HMV Classics release when I bought it in the late 90s. Many solitary hours during my fresher year were spent just letting these huge, icy waves of melancholy wash over me, whilst using this hip new thing called 'the internet' to read up on the inspirations for the work (of which so much has been written that I won't retread here, as I wouldn't do it justice).
Wanting to hear more renderings of my new favourite symphony (which remains one of my most treasured orchestral works that I've ever heard), I first plumped for the equally stately Philips release then the brilliant Naxos (Antoni Wit can do no wrong as a conductor to my ears) and so forth. And yes, everything you read about the Nonesuch version, particularly if the words 'classic FM' or 'dinner party' or suchlike are used, is pretty much on the money - you won't miss anything by skipping it. It does of course deserve recognition for breaking the symphony into the wider public consciousness, and without its impact you could argue that some later recordings might not have come about.
And so it came to pass, almost exactly two years ago, that my local Oxfam Music completely excelled themselves. What initially looked on the shelf like a budget release that I didn't think would be worth picking up turned out to be, on inspection, the holy grail - the CD reissue of the original 1978 recording on Polskie Nagrania Muza. So here it is, for your downloading pleasure - IMO, the most stunningly beautiful, rawest version of all, taken at a fair pace too (the first movement lasting barely 26 minutes). It's of course a bit of an assumption to make that this premiere recording is closest to Górecki's original intent - but I reckon this is as good as it gets.
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