Friday, September 25, 2009

John Taylor at writes, "The music business loves the tried and the true; if one song’s a hit, let’s have another just like it! Once in a while, though, a serious work catches the public’s fancy, somehow striking a deeper chord and reminding us of the power music has to touch us and move us deeply. Such is the case with Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3 (1976). Subtitled "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs", it was a surprise hit in 1992 when it was recorded by David Zinman and the London Sinfonietta, with soprano Dawn Upshaw. It’s certainly not a typical chart-topper. There’s nothing bright and bouncy here, no catchy choruses or heavy beats. It’s a work of deep spirituality, slow and dense, almost unbearably sad, yet inexpressibly beautiful. Górecki has stated that the work is not "about" the Holocaust, but the horrors of one of humanity’s greatest crimes are undeniably a presence. It’s based on a series of texts, including words scrawled upon the walls of her prison cell by an eighteen-year old girl imprisoned by The Gestapo. Other inspirations come from a 15th century Lamentation and Polish folksong, but the central theme - a mother’s grief over the loss of her child – remains a constant throughout. Cast in three movements, the work unfolds slowly, gradually emerging from silence with a sense of ominous inevitability. The words are sung in Polish, but the language is irrelevant – the sorrow and grief are unmistakable, rising in anguish, falling in resignation. The suffering is almost unendurable – and yet the very purity, the sublime beauty of the human voice holds out hope, the possibility of benediction. It’s nothing less than the sound of the human spirit, infinitely alone, as fragile as a flickering flame yet ultimately indomitable". Watch a haunting performance of the symphony's first movement by soprano Isabel Bayrakdaraian and Sinfonietta Cracovia with John Axelrod conducting . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble is one of the nation's oldest professional ensembles devoted to the music of our timedest professional ensembles devoted to the music of our time. PNME's summer festival presents new music in a way you won't encounter anywhere else. If you think you don't like modern music, or if you're bored with the "same-old same-old" concert routine, you'll find something at PNME to entice and inspire you. PNME is a mission-driven organization, striving for compelling presentations that will challenge, delight and move you. "We have the future behind us" is more than a catch-phrase, and it articulates a philosophy of continued artistic growth, a commitment to embracing the New and expressing it with wit, power, insight and beauty. Find out more about this fablous ensemble ... Pytheas' FEATURED ENSEMBLE.

This week's FEATURED RECORDING is a performance of Cornelius Cardew's monumental 193-page graphic score Treatise (1963-67). This performance was recorded live in Prague in 1967 by the Czech QUaX Ensemble, directed by composer/flutist/conductor Petr Kotik. This historical recording offers a unique perspective to hear Treatise (1963-67) as interpreted by Cardew's contemporaries. Kotik met Cardew in Warsaw in 1962, and they began exchanging scores by mail, including Treatise (1963-67), which was a work in progress. Upon meeting again in London (1966), Cardew provided Kotik with additional portions of the score and insights. Fresh from this encounter, Kotik started the QUaX Ensemble upon his return to Prague in 1966. The first thing QUaX did was to rehearse Treatise (1963-67), working through the pages Kotik had: "The piece was very important for getting all of us together, musically speaking, besides having a lot of fun working out individual pages by having all the musicians contribute ideas and suggestions. We worked regularly over a long period of time, ending up with a 2-hour version of the piece, performed only once, at the concert on October 15, 1967 in Prague". Read more about (and hear excerpts from) this unique recording ... this week's FEATURED RECORDING.

Regarding John Cage's Third Construction (1941) the All Music Guide writes, "The four performers called for in Cage's Third Construction play a large and varied battery of exotic instruments, including a teponaxtle (Aztec log drum), quijadas (jawbone rattle), lion's roar (a washtub with a small hole through which a rope is noisily pulled), and an assortment of cymbals, shakers, claves, tom-toms, and tin cans. By combining the endless possibilities of percussion colors and rhythms within a controlled, telescopic structure, Cage creates a work that is continually surprising yet holistically unified. Check out a performance of the Third Construction by Ensemble 64.8 ... this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Explore, Listen and Enjoy!
Vinny Fuerst
Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music


  1. Thank you for sharing this! I have never seen a video of this song, and the setting was so moving. I shared the link with my yoga teacher training class!

  2. Thanks for sharing a link and spreading the word. Just a note ... the video has moved to the "Archives", and so the link is now: