Symphony No. 1 “1959” op. 14
Antiphon, the second part, consists of a sequence of ragged overlapping instrumental lines with a level of rhythmic complication that is so high that this part was omitted from the first performance at the Warsaw Autumn festival in 1959 (and is also missing from our recording). The third partis a calm Chorale with a distinct quasi-melodic “chorale” line in the viola part. The Finale – Lauda focuses on the wealth of percussion colours. In its closing section, strings take over and finish this avant-garde symphony with a perfect fifth, A-E, most likely an allusion to highlander music from the Tatra Mountains in Poland, with which Górecki was already closely familiar.
The festival performance of Symphony No. 1 shocked the Warsaw Autumn audience. At that time,
such innovative musical language –
and in a composition presented as a symphony – was truly astonishing. In retrospect, especially in the context
of Górecki’s later works, this symphony appears more as a bold experiment than as
a composition with deep, lasting artistic qualities. Still, the sheer power of
accumulated sound in the Invocation’s
huge chords, the variety of percussive colours in the Lauda and the careful construction the parts compels admiration
even today for the invention and imagination of the young composer.