Exclusive album stream: Gorécki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs reworked by saxophonist Colin Stetson

It’s a poignant, moving and difficult symphonic work - and now saxophonist Colin Stetson has masterminded a truly epic new version of Henryk Gorécki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

colin stetson sorrow gorecki

The new album, ‘Sorrow’, uses Gorécki’s score but adds to its instrumentation, as Stetson explains: “The concept was simple, and true to the original score. I haven't changed existing notation, but rather have worked with altering instrumentation, utilizing a group consisting heavily of woodwinds, synthesizers, and electric guitars, as well as retaining an element of the orchestral in a string section of violins and cellos.”

Stetson, who plays a variety of different saxophones on the album, enlisted the help of violinist and Arcade Fire member Sarah Neufeld, cellist Rebecca Foon (a veteran of the Canadian indie scene) and Greg Fox, drummer with black metal legends Liturgy, alongside a host of other guest musicians. The soprano is Megan Stetson, Colin Stetson's sister.

On this version, as in the original, you’ll hear three different Polish texts sung by a soprano. The text of the extremely popular second movement was taken directly from the wall of a World War II Gestapo cell.

Gorécki’s original symphony was composed in 1976, but it wasn’t until 1992 that the symphony became a huge commercial success thanks in part to Classic FM (we played the symphony’s second movement extensively when the station launched in 1992).

So, clear the next 52 minutes in your schedule and get stuck in:

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