The Beauty of Music
Back in 2014, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons stunned with her polish opera singing chops in a re-orchestration of Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 (Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs) conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki. Played by the talented musicians of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, the released record of her live performance is a wonderful and magnificent journey into the language and world of symphonies.
The first movement “I. Lento – Sostenuto tranquillo ma cantabile” opens with low stringed instruments playing gloomy notes. Slowly joined by other members of the ensemble, it’s truly a beautiful melodic intro, especially in the moments when it finds pockets within itself to grow. Violins play passionately as they slowly steal the spotlight and Penderecki’s arrangements elevate with grace and emotion. Then, a lingering single note accompanied by three piano counts are Gibbons’ cues, and she delivers with a voice of an angel. Though her voice in comparison to other operas can fall a bit thin, her texture and carriage changes the song’s direction to a story, more than just a feeling.
Gibbons’ ability to sing in Polish is really quite notable. After months of preparation and working with a Polish tutor, she manages to nail those tough consonants in elegance. “II. Lento e largo – Tranquillisimo” features intervals of piano and violins, and Gibbons clearly understands the line between accompanying the music rather than overpowering it. She enhances the collaboration with her powerfully delicate voice, and allows for the brilliant orchestration to take its time in setting the tone.
The final movement “III Lento – Cantabile-Semplice” is interesting in the way the orchestra rows back and forth in amplitudes becoming louder, then quieting down. The original 1992 album release of the symphony sold over a million releases, and this recent version is equal in its richness and fullness of sound.
Gibbons’ unusual take on opera breaks away from any classical convention of the genre, instead stripping everything back to really appreciate the beauty of music. The delivery is different here, and the record greatly succeeds as her voice is paired with the undeniable talents of the polish orchestra and a world class conductor. A job well done, bravo.