The range of comparisons drawn for the music of Polish composer Henryk Górecki is exceptionally large and shows the difficulty of classifying him. He can be grouped with Pärt and the other Eastern European minimalists, but he is given to Romantic outbursts that do not fit that template at all. The first two of his three string quartets, both commissioned by the Kronos Quartet after the runaway success of the Symphony No. 3 ("Symphony of Sorrowful Songs") in the late 1980s, give an idea of his world. The string trio Genesis I: Elementi, Op. 19, No. 1, written in 1962, comes from Górecki's early avant-garde period; it is atonal and rather violent. Yet its construction, based on large contrasts, has parallels with ideas in the two string quartets. All the works explore ways of breaking up blocks of repeated chords. Those contrasts, in turn, are put to different ends in the two quartets; sample the evocative, programmatic String Quartet No. 1, Op. 62 ("Already it is dusk"), based on a Polish Renaissance motet, while the four movements of the String Quartet No. 2, Op. 64, bring to mind the quartets of Beethoven and especially Shostakovich. Britain's Tippett Quartet has a somewhat less intense sound than the Kronos Quartet; you might prefer one or the other as a matter of taste, but all the music was certainly worth another look; these performances have much to offer.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|String Quartet No. 2, Op. 64 'Quasi una fantasia'|