Colin Stetson: Sorrow (A reimagining of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony) (CD, 52Hz, April 2016)

In which Colin Stetson, as Eric Morecambe might put it, plays all the right notes — but not necessarily on the right instruments. This is a “reimagining” of the lovely lovely Symphony of Sorrowful Songs as part avant garde exploration, part drone metal intensity, part psychedelic wig-out, part 20th-century classical symphony (well, y’know…), and part rock opera. Most of the soprano vocals are intact, as are some of those lovely strings. Other parts are transcribed for electric guitar, saxophone and other wind instruments (Stetson’s speciality — I gather that he’s most famous for his collaborations with The Arcade Fire, but I don’t hold that against him), synths, some sort of wheezing instrument that sounds like bellows are involved, and bog knows what else. I say that I read the description and I listened to this more in curiosity than expectation — and I was blown away. Often, the alterations are subtle, such as near the start of the second movement, where the strings and soprano are supplemented with a standard rock drumbeat which works far, far better than it sounds on paper. Occasionally, he goes properly off-piste, such as with the howl of guitar feedback which ends the first movement. The first half of the third movement, in particular, combines the solemnity of the original with a wonderful rock stomp and just a thin thread of psychedelia and the effect is thrilling. I guess the flip-side of this is that it doesn’t succeed so well at the lighter moments — for me, the ending lacks that ethereal magic — and I have to say I’d be a little bit sad to think if this was someone’s first encounter with Gorecki, but on the whole it’s a great variation on a great work and a great piece of music in its own right.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Modern Classical / Ambient.

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