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GORECKI – The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs with Dawn Upshaw

Gorecki – The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs

Dawn Upshaw (soprano) London Sinfonietta, David Zinman

Tony Palmer DVD @ £16* TPDVD102

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

“The film includes an interview with Górecki and a performance of the Symphony illustrated with newsreels of famine and war and specially-shot sequences inside Auschwitz. The final shot shows a bemused-looking Górecki unable to find words for things he has seen. It is a tribute to the power of the music as well as the images that this film often reduced me to tears and made me feel sick in my stomach and soul.” BBC Music Magazine 

“In interview Górecki explains how this music was his way of expressing the “great sorrow of the war, the rotten times under communism, our life today, the starving…” Palmer illustrates these themes quite literally, intercutting the performance of the music with the continuing interview with the composer, film of his visit to the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, and documentary footage of the camps’ wartime carnage, of starving and wounded children in contemporary Africa and the Balkans, and of German fascists today.” Gramophone 

Widely acknowledged as Tony Palmer’s masterpiece, this biopic of composer Henryck Gorecki features Dawn Upshaw, David Zinman and The London Sinfonietta. It won the gold medal at the New York Film & TV Festival.

The Symphony actually dates from 1976 when Górecki was (as he tells us in the film) a ‘non-person’ in the political sense, when his music was banned in his native Katowice in Poland. Melvyn Bragg showed the film on The South Bank Show, and even managed to persuade the hierarchy of ITV that it would be an abomination to disrupt the film with any commercial breaks.

The 53 minute film was shown uninterrupted, an acceptance perhaps of the urgency of its content. “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”.


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