GÓRECKI String Quartet No 3 (Dafô Quartet)
Górecki’s Third String Quartet remains one of his most indecipherable works. It is a meditation on death (the Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov’s phrase ‘When people die, they sing songs’ provides the work with its raison d’être) and as such is completely consistent with the composer’s output in general. The booklet notes, by Agnieszka Jez˙, try to link this with the Third Symphony, and of course there is such a connection, but in simple terms of musical vocabulary the Quartet is in a different realm, not eschewing the later ‘simple’ style but returning too to the uncompromising quality of the earlier Górecki.
It is perhaps uncomfortable music given his popular public image, but Górecki was a very consistent composer and his early, dissonant style actually relates very clearly to his later, modal/tonal work, particularly in terms of gesture. His use of insistent repetition never changed and he always knew how to use it to maximum effect, never stretching it too far. This is amply evident in the Third Quartet, in all five movements, but perhaps nowhere more than in the first, in the brooding final section, or the imploring melodic phrases of the second, which do indeed come close to the Third Symphony. I am reluctant to try to find a ‘late style’ in Górecki, as Edward Said might have done, because it has always seemed to me that his style, throughout his output, was all of a piece. There is a rigour, an uncompromising intensity that runs all the way from his early works such as Genesis I of 1962 to pieces from much later such as this quartet, independent of the musical vocabulary.
The Dafô Quartet have more than the measure of this music: this is a powerful, gripping performance, beautifully recorded. Any admirer of Górecki needs to have this disc.