Kronos waited a decade for Henryk Górecki, who garnered a worldwide audience with his Third Symphony, to complete this mournful, meditative work. The Quartet’s David Harrington says, “This music consoles as it faces, unflinchingly, the deepest aspects of life.”
The CD of this album is available to purchase at ArkivMusic.
On March 20, 2007, Nonesuch Records releases …songs are sung, the Kronos Quartet’s recording of Henryk Mikolaj Górecki’s long-awaited Third String Quartet. In 1992, after having commissioned, premiered, and recorded the Polish composer’s first two string quartets, Kronos asked him for a third. After persuasive exchanges with Kronos’ founder and artistic director, David Harrington, Górecki agreed, and the world premiere performance was scheduled for the group’s solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 1994. But the piece never arrived.
In Spring 2005, after thirteen years of persistence, patience, and cancelled performances, the Kronos Quartet and Górecki’s publisher Boosey & Hawkes finally received the score to Henryk Górecki’s Pieśni Śpiewają (“…songs are sung”), String Quartet No. 3, Op. 67—a 50-minute magnum opus with the dedication, “To the Kronos Quartet, which for so many years has waited patiently for this quartet.” In a commentary attached to the score, Górecki added that the work had been completed in 1995, “but I continued to hold back from releasing it to the world. I don’t know why.”
The world premiere performance of Pieśni Śpiewają (“…songs are sung”) was given by Kronos in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, on October 15, 2005; the long-delayed Carnegie Hall performance finally took place on March 24, 2006, and was the work’s U.S. premiere. Pieśni Śpiewają (“…songs are sung”) was commissioned for Kronos by The Carnegie Hall Corporation, the Angel Stoyanof Commission Fund, and the Kosciusko Foundation. The quartet’s title is inspired by the last line of a poem by the Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov, “When people die, they sing songs.” The release of the album marks a two-decade relationship between Górecki and the Kronos Quartet, which began with Already It Is Dusk, String Quartet No. 1, Op. 62, composed for Kronos and completed in 1988. Quasi una fantasia, String Quartet No. 2, Op. 64, also was written for the group, in 1990/91. Recordings of both pieces are available on Nonesuch, Górecki String Quartets 1, 2.
In a personal letter from Harrington to Górecki, written after the U.S. premiere performance, Harrington said, “Without any question, ‘…songs are sung,’ for me, is one of the most lyrical, poignant and far-reaching works ever written for string quartet that I am aware of. This music consoles as it faces, unflinchingly, the deepest aspects of life. It is music so personal that in its performance one feels the audience listening in to one’s very own soul and life.”
Produced by Judith Sherman
Recorded August 1–3, 2006, at Skywalker Sound, Nicasio, CA
Engineered by Leslie Ann Jones
Assistant engineer: Dann Thompson
Editing assistant: Jeanne Velonis
Mastered by Robert Ludwig, Gateway Mastering & DVD, Portland, ME
Art direction and design by Frank Olinsky
Cover photograph by Keith Carter
Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz
David Harrington, violin
John Sherba, violin
Hank Dutt, viola
Jeffrey Zeigler, cello