Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra - Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra - Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)

by James Weiskittel Rating:9 Release Date:2019-03-29

For fans who’ve been waiting (for more than a decade) for new music featuring featuring the voice of Beth Gibbons, a live classical recording was probably not what they had in mind. But regardless of one’s familiarity with the genre, if you are a fan of the Portishead singer’s voice, then the release of Gibbons’ November 29th, 2014 performance of Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 with the Polish National Radio Symphony (conducted by the composer himself) is, at the very least, an intriguing addition to the enigmatic singer’s modest catalog.

A quick disclaimer here - rather than embarrass myself by trying to deconstruct this recording from the perspective a classical music aficionado (which I am most certainly not), I’m going to approach this review from the eyes of rock music fan; and more specifically, a Portishead fan. And in that respect, as a vehicle for Gibbons’ effortlessly haunting vocals, this live recording is a resounding success.

Górecki’s third symphony, as the title Symphony of Sorrowful Songs would suggest, is an emotionally jarring, grandiose composition that features three distinct movements. For her part, Gibbons, who sought help from both English and Polish vocal coaches before taking the stage, delivers what is probably the most technical, awe-inspiring vocal performance of her career.

The first of the collection’s three tracks, the nearly twenty-five minute “Lento — Sostenuto tranquillo ma cantabile” is an incredibly dense, rewarding listen. Slowly building upon a bed of dramatic, ominous strings, Gibbon’s operatic vocals enter about half-way through, and soar above the otherwise captivating instrumentation. The second movement (“Lento e largo — Tranquillissimo”) is the shortest, and most accessible track here, while the third, and final movement (“Lento — Cantabile-semplice”) provides an appropriately grand conclusion to the what is a staggeringly beautiful piece of music.

Now, when it comes to classical music, I’m probably more familiar with modern cinematic scores than anything filed under Bach or Beethoven (although, I gotta a lotta love for those movies with that big, dumb dog), but what I can say is that, to my ears, the dynamic, brooding music presented here isn’t all that far removed from Gibbons’ previous work. And while it’s hard to say if this will be the average Portishead fan’s cup of tea, Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Górecki’s Third Symphony is, at the very least, worth a listen - or ten.

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