Defining ‘Spiritual Minimalism’

Authored by: David Dies

The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409435495
eBook ISBN: 9781315613260
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042556


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In May 1992, the record label Elektra Nonesuch released a recording of the Symphony No. 3 by the Polish composer, Henryk Górecki (1933–2010), with David Zinman conducting the London Sinfonietta and Dawn Upshaw as the soprano soloist. Although it had been recorded four times since its premiere in 1977, 1 1

Górecki’s Third Symphony was completed in 1976 and premiered in 1977 at the International Festival of Contemporary Art in Royan, France. For a more complete history of these recordings and the work’s reception, see Luke Howard, ‘A Reluctant Requiem’: the history and reception of Henryk M. Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 in Britain and the United States (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1997).

its reception changed with this recording. In 1992, the CD climbed to no. 3 on the American Billboard classical charts by August, and took the no. 1 position in March 1993, holding it until late November. Górecki’s Third Symphony remained in the Top 20 of the classical charts for 134 consecutive weeks, except for two weeks in March/April 1994. During the height of its popularity, it also crossed over into the popular-music charts, reaching no. 6 by February 1993. Altogether, the recording sold over a million copies worldwide during this period: an astronomical success for a composer previously little known in the UK and the USA; and beyond surprising for a work also known as Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, and for an hour-long work consisting of three movements, all marked Lento.

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