grieves for her son killed in the Silesian uprisings.

The symphony marked a change in compositional style for Górecki, who was previously identified as a member of the modernist wing of European music that was prone to compositions constructed of clashing sound masses and serially ordered elements. The symphony’s simplicity, chant-like melodic nature and largely consonant harmonies took many listeners and critics by surprise. The symphony also became an unexpected crossover hit record when a 1992 recording by soprano Dawn Upshaw and David Zinman and the London Sinfonietta was embraced by record buyers. The recording sold more than a million copies and climbed to the top of the classical music charts in both the U.S. and the U.K. It also reached number six on the mainstream U.K. album chart.

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HENRYK GÓRECKI. Photo, Gerry Hurkmans
www.gerryhurkmans.com

Besides its many concert performances, the symphony has also been choreographed for dance companies, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic presented a staged version of the work in 2007. It has also been used on numerous soundtracks including Peter Weir’s FEARLESS, Julian Schnabel’s BASQUIAT and an episode of HBO’s THE SOPRANOS.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s performances of Górecki’s Third Symphony in May 2008 were presented as a “Theater of a Concert” production enhanced by lighting effects and visuals by Anne Patterson and Adam Larsen and conducted by the ASO’s Principle Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles. Mr. Runnicles was recently named General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony, effective in 2009, served as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the San Francisco Opera since 1992, and is Music Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming. At the close of the 2008–09 Season, Maestro Donald Runnicles concludes his remarkable tenure as San Francisco Opera’s music director and principal conductor. His early two decades of musical leadership have left an indelible mark on the Company and the Bay Area musical community. Although Maestro Runnicles goes on to his newly appointed posts as general music director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony, he will continue to be a part of San Francisco Opera’s musical life in the future, leading the Company’s upcoming Ring cycle.

Soloist Christine Brewer is a GRAMMY® Award-winning American soprano whose appearances in opera, concert and recital are marked with her own unique timbre, at once warm and brilliant, combined with a vibrant personality and emotional honesty.

Click here to order the complete score of Góreck’s Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, the “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”. Softcover. 82 pages. Published by Boosey & Hawkes. The symphony is scored for orchestra with Soprano soloist. The first movement opens with a canon for strings that builds in intensity. At the heart of the movement is the 15th century Polish Lamentation of the Holy Cross Monastery, in which the Mother of the Christ begs her dying son to speak to her. The second movement contains words to a poem that had been scratched on the wall of a Gestapo cell by an eighteen-year-old Polish girl seeking the Queen of Heaven. The music of the final movement revolves around a Polish folk song in which a mother laments the loss of her son, whose body she now seeks. The movement and symphony ends with a glimmer of hope as the mother begs the song birds to sing for him, and the flowers to bloom for him, so he may rest in peace.

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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