The Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs , is a symphony in three movements composed by Henryk Gorecki in Katowice, Poland, in 1976. The work is indicative of the transition between Gorecki’s dissonant earlier manner and his more tonal later style. A solo soprano sings Polish texts in each of the three movements. The first is a 15th-century Polish lament of Mary, mother of Jesus, the second a message written on the wall of a Gestapo cell during World War II, and the third a Silesian folk song of a mother searching for her son killed by the Germans in the Silesian uprisings. The first and third movements are written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, and the second movement from that of a child separated from a parent. The dominant themes of the symphony are motherhood and separation through war.
Until 1992, Gorecki was known only to connoisseurs, primarily as one of several composers responsible for the postwar Polish music renaissance. That year, Elektra-Nonesuch released a recording of the 24-year-old symphony that topped the classical charts in Britain and the United States. To date, it has sold more than a million copies. This compilation was originally released in 2001.