Andrey Boreyko / London Philharmonic Orchestra

Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 4 (Tansman Episodes)

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Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 4 (Tansman Episodes) Review

by James Manheim

After the pop-level success of his Symphony No. 3 in the early 1990s, Henryk Górecki waited for some years to begin work on a successor, refusing to plow the same ground further. As it happened, Górecki died in 2010 without completing this work, although he left a piano score that included some indications of orchestration. The work was orchestrated by his son. It is, of course, impossible to know to what degree the work recorded here reflects Górecki's intentions, but it's an intriguing, attention-grabbing thing at the very least. The Symphony No. 4, Op. 85 ("Tansman Episodes") was written for a festival commemorating the Polish-French composer Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986), whose music has been profitably paired with this work by the present conductor, Andrey Boreyko. The main thematic material of the symphony, stated in abbreviated form, but stentorian tones at the beginning, is derived (how is not 100 percent clear, but there's an explanation in the notes) from the letters of Tansman's name. The work as a whole features extremely simple thematic material, a bit reminiscent of silent film melodrama, developed first through the addition of dense thickets of harmony and tonal clusters, and then through extreme contrasts in which the whole orchestra is suddenly reduced to a small ensemble of instruments. The timpani get quite a workout, and the audience for the work, in this reading by Boreyko and the London Philharmonic Orchestra or in any live performance that might follow, will not be bored. Nonesuch's live sound from Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall in London captures the immediacy of the event.

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